Capitalism is Not Evil

Capitalism: the punching bag of politicians who care more about votes than the future of the free world. Without capitalism we would not even know what freedom is, so it should be no shock that as capitalism fades, so does personal liberty.

Thomas Sowell explains in his book “Conquests and Cultures: An International History” why England became the prevailing economic powerhouse of its day. In many countries investment was impossible because of how easily the benefits of innovation could be stolen by the government, invading hordes, or jealous neighbors. Investing was attractive in places where “stability of government and laws, and security of property, made it possible to raise vast aggregations of capital from the public at low interest rates for projects that took decades to complete, such as canals and railroads”(Sowell, 41). Now the public had all the shipping and economic benefits of industry all because Britain guaranteed that individual investments would not be lost or stolen. Objective rule of law is what gave rise to capitalism, without which major projects which benefited the whole of society would never have been undertaken. It seems fashionable to demonize capitalists for being greedy, but capitalism’s contributions to society are greater than those who call for selfless sacrifice for the greater good. Capitalists benefit society AND themselves; their success does not mean your failure.

Capitalism is practically synonymous with a higher standard of living: the entire point of capitalism is to produce a higher standard of living for a society based on advancements in technology which can be monetized to benefit the producer. But do not confuse the benefit to the producer as a negation of benefit to society; the society benefits from the increased availability of the goods (or a new good altogether). Entire societies have floated with the rising tide of capitalism, because “confidence that an investment of labor and resources could claim its reward—whether at harvest time or when dividends were issued years later—has been crucial to the economic efforts which create national prosperity” (Sowell, 85). Food availability was dramatically increased by capitalism. When people could finally be secure that the land they farmed was not going to be invaded and confiscated along with their harvest, then they could farm much more land and in more fertile places. Both the owner of the land benefits since he gets extra food to sell, but the workers of his land also benefit since they do not need their own land (and the effort to maintain it) in order to feed themselves and their family. The excess food created through a stable government protecting investments was enough to support a larger population, and protect people from starvation. Now a poor person could sell their labor to a farm owner and claim a portion of what he harvests, whereas before he would be at the mercy of the wilderness.

It was separation of power and rules for those vying for power which created the freedom needed to produce capitalism. In 1215 with nobles forcing King John to sign the Magna Carta, Britain saw the first major step towards limiting monarchs and establishing a separation of power. Parliament now controlled taxation, and favored a decentralization of power so that they could have more control and local authority, and not have to carry out orders from the king (in contrast to Russia where nobles derived power from the central government). It would be almost 600 years until the freest and most enduring government was created in North America, but the tradition of freedom was rooted in centuries of history. Common law was one of these historical evolutions which took arbitrary power from officials and become yet another separation of power, and gave rise to the ideas of personal freedom and civil liberties.

When two people see a transaction as mutually beneficial, they will enter into it willingly without any force involved. This is capitalism, and this is not evil. Historically it has been the best method of organizing societies and providing what each individual in that society needs. If people are free, they will engage in capitalism. This means that to be against capitalism, is to be against freedom.

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