Sunday, December 27, 2009

Learn About Capitalism

Capitalism is a major value for a rational person. It is the political system of freedom. It requires property rights and thus the individual rights that are necessary for man to live as a man and pursue happiness. Without rights and capitalism, man is a miserable, sacrificial animal.

Not known until the last century, and the writings of Ayn Rand, capitalism is the only moral economic/political system. It is the only such system that is consistent with man’s need to make decisions based upon his own judgment and create values. In our current world that is flooded with pleas, demands, and commands to be altruistic, to be a human sacrifice, the morality of capitalism is truly unknown. This knowledge, the reality of the moral purity of capitalism, needs to be broadcast loudly and constantly.

Yet, I have found that those who know of the moral stature of capitalism often have less knowledge of how capitalism works. They do not know the issues of trade, finance, money, and business. They do not know how the nuts and bolts fit together.

I think that it is vital that the supporters of capitalism know the economics of capitalism, for the same reasons.

You see, unfortunately, the rest of the population doesn’t know either.

The effort to deny the moral stature of capitalism also has succeeded in hiding the efficaciousness of capitalism as well.

People in general do not know that capitalism works.

People in general believe that capitalism leads to boom and bust, to keeping the poor poor, to the exploitation of the under privileged, to overproduction, to producing things that will fall apart, to destroying the Earth. They do not know anything, or at least very little, about what capitalism actually does for mankind.

I think that this lack of knowledge extends to just about everyone, including “economics professor”. Certainly, almost no journalist, few blogger, no commentator, and few TV talking heads have an idea of how capitalism works. I wouldn’t put the “pro-business” conservative or Republican in the category of the pro-capitalist, since most of them would be terrified of the idea of doing away with any of the New Deal restrictions on business. Capitalism is fine, they think, as long as it isn’t allowed to go full bore.

It isn’t just that capitalism is the unknown ideal, capitalism as a system is literally unknown, too (even among many who support it). If you sit down and argue capitalism’s moral worth, you could easily get the answer, “Okay, it may be moral, but it doesn’t work!”

I have read and heard surprise that people are ready to discard this wonderful system that has brought about our unprecedented standard of living. But people do not know that capitalism is responsible. They see the health care industry failing, for example. It seems that the market is failing. They do not know that capital is required for production. They do not actually know what capital is. They do not know how money works, or finance, or markets. Their ignorance is amazing until you realize that there is no source in our educational system to learn about capitalism.

So, if you want to argue for capitalism, you need to be able to explain what it is, that it is moral, that it works (and how), and, I am sorry to say, how and why what is currently going on is so bad for America. This last point is like having to look deeply into very shameful, evil, and often, boring issues. But it is necessary. I do mean necessary. If we are going to beat this thing, we need to root it out and kill it. And we have got to know our enemy to succeed.

Our biggest enemy today, the one with the most impact on our daily lives and that undercuts our prosperity is the Federal Reserve Board. There are very few who have a clue as to what it is and how it works. Start there. Read Meltdown by Thomas Woods. (I just finished it and will have a review here shortly.)

Read the business section of your newspaper. Read The Capitalist Manifesto. Read Ludwig von Mises. Read the Fed website. Read the few blogs dedicated to capitalist economics.

Learn how the Fed manipulates the money supply and how much it has done. Pick an industry and learn how it is manipulated and regulated. Learn how pervasive federal, state, and local governments are in every area of our daily lives. You will become a fountain of knowledge and moral condemnation.

I know that this sounds like a lot to do. Economics texts tend to be big and filled with jargon. If you took economics in college you may be scared for life! But knowing how capitalism works is important. You know, if you actually lived in a capitalist economy, you would want and need that knowledge. The more you knew about the rational world you lived in, the better off you would be. The same is true in this context. Speaking about your personal situation, the more you know about what is happening, especially when it is bad, the better off you will be. So there are two excellent reasons to follow up.


  1. One confusion I experienced in years past was about the meaning of the concept "capitalism." I agree with your definition;

    "Capitalism . . . is the political system of freedom. It requires property rights and thus the individual rights that are necessary for man to live as a man and pursue happiness."

    In this meaning of the term/concept, capitalism is a kind of political system (the genus), differentiated from all others by its sole dedication to protecting individual rights, especially the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and property (all as steps toward the pursuit of happiness here on earth).

    In that sense, I think, a free market is a consequence of capitalism. They are not synonyms. In that sense, I would suggest that knowing how capitalism works is not the same as knowing how a free market works. The former is politics; the latter is economics.

    Correction welcome.

  2. I think that is well put, Burgess.

    Something that Dr. Leonard Peikoff said in "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" was that the subject of politics was to define the proper political system, the purpose of economics "is to identify how the principles of a proper politics actually work out in regard to men's productive life..."

    It really makes a difference how one organizes one's concepts. An example that comes to mind in what passes as economics in the mainstream is the idea that competition is the hall mark of capitalism, and thus politicians try to foster what they think is competition. Wrong. With the consequences we know all too well.