For the Love of Capitalism
posted at 6:47 pm on April 6, 2010 by Doctor Zero
Socialism always seems to have a marketing advantage over capitalism. This is not surprising, because socialism is a deeply romantic notion: a dangerously seductive dream of prosperity as a function of justice, where the wise redistribute the profits of the wicked to care for the needy. Socialism’s promises are so alluring that questions about its poor performance are dismissed as rude. It is a childish philosophy, and like any errant child, it receives a limitless supply of forgiveness and second chances.
Capitalism rarely enjoys such wonderful advertising. To the academic, it seems vulgar, while the politician flatters his constituents by promising they can rise above crass materialism… by placing material concerns in the hands of politicians. In truth, capitalism is the chisel free people use to carve their dreams from the stone of history. Without it, we are “free” only to beg for the bounty of the State, and complain when it fails to deliver. Freedom is only a theory, when it lacks a practical means of expression. Freedom of speech without property leaves us doodling in the sand, instead of carving our will into stone.
We should be more forceful in declaring our love for capitalism. It should be a mature love, born of respect for its power and virtue, not a starry-eyed romance. For example, we should be thankful that capitalism is merciless. That might seem like a strange thing to celebrate, but it’s the reason we haven’t been subsidizing buggy-whip and vacuum tube production for decades. Left to its own devices, the free market doesn’t waste energy propping up the production of unwanted goods for sentimental reasons… or because the manufacturers of those goods are politically powerful enough to extract subsidies from the public.
We should also be grateful that capitalism is heartless. Sentimentality is expensive, especially when other people are taxed to pay for it. The lawful governance of a vast nation requires cold logic, and iron obedience to Constitutional discipline. The unsustainable programs bleeding us into fiscal ruin were sold to voters with emotional appeals. The architects of the entitlement state do not use children as props because they want you to think carefully about their proposals.
Emotion is a terrible basis for allocating resources. The essential tool for addressing disaster and poverty is wealth, which is created by transactions between citizens. Money is the tool that makes our time valuable to one another. A rich nation can afford to provide for the unfortunate, and develop goods that make everyone’s life better. The “heartless” efficiency of capitalism is the best way to coordinate our skills and resources, producing the fountain of value that nourishes us all.
Capitalism deserves praise for being ruthless. One of the fundamental delusions of the Left is that wealth creation is easy. Many politicians have never run a private-sector business. They don’t appreciate how much savage effort it takes to build a profitable enterprise, or how many tough decisions must be made along the way. The ability to insulate themselves from accountability is one of the primary skills of the political class. The ability to strip away such insulation is a key attribute of successful business management. The difficult battles of enterprise leave some broken competitors on the field, but they produce countless victories for consumers.
Capitalism should be honored for its chaos. The markets are illuminated with the random genius of competitors free to gamble on thousands of solutions. The stale ideology of the statist is no match for this wild power. A politicized economy cannot be brilliant, because it finds too many alternatives unthinkable. It cannot inspire progress, because it works backward from the conclusions of ideology. When the State nationalizes an industry, it declares a product to be “above” the petty business of trade… and something which cannot be traded loses its value. The socialist destroys value by declaring something to be “free.” There’s no reason to expect growth amid the fiery destruction of value.
Finally, capitalism should be appreciated for its ambition, which the socialist falsely classifies as “greed.” Greed involves taking wealth from others. That’s what socialists do… and it should not escape your notice that the top dogs in a socialist government live extremely rich lifestyles, even when they preside over nations trapped in desperate poverty.
Ambition is the electric hunger for possibility, shared by entry-level workers and titans of industry alike. We are rich when a banquet of possibility is placed before us. The total State represents the dissolution of possibility. It is defined by what it tells the populace they must do, or cannot do. Compulsory taxes, extracted to fund mandatory benefits, reduce your options for investing the profit of your labor. The all-consuming government that forced ObamaCare upon you is destroying the value of your time. Our children will find little possibility in a future of crushing debt and decaying entitlements, where they are told what they must purchase… and what they must settle for.
The spirit of freedom inhabits the tough, messy, glorious body of capitalism. We never should have allowed ourselves to be tricked into feeling guilty about it, apologizing for it, or measuring it against the dashing illusion cast over the shabby reality of socialism. Prosperity is a destination reached only by free men and women, acting in concert. The only thing we can compel each other to be is poor.
Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.