Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Immoral Roots of Anti-Capitalism

Intellectuals, historians, and economists of free market persuasion have asked themselves, "Why have the historians been predominantly anti-capitalist? Why have they sought to make capitalism appear to be such an evil system when it is responsible for so much good?" Indeed, the history of economic thought is full of intellectuals that have had a selective bias against the achievements of capitalism.

While reading a book on this subject, I noticed that the writers who were trying to defend capitalism offered little argument that completely discredited the profusion of anti-capitalist viewpoints. In fact, there was almost a condescending, apologetic attitude toward men whose words were but crass virulent hatred of capitalism. The book, “Capitalism and the Historians”, although excellent in many ways, is weak in one major area: It does not adequately answer the question, "Why do historians distort the facts about capitalism's development?"

None of the distinguished historians whose papers appear in the book attribute to anti-capitalist historians an evil intent. T. S. Ashton refers to "pessimistic views of the effect of industrial change" and says such historians "are not informed by any glimmering of economic sense." Another problem for Ashton is that certain commentators preferred political interpretation of an interventionist nature. He notes also the threading of "facts on a Marxist string." And finally, "The truth is (as Professor Koebner has said) that neither Marx nor Sombart (nor, for that matter, Adam Smith) had any idea of the real nature of what we call the Industrial Revolution. They overstressed the part played by science and had no conception of an economic system that develops spontaneously without the help of either the state or the philosopher. It is, however, the stress on the capitalist spirit that has, I think, done most harm, for, from being a phrase suggesting a mental or emotional attitude, it has become an impersonal, super-human force. It is no longer men and women, exercising free choice, who effect change, but capitalism or the spirit of capitalism. 'Capitalism,' says Schumpeter, 'develops rationality.' 'Capitalism exalts the monetary unit.' 'Capitalism produced the mental attitude of modern science.' 'Modern pacificism, modern international morality, modern feminism, are products of capitalism.”

Whatever this is, it is certainly not economic history. It has introduced a new mysticism into the recounting of plain facts. "What should we do with a candidate who purports to explain why the limited-liability company came into being in England in the 1850's with the following words? I quote literally from the scripture: 'Individualism was forced to give way to laissez faire as the development of capitalism found the early emergent stage of entrepreneurial capitalism a hindrance to that rational expansive development which is the very ethos of capitalism.'" Professor Ashton's solution? "But I hold strongly that the future of the subject lies in closer cooperation with the work of economists and that phrases which perhaps served a purpose a generation ago should now be discarded."

L. M. Hacker, in his address, "Anticapitalist Bias of American History," holds that it was not so much Marxist influence that led to the anti-capitalist bias in America, but American political development, primarily, "the recurring struggle between Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian ideas--that is, the creation and maintenance of a weak or a strong central authority; the intrusion of moral questions into the American public debates--slavery, women's rights, prohibition."

This explanation does not answer the question of why the supposed solutions to these matters involved an anti-capitalist bias. Why was capitalism always seen as morally wrong?

Bertrand De Jouvenal, in his "The Treatment of Capitalism by Continental Intellectuals," holds that the Western intelligensia dislike capitalism because of "a grafting of strong feeling onto a weak stem of positive knowledge." He then proceeds to discuss some ways that capitalism is "unpleasant to the intellectuals," and moves to a suggestion that social science may tell us, if it decides to look at such an issue, why the intellectuals act and think as they do. His basic argument is that the peculiar position in society held by the intellectuals could account for an anti-capitalist bias. The "market value of the intellectual's output is far below factor output."

And so it goes. You can read on and on, finding in the defenders of capitalism what appears to be an unwillingness to define the one factor, the one idea that gives rise to the hatred of capitalism. Most of the reasons given in the book are true, in a sense, and to a point, but they do not go far enough. The defenders of capitalism do not yet sufficiently understand the nature of capitalism and this makes it impossible for them to provide for it what its enemies have in profusion: a moral argument.

If one studies the arguments of capitalism's enemies throughout history, one will find, almost to a man, that they hold one philosophical viewpoint, specifically one moral premise: altruism, the idea that it is man’s duty to sacrifice for others. They sense, more than do the defenders of capitalism, that a capitalist economic system represents, for most men, an alien code and view of man. Compared to the defenders of capitalism, they know that capitalism is based on selfishness, not charity. They know that if capitalism were to remain pure, their moral code of ritualistic self-sacrifice, as well as their view of man as a helpless pawn under history's or God's or the government’s control, would hold no influence over men. If capitalism were allowed to be capitalism, in other words, if the defenders of capitalism were to defend man’s right to be moral, to live for his own sake, to be responsible for himself, proudly, passionately, with conviction and pride, the philosophies of Kant, Marx, Hegel and a host of modern offshoots, would be swept away. Men would no longer be intrigued by the ineffable, the vague and undefined, and would instead insist that ideas have a real value, a real application to their individual lives.

Once Americans begin to stand for their right to be moral; once they begin to fight against the idea that their role in society is to be dutiful sacrificial victims; once they realize that the motive and goal of the detractors of capitalism is nothing more than the destruction of freedom, which means the destruction of their right to live by means of their independent minds; once men begin to demand that government get out of their lives, only then will the progressives become part of the disastrous past that they have created.

That the defenders of capitalism do not know this is proof of the success that the altruist morality has had in keeping from men the fact that a rational, moral code of ethics is possible. The defenders of capitalism are, for the most part, altruists themselves (see the conservatives). They adhere to the ideas of altruistic self-sacrifice--so much so that it blinds them to the true nature of capitalism and forces them into the position of being condescending but cheery opponents of men who are neither condescending nor cheery in their hatred of freedom and capitalism.

Altruism is not the moral base of a capitalist system. We can’t have a successful capitalist system if we just want to help people. Capitalism requires an independent mind. We must want men to be successful, we must know that it requires work, we must honor the independent mind and we must give credit where credit is due. Altruism requires a mind ruled by the edicts of superiors and it tells man that to be moral he only needs to follow the easiest path of all: the road that preaches sacrifice as virtue.

Capitalism requires integrity. Altruism requires that man fight his bodily nature with his spiritual self-sacrificial code. Capitalism requires honesty. Altruism requires that one deceive one's own mind. Capitalism requires justice. Altruism requires that justice be suspended among men, that men do society's work by being unjust towards those who refuse to sacrifice. Capitalism requires productiveness. Altruism requires that the productive are not as important as those who give away the confiscated money of the productive. Capitalism requires pride. Altruism requires both humility in some men and pretentiousness in others. Capitalism requires principled action based on abstract concepts that are tied to reality. Altruism requires Kantian mush, vague, disconnected equivocation, switching contexts, unintelligibility, one reality that is inaccessible by the mind and a second mental universe that is incompetent. Capitalism is a challenge to the individual and it demands his best effort. Altruism demands only envy and hatred of capitalism.

Certainly, the detractors of capitalism have a massive blind spot. Their altruistic premises color their interpretation of historical facts to such a degree that they believe reality conforms to their views. But the defenders of capitalism have a more devastating yet hardly noticed, blind spot. Their evasion of the evil of altruism has kept them from discovering that capitalism is the moral system--the system to be advocated with fire and vigor and enthusiasm. It is, after all, freedom among men that makes capitalism successful. It is the possibility of moral living that makes capitalism the moral system.

It is the idea that no man should live as a serf that liberated our country and made it the most successful in the history of the planet. Freedom is what makes America a better place to live. Freedom is what makes Americans the happiest and most tolerant people on this earth. Freedom is what makes us the envy of the world. Freedom is what makes us hated, not because we are decadent, but because, as a nation, we give every citizen the possibility of creating his own happiness in his own way. We are the first nation since the Greeks that made moral living possible on earth.

The mortal enemies of freedom are those who believe that men are moral only when they perform ritual sacrifice. Freedom is the enemy of the man who believes deep down in the core of his being that if men were free, he would not be able to survive.

Are most intellectuals and economists biased against capitalism? Yes, as long as they hold that altruistic self-sacrifice is the proper morality for man and for an economic system. Are they right? No, and no amount of condescending argument that says capitalism will achieve the goals of altruists will work against intellectuals who hate themselves and men. No amount of cheery debate against people that want slavery for men will enable capitalism to win. The haters of capitalism must be exposed as haters of men and haters of freedom.

We must fight for capitalism based upon man’s right to be free, his right to property, his right to speak and think, and his right to happiness. Consequences, such as the fact that capitalism creates the most vibrant economy, are irrelevant. Capitalism is moral because only free men can be moral.

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