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The One Minute Case For Capitalism

Capitalism a social system based on the principle of individual rights.

A capitalist society is based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights. Under capitalism, all property is privately owned, and the state is separated from economics just as it is from religion. Economically, capitalism is a system of laissez-faire, or free markets, where the government plays no part whatsoever in economic decisions.

Capitalism is the only social system compatible with the requirements of man’s life

To pursue the values necessary for his life a society, man requires only one thing from others: freedom of action. Freedom means the ability to act however one pleases as long as one does not infringe on the same and equal freedom of others.   In a political context, freedom means solely the freedom from the initiation of force by other men. Only by the initiation of force can man’s rights be violated. Whether it is by a theft, force, fraud, or government censorship, man’s rights can be violated only by the initiation of force. Because man’s life depends on the use of reason to achieve the values necessary for his life, the initiation of force renders his mind useless as a means of survival. To live, man must achieve the values necessary to sustain his live. To achieve values, man must be free to think and to act on his judgment. To live, man must be free to think. To be free to think, man must be free to act. In the words of Ayn Rand, “Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.”

Capitalism recognizes the inherent worth of the individual

In a human society – one that recognizes the independence of each man’s mind – each individual is an end in himself.  He owns his life, and no one else’s.  Other men are not his slaves, and he is not theirs.  They have no claim on his life or on the values he creates to maintain his life, and he has no claim on theirs.  In a free society, men can gain immense values from each other by voluntarily trading the values they create to mutual gain.  However, they can only create values if they are free to use their minds to exercise their creativity.  A man is better living off on his own than as a slave to his brothers.  Capitalism recognizes each man as an independent, thinking being.

The individual is an end in himself

Just as no individual has the right to initiate force against anyone, neither does any group of men, in any private or public capacity. It is immoral to initiate force against any individual for any reason. This includes the initiation of force for “the public good.” The “public” is merely a collection of individuals, each possessing the same rights, and each being an end in himself. Any attempt to benefit the “public good” is an immoral attempt to provide a benefit to one group of individuals at the expense of another. In a free society, no individual benefits at the expense of another: men exchange the values they create in voluntary trade to mutual gain. The rule of law in a free society has just one purpose: to protect the rights of the individual.

Capitalism leads to freedom and prosperity

A free, capitalist economy has never existed anywhere in the world. The closest the world came to a free market was during the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and during the late 19th century in the United States. The Industrial Revolution was a period of unprecedented economic growth and unimaginable improvements in quality of life. In less than two hundred years, the life of most people in the Western world changed from a a short life filled with poverty, plague, and near-constant war to a modern, comfortable existence that  even the kings of medieval Europe couldn’t have imagined.  Since 1820, the leading capitalist nations have increased their wealth sixteen fold, their populations more than four-fold, their productivity twenty-fold.  Annual working hours went from 3,000 to less than 1,700 and life expectancy doubled from thirty to over seventy years. 1

Yet despite the undeniable material superiority of capitalist societies, its critics continue to attack it as inhuman and selfish.  What the world lacks is not evidence of capitalism’s practical superiority, but a moral defense of a man’s right to his own life.

Reference

  1. Angus Maddison. Phases of Capitalist Development, p4 (1982)

Further Reading

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The One Minute Case For Individual Rights

Man is the rational animal

Like all living beings, man requires certain values to survive, but he is unique in that he must choose the values necessary for his life because he has no automatic means of doing so. It is his ability to experience the world around him and comprehend it by the use of reason that gives him the capacity to understand the values his life requires, and then achieve them. Every value we enjoy in our civilized, comfortable, existence is the product of the application of man’s mind to reality.

There is no “collective mind”

All creative effort, every invention in history, was created by the mental effort of individual men and women. When they worked together, their knowledge was increased by the work of predecessors, but each advance they made was their own. The mind cannot be received, shared, or borrowed.

Man requires freedom to live

To live, man must achieve the values necessary to sustain his live. To achieve his values, man must be free to think and to act on his judgment.  Restrictions on freedom force man to focus not on the absolutes of reality, but on the arbitrary ideas of others. In a free society, a man can choose to not associate with those who do not respect his judgment – by finding a new job, new friends, or a new lover. Even if there is no one to share his ideas, every man is still free to present his own vision – by publishing his ideas or becoming an entrepreneur. However, as soon as he faces the threat of physical force, the possibility of any such alternatives becomes irrelevant. The initiation of force renders the mind useless as a means of survival.

Freedom requires rights

Rights are moral principles defining man’s freedom of action in society. The purpose of establishing individual rights is to protect man from man – to define the basic conditions necessary for social existence. All rights derive from a man’s right to his own life, including the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Whether it is by a theft, force, fraud, or government coercion, man’s rights can be violated only by the initiation of force.

Rights are inalienable and non-conflicting

Rights are not guarantees to things or obligations placed on others, but only guarantees to freedom from violence (the right to life), freedom of action (the right to liberty), and the results of those actions (the right to property). In a free society, men deal with one another exclusively by trade, voluntarily exchanging value for value to their mutual benefit. The only obligations one’s rights impose on other men is to respect the same and equal rights of others – the freedom to be left alone. A man may have his rights violated by a criminal or a government, but morally he remains, in the right, and the criminal in the wrong.

Further reading:

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The Case Against the Initiation of Force

Life requires value-achievement

For all living beings, life is an ongoing process that requires continuous action to gain and keep the values necessary for their survival.  Whether they do it by complex biochemical processes, such as plants and simple organisms, by hunting down they prey, such as the higher animals, or by living in a modern industrial society, such as human beings, all living beings must daily affirm their nature, instinct, or desire to remain living.

Man must choose the values necessary for his life

Like all living beings, man requires certain values to survive, but he is unique in that he can and must choose the values necessary for his life because he has no automatic means of doing so.  His ability to reason, or to experience the world around him and comprehend it by the use of logic gives man the capacity to both understand the values his life requires and the knowledge of how to achieve them.  Faced with the basic moral alternative of acting to remain alive or drifting towards death, man must use reason to choose the values necessary for his life, and then achieve them.  From the earliest hunter and gatherer, whose work consistent almost entirely of manual labor to a computer programmer (or a philosopher) whose work is almost entirely intellectual, each man must exercise his mind to create the values necessary to sustain his life.

Man must be reality-oriented to survive

To be successful in his value-pursuits, each man must treat reality as his only absolute.  He cannot allow his emotions or the conclusions of others, whatever their form, to substitute for his own rational judgment.  For example, if an engineer wants to design a great new car, he must accept reality, including the nature of the material he works with as well as the laws of combustion and aerodynamics as his only absolutes, and design a vehicle that best exploits the properties of the materials he works with.  Even though he relies heavily on the knowledge of others, he must first understand that knowledge within the context of his own understanding of reality to apply it successfully.  He cannot let a fear of the unknown, the irrational demands of his boss, or the expectations of his peers to interference in his judgment – not if he wants to design the best car that he possibly can.

Value achievement requires the freedom to act on one’s judgment

Achieving values requires the freedom to act on one’s choices. A restriction on freedom in any form forces man to focus not on the absolutes of reality, but on the arbitrary ideas of others.  If the boss of the automotive engineer requires the new car model to use an engine made by his favorite contractor, the judgment of the engineer is rendered irrelevant.  His means to achieving his value of a great design is no longer shaped by his grasp of reality, but by the arbitrary edicts of his boss.  The kind of engine he deems best is now irrelevant, because he no longer has the ability to act on his judgments.  Even he believes his choices to be superior a man cannot do the thinking for another, since he cannot act as an intermediary to reality for anyone else.

In a free, capitalist society, any company characterized by managers who impose arbitrary decisions on their employees will quickly go out of business – their best minds, unable to apply their mind, will either quit, or produce mediocre work designed to match their bosses’ expectations rather than their own judgment of the facts.  In a free society, a man can choose to not associate with those who do not respect his judgment – by finding a new job, new friends, or a new lover.  Even if there is no one to share his ideas, every man is still free to present his own vision – by becoming an entrepreneur and launching a new product, or by writing a book with a revolutionary new philosophy, or by engaging in intellectual activism to convince others of his views.  However, as soon as man faces the threat of physical force, the possibility of any such alternatives becomes irrelevant.

The initiation of force paralyzes man’s mind

The opposite of freedom is the initiation of physical force, which renders man’s mind impotent as a means of survival.  The initiation of force presents an impossible alternative: to abandon reason as a guide to action or to face physical harm.  Whatever its form, the initiation of force destroys man’s ability to pursue values to the extent that overrides reason with the edicts of the aggressor.  If the engineer from the previous example finds that some new environmentalist regulation has outlawed the type of engine he considered using, his own judgment becomes irrelevant –faced with an arbitrary decree, his mind is no longer a means to achieve his values in that area of his life.  Likewise, the initiation of force in any form immobilizes man’s mind.  A thug who robs a man at gunpoint or a politician who taxes away his victims legally take not only their victims property, but their ability to choose how to direct their productive activities to benefit their life.  The greater the aggression, the more it destroys man’s ability to pursue his values.  Slavery, whether in a primitive society in a totalitarian state, takes away almost all meaningful choices from men: their choice of vocation, family, or residence.  By incapacitating its victim’s minds, a slave society ultimately destroys itself, since the enslaved are unable to pursue values, and their masters cannot act as an intermediary to reality for them.  Murder is an especially evil form of force: it destroys man’s ability to pursue values totally and permanently.  Likewise, even the very threat of destruction incapacitates man’s mind: the looming threat of another terrorist attacks means that all my plans for the future might be rendered futile by the actions of some crazed lunatic.

Conclusion: the initiation of force is evil

Man’s life requires a process of continuous action of pursuing the values necessary for his life. The means by which chooses which values to pursue and how to achieve them is reason. By using reason, he can process his perception of reality, decide which actions will further his values, and then act on those ideas. To sustain his life, man must have the freedom to act on his own judgment – the freedom of thought and freedom of action are corollaries for him, each meaningless without the other. As long as he is free from force, he is able to succeed or fail in his value-pursuit. To the extent that he is faced with force, his intellect is rendered impotent. When man is unable to act on his judgment, his mind, the primary tool of his survival becomes useless. The great evil of the initiation of force is the fact that it destroys man’s ability to live by invalidating his primary means of doing so.

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