Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is Capitalism Evil? Part 5, Conclusion

Several common economic fallacies are constantly broadcast around the world. The goals of these fallacies are to denigrate, defeat and destroy capitalism. I mentioned four of these fallacies in the first post under this title. In this post, I will be discussing the following fallacy:

Fallacy 4. Capitalism is decadent and immoral

Many people think that anything damned by God and Karl Marx must be evil. Many religions, across the centuries, have discriminated against merchants and money lenders because they felt that these careers represented a focus on “this world” rather than the spiritual realm. They have regulated these practices and exhorted men to help the poor rather than pursue individual profit. Even today, the idea that capitalism is decadent is another myth that anti-capitalists hold as an unquestionable fact.

Certainly free men exercising their volitional capacities are going to do harmful things. But, this can happen in any country; it is not something that happens only under capitalism. Some acts, particularly those of a sensual nature, are considered immoral simply because they bring physical pleasure. Moralists attribute these acts to a wholesale abandonment of religious morality and to the acceptance of a secular, anti-religious mindset. Yet, many supposedly immoral acts are not an outgrowth of capitalism but of the conflict between religious morality and the need of men to enjoy their lives in a world that dispenses guilt too easily.

So where is the decadence of capitalism? Most dictionaries define decadence as a deterioration of morals. But the question we should ask is whether morality actually deteriorates in a capitalist society. Religionists and even Marxists say they do. Yet, as we have seen, almost everything said about capitalism by Marxists has been shown to be wrongheaded. We must not be afraid to ask the questions: Is capitalism really immoral? What if it is moral?

Consider the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations. Notice the angry and vehement expressions of disapproval of Wall Street and capitalism. What is the missing ingredient that gives these people the “moral power” to be on the street demonstrating? Clearly, they disapprove of capitalism. They think it is immoral. To these college students, Wall Street executives are thieves, pariahs, rich fat cats who deserve to be thrown in jail, or as one recent entertainer said, “beheaded”. Without this moral energy and hate, there would be no protests. What if that anger is totally wrong?

The basic flaw of the protestors is that they continue to follow Karl Marx in his critique of capitalism and the rich. Marx held that capitalists, by nature, use government to put down the worker. The mistake in this view is that it fails to distinguish between crony capitalism and true capitalism, between theft and honest work. Most of the production accomplished today comes from honest work and honest trade, not from government corruption. Only a small minority of capitalists are crony capitalists who dishonestly use the state to help them make up for their lack of productivity. The vast majority of capitalists in our mixed economy are honest people who do not deserve to be vilified. In fact, they are the most moral people in America today.

Marxists and the Wall Street protesters advocate government interference in the economy; the power of the state to violate individual rights. They claim that this is the best way to ensure "social justice", to manipulate the system so that it is fair. What they don't understand is that without this power there would be no crony capitalism against which to protest. In fact, crony capitalism requires the ideology and the existence of socialism in order to exist at all.

Consider the following: would a crony capitalist be able to bribe a politician to create laws and regulations that benefit him if the government had no power to create such laws and regulations? Would a crony capitalist give huge campaign contributions to a politician who had no power to affect his business positively or negatively? If the government did not have the power to interfere in the economy, would a crooked politician go into public service to benefit his buddies? And, imagine, of all things, a government whose job is to protect the individual rights of citizens; a government limited by a constitutional prohibition against being involved in any economic transaction. This would eliminate the cronyism that the Wall Street protesters complain about.

Marx failed to distinguish between political power and productive power and he charged that capitalists needed government coercion to maintain an unfair edge over the workers and consumers. He failed to realize that productive power was not coercive at all; it required reason, planning, risk taking, honesty and mutual trade for mutual advantage. The Wall Street protesters make the same mistake and because they unquestioningly follow Marx, they find themselves protesting against the moral as well as the immoral actors in our economy. They would destroy the very productivity that they must rely upon for jobs; and more importantly, they would disenfranchise the very people who provide them with the products and sustenance that they need in order to survive.

The Occupy Wall Street protestors have no desire to limit government power. They see it as the way to re-distribute income. They are thieves as are the unions that are paying them. They don't want to destroy crony capitalism. They want to tap into capitalism, the honest people, so they, the protesters, can be the next group of cronies.

The truth is that capitalism releases the individual to make his own moral choices and men are most likely to make the right decisions rather than follow a fixed demand for sacrifice. Is it immoral for a man to freely make the correct decisions about his actions? Isn’t it moral for a person to be productive, to buy products that improve life, to learn about the world and to make decisions using knowledge rather than faith? If so, then there are millions upon millions of moral acts done each day by free individuals living under economic freedom.

If the Wall Street protestors want to make their demonstrations viable, well-founded and effective, they would not fight against Wall Street; they would not fight against capitalism; they would fight against crony capitalism, and the only way to do that is to advocate full laissez faire capitalism that prohibits government interference in the economy. This is the only way to keep the cronies from using government to cheat consumers and taxpayers. They should be demonstrating at the White House and halls of Congress. They should be protesting Dodd-Frank, the SEC, FANNIE and FREDDIE, the CRA, a jobs commission made up of campaign contributors to President Obama's re-election campaign and they should refuse to be paid off by the unions that are the biggest crony capitalists of all. Short of this, they are just useful idiots totally unaware that they are in league with the actual crooks they claim to be protesting.

The view that capitalism is decadent is common to many religions. Many religious leaders rail against capitalism and exhort their followers to avoid the carnal and “this worldly” mindset in favour of the spiritual life. They disapprove of anyone who does things for himself; some even see decadence in the clothes a person wears, whether they cover their faces or not, what they say, how they act and whether they express a devout enough submission to God. But do these “choices” represent the full range of possible human action? I think not. In fact, there is a whole range of choices that have little moral import under this “spiritual” view. Most of these choices fall under the category of “the pursuit of happiness”.

Both secular progressives and religious teachers preach a form of anti-capitalism that enables them to manipulate their followers. Progressives glorify the state and teach students that sacrifice for the state is a magnificent act especially if one is fighting selfishness and capitalism. This revolutionary form of sacrifice creates attitudes that adversely affect the lives of people and, in particular, young people, turning them into anti-establishment radicals who choose to avoid productive work. They are taught that it is “not cool” to become a member of the “bourgeoisie”.

The progressive glorification of sacrifice gives followers the ability to declare their “self-esteem”, mitigating for them the negative psychological consequences of their basic destructive frame of mind. Socialist propaganda and lies, accepted as truth, justify destruction of the capitalist system and capitalists in particular. These justifications also enable the spurning of mere money-making in favour of mooching off of parents. Behind every non-productive “superior” mind is another hard working person who must provide the food and shelter.

The anti-capitalist arguments discussed in this series of posts, provide the outlet for destructive revolutionaries who think it is appropriate to kill in the name of “the people”; while religious fanatics, who obtain their self-esteem from association with their religion, feel justified in blowing up public sites and causing the deaths of families and children in the name of God. They tell themselves and others that they are destroying in order to build a “better” world. Religious self-sacrifice has the added "benefit" that the “martyrs” think they are earning a reward in heaven. The propaganda and lies that they accept merely result in the abdication of their minds and bodies. They no longer need to think about the moral import of their actions and the consequences for real human beings. The result: the biggest murderer rises to the top.

The revolutionary soldier and the soldier of God must imagine the virtual magical presence of God (or Karl Marx) while they do their killing. And, after years of ascetic devotion to God or society on this earth, they look forward to an afterlife similar to that which they imagine to be the lives of the infidels they kill. The ultimate altruistic sacrifice is the giving of one’s own life for the sake of taking lives - under the absurd belief that the enemies of God or the state must die for the sin of wanting to live.

For the religious fanatic, an infidel is any person who does not believe in the fanatic’s religion. It matters not that the infidel works hard, loves his family, provides for his family and deals with others honestly. The infidel is worthy of death, the killer believes, because God wants to cleanse the world of non-believers. So the fanatic will dedicate his life to finding a clever way to kill people.

For the Marxist revolutionary, the enemy lives and works in the capitalist system or advocates it. It matters not that the capitalist works hard, loves his family, provides for his family and deals with others honestly. He is worthy of death because he is a capitalist. The revolutionary believes that this person is a thief and must be destroyed because Karl Marx has proven definitively that capitalism is a zero-sum game. Those who cannot be re-educated must be killed so they don’t sabotage the revolution.

The values of both the religious fanatic and the radical revolutionary are not of this world. They are in heaven or in the future new world. Anything associated with today’s world is corrupt and must be destroyed in order to make way for God’s dominion or the state’s. To these fanatics, both infidels and capitalists possess no value; they are worthless compared to God or the utopian state of the future. Killing a few Americans is nothing to them. Neither is killing a few million.

Religious and political leaders are human beings capable of poor thinking. Most have never learned how to organize their thoughts logically. They derive their understanding from what they are taught… by people capable of poor thinking. And, as we’ve seen, most of them have accepted their anti-capitalist views without question. Most are content to follow the ideas of others so long as they can pretend to have self-esteem in the process. These people are fallible men following the opinions or whims of fallible men.

It is true that secular progressives are at war with religion. But this war is a political tactic, not a position based upon principles or knowledge, and especially not science. Progressives merely want to replace God with the state; they religiously hold to a determinist view of reality; a pseudo-scientific view that sees everything as mechanistic and without value. They think of men as if they were machines whose buttons must be pushed in order for the state to get what it wants from them. They seek the same basic power structure as does organized religion including the same moral imperatives; but they want men to mechanically adhere to the collective rather than God. So they denigrate the church and capitalism in order to undermine the values that these institutions have built up over time. They offer nothing new. Even the progressive principle of sacrifice to the collective is almost as old as religion.

Any religion that claims to represent a more “spiritual” and “pure” form of morality, but which also mutilates and punishes people for “crimes” of personal choice, cannot claim to be “pure” by any means. A lynching or public rock pelting, under any circumstance, and for any reason, is cruel and immoral. Such public punishments are not an indication of the punishers’ devotion to God and any religion that claims to be dispensing “justice” in such a manner cannot be an advanced body of thought but is instead primitive and barbaric.

But capitalism does not destroy values. In fact, it makes them possible. Free people develop their values differently, individually, not collectively, for themselves, not for the state. Values in a capitalist system enhance life and pleasure. Capitalism fosters the idea that all human action should be based upon reason and self-interest. When people are free to use reason and act upon their own decisions, the results are constantly improving decisions, better products and a higher standard of living. This is because, in a capitalist system, people are free to be moral.

Look around you at the freest countries on the planet. You see clean cities, paved roads, tall buildings, clean, smiling well-dressed, well-groomed people and highly educated professionals enjoying their lives. How could this be if capitalism is decadent? How did these people become self-confident and secure in their lives; by theft, treachery or immoral activities? Are they secretly evil people putting on a front for the rest of the world in order to hide the decline that they have brought about? The values these people have created are real. And they were created because they are moral.

Trying to understand the mentality that considers capitalism decadent is a difficult task. Such a mentality starts with the acceptance of ideas on faith. Most people who think like this imagine that the world really works the way they have been taught. They see the influences of gods and demons everywhere. Their saints tell them that the world is moved by the presence of the ineffable. Miracles and the actions of fantastical world-processes are dominated by the gods who are ever-present but seen only in dreams, trances and epileptic fits. They strive to devoutly experience the presence of these deities at all times, constantly conversing with them and imagining that the world can be impacted directly by the spiritual world and their devotion to it. They hold a split between the spiritual and the real and consider the spiritual to be superior while the world around them is imperfect and evil. They learn to hate the real and love the unreal. This is as true of Marxists as it is of devout believers.

Yet, philosophical issues and their discussion are not a matter for anger and hatred; they are a matter for discussion and learning. The dialectical method is the process of drawing out the implications of ideas and understanding them and their real impact in the world. The scientific method is a process for learning about how things really work in the real world. It is a method for arriving at truth. It is a noble endeavour that only someone who is indoctrinated in the unreal would reject.

Yet, the truth about capitalism (and American society) is that capitalism is based upon good living, doing things according to rational standards, getting educated, being well-rounded, working hard, thinking well, providing good services and products to customers, creating happy better-off customers, intelligently investing one’s earnings and using those earnings to create companies that provide ever-improving standards of living. Capitalists obey laws, drive carefully, eat well and live clean happy lives raising clean happy children.

Honest Americans, the overwhelming majority of people, seek to live in peace in a society where the best ideas win and people are free to disagree so long as they don’t resort to force or violence. In early America, no one had a right to force another human being in any way. That principle made capitalism the most civilized system in the world.

The outcome of capitalism for the thinking individual includes the ability to live in better, cleaner homes, the ability to live free of guilt and to enjoy life, to think higher thoughts, listen to beautiful music, read great books, make one’s own sexual choices and strive to enjoy those choices to the best of one’s ability. In a capitalist system, people admire and respect the beauty of a new thought and the mind capable of discerning it. This is the type of living that most of the major religions of the world consider decadent and evil…yet you see no evil here, you see no treachery and no harmful deeds. In fact, the hope and wish of millions around the world is to live the way Americans live, to go to America and be free. Most people in the world do not want to live in hovels full of filth, perpetually enslaved to the wishes of treacherous dictators and living in perpetual danger of having part of one’s body removed for doing something so evil as to enjoy the expression of love.

Fanatic religious groups fear that Americans will not be cowed into submission by their interpretation of the word of God, that Americans are not willing to give up their happiness for the sake of an ascetic view of life. They even fear that young women will want to dress nicely and marry the men of their choice, live the way they want and not be dominated by their fathers all their lives. Progressives, on the other hand, fear that Americans will not love the all-mighty state and that they will refuse to obey the decrees of the progressives.

The truth is that people in America are the most moral people in the world. America brings about more good than any other country in history. Americans live cleaner, healthier lives. Is this what religious fanatics fear? Is this what they want to knock down? Yes, but there is more to it than that; they fear that Americans are too free-thinking and that they will fight to keep the benefits of their Constitution. And they are right.

That’s why they want to kill us.

If the four myths discussed in this series are wrong, as I have indicated, you have to ask: What is the basis of anti-capitalism and Marxism? What is the basis for religious fanatics who want to destroy America? Why have we given them the benefit of the doubt and mistakenly believed that they represent a mere difference of opinion? Is their wanting to destroy freedom something we are willing to negotiate about or compromise with? If they have no legitimate intellectual foundation, if they are wrong in their basic arguments, then they are nothing more than haters and liars. They follow a corrupt view of human value and human freedom. Why do we let them mount the speakers' platforms? Why do we listen to them? Why do we pay them money and give them positions of leadership? Why are they "educating" our children if they are teaching them to hate us?

When will we liberate ourselves from the worst among us?

No comments:

Post a Comment