IF YOU WATCH ENOUGH Fox News you’ll learn the world generally is made up of two kinds of people: God-loving Americans and Communists.
For those who don’t know the demographics, “God-loving Americans” consists of the 300 million or so citizens of the United States of America.
Minus the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
This means, of course, that the everyone else in the world is a communist.
Communists don’t love God.
Americans love God.
If you’re a God-loving American, by definition that means you’re a capitalist.
Bet you didn’t know God is a capitalist, too.
Indeed He is.
This means God is an American.
If He wasn’t, God’s only-begotten son JESUS CHRIST wouldn’t look like this:
As much as Americans love God, God loves America.
That’s why America is the greatest country that ever was.
Communists can’t love America.
And just to prove how much God loves Americans, he rewards those who love him most (i.e. Americans) with boundless prosperity. That’s why American money looks like this:
Americans tend to be funny people.
The greatest comedians are all American.
That’s because God must have a heck of a sense of humor.
Even though Americans love him so, not all Americans have been blessed with prosperity and abundance. Some Americans don’t have a lot of money.
Some are positively broke.
Some joke, huh?
Still, even if you don’t have money, there’s no reason to lose faith.
Why else would we say we’re “One nation under God”?
We know that the Almighty loves each and every American as much as he loves the private accumulation of capital, but you’re probably asking how can a God that loves Americans so much allow for any of the people that He loves to go without his blessings of prosperity?
How can God allow capitalism if capitalism is the root of so much poverty, homelessness, class tension, exploitation, and war around the world?
At least that’s what some people say it does.
First, I assume if you’re questioning God’s love of capitalism that you’re either a communist, a college student or a Democrat.
Either way, you’re probably wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt right now.
Well, communist, that’s because most people don’t appreciate capitalism because they have no idea what capitalism is.
Most folks think that capitalism is all about making money.
Sure, it’s about that, but there’s more to capitalism than that.
Capitalism isn’t just about money, it’s about morality. Capitalism is a moral theory.
Capitalism isn’t meant to only enrich individuals, but to benefit society as a whole.
Although capitalism’s roots are in the feudal system, it was the 18th century Scottish moral philosopher, Adam Smith’s (1723-1790), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), that is considered the “Bible of Capitalism”.
Smith believed that people are motivated by self-love and that the primary motivation for capitalism is self-interest, private property, and to be compensated in the market.
Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command … it is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of society, which he has in view.
According to Smith, we enter into exchanges with other people because we are working to our own benefit.
Now, at first glance, this seems all rather selfish. A society that encourages people to only fulfill their own needs won’t endure for long.
That perception is absolutely correct.
But for Smith, there’s an ultimate benefit to pursuing one’s own self-interest – being kind of selfish is actually beneficial to society as a whole.
Smith maintains that while we pursue our own interests, by extension we also ensure the well being of others.
Some of this has to do with the nature of the market itself.
We should keep in mind that Adam Smith was a moral philosopher. The goal of our ethics is to do what is good – in particular – to act in a way that is ethically best for society.
People, according to Smith, not only vote at the ballot, they also vote with their wallets. This is how the free market works. A business owner who has a reputation for treating his employees and/or customers poorly or produces a substandard product/service is subject to the will of the market. He may find that people don’t want to do business with a bad businessman. The businessman must realize that he bears some degree of responsibility to the pubic (his business practices must be consistent with the common good) if he wants to make money.
A good businessman must keep in mind that he is bound to operate his business subject to public demand.
Smith also maintains that capitalism encourages innovation. Innovation is based on competition and competition is the catalyst of improvement. In competing with other businesses, entrepreneurs (motivated by self-interest) create new, unique, and better products.
Individuals, like businesses, are motivated by self-interest and that we also possess the want to improve ourselves.
Milton Friedman maintains that liberty not only guarantees wealth, but that freedom is protected by capitalism. That’s because government, by nature, is coercive and hinders personal freedom. Capitalists (and capitalism) can counteract the actions of government because the free market reflects the true will of the people.
*The drive to improve ourselves is materially-oriented. When you add natural liberty to the drive for self-improvement you get capitalism. The outcomes are reason-based. Smith keeps in line with Enlightenment philosophers like Immanuel Kant who maintained that we are driven by reason. Our decisions are rational. This is why Smith discourages monopolies. Monopolies eliminate competition. It’s not rational for one business to dominate the market.
Because Smith believes people make rational decisions, he believes that government regulation should be minimal. The market will function as if guided by an “invisible hand”.
Smith says about the Invisible Hand
By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectively than when he really intends to promote it.
That is, Smith believes when we make money for ourselves, our interactions in the marketplace (as consumers, producers, and investors) benefits other people and society as a whole.
Just in case you didn’t know, the invisible hand is a moral concept.
Adam Smith also wrote
… improvement of the lower ranks of the people to be regarded as an advantage or as an inconveniency to society? The answer seems at first sight abundantly plain. Servants, laborers, and workers make up the far greater part of every aspect of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances for the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.
So far, capitalism sounds like a great gig, right?
There’s a big problem with capitalism, tho.
There’s a pretty good chance that not everyone will profit equally. Not everyone will make money, Smith says. Despite the opportunity for individuals to make a F-ton of money, there will still be poor people.
Despite all the material fun stuff that capitalism promises, not everyone is on the capitalism bandwagon.
Call them Socialists, Marxists, Communists, Godless America haters or folks who feel the Bern.
Some people would rather be Red than dead.
You know what that is, right?
The most famous treatise on socialism, The Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), maintains that capitalism determines people’s way of life (how people produce, distribute, and use goods). Life in a capitalist society alienates people, oppresses and dehumanizes people, and destroys social bonds. Workers and slaves to machines and slaves to the capitalist and the state that supports him.
This happens because everything is about making money.
According to Marx, even the rich are dehumanized by capitalism.
Fans of the theories of 19th century German philosopher Karl Marx (1818-1883) tend to believe:
- Poverty and exploitation are products of capitalism (private property in particular).
Private property leads to class division and economic inequality.
Justice requires and end to private property.
To abolish private ownership of capital and replace it with social (public) ownership.
Collective ownership by the workers/public.
Workers should choose how corporations are to be managed.
Capital is not productive, labor is productive.
Capitalism breeds unhealthy rivalry.
Capitalism oppresses women.
Markets are inherently unstable.
Capitalism fails to provide social services.
In a capitalist system, profits trump everything.
Marx advocated fair wages and public education.
Now, socialism doesn’t seem so scary, does it?
Marx (and Engels) wrote:
…that kid of property which exploits wage labour, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labour for fresh exploitation. … when, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses all its class character.
Marx states that the class struggle resulting from the capitalist system will eventually lead to the proletariat abolishing the capitalist system and replacing it with collective (worker-owned) means of production – Communism.
Under communism, Marx explains, the workers will have a workers paradise.
It’s understandable that people aren’t fans of capitalism and why they’d feel that socialism is the answer.* As an American, and a lover of dollars in my wallet, I can respect the right for others to hold different political views than I do.
As wrong as those people may be.
I’ll admit, capitalism can be pretty messed up to some people.
But, before we jump on the to-each-according-to-his-need-and-ability horse-drawn cart, we might consider how or why capitalism is so messed up.
There’s a real possibility that we’ve been doing capitalism wrong.
Yes, it’s possible for Americans to do something wrong.
Here’s the thing: Americans are capitalists at heart, but our current brand of capitalism may not be the same kind of capitalism that Adam Smith wrote about.
And that might have a little something to do with this woman right here.
The Russian born, American philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982), is not only known for her novels/philosophical treatises The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Anthem, she also almost single-handedly influenced modern American capitalism.
If anyone you know declares that they are “going Galt”, blame it on Ayn Rand.
Rand is most famous for her philosophy of Objectivism, grounded in the moral principle of the “Virtue of Selfishness”. According to Rand, selfishness was acting according to one’s rational self interest. Rand states that altruism (emphasized in deontological ethical theories such as Kantian and Christian ethics) is harmful to individuals and society, and leads to immorality, injustice, and double standards.
The purpose of morality is to define man’s proper values and interests, that concern with his own interests is the essence of moral existence, and that man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions… the Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his actions and that man must act for his own rational self-interest.
According to Rand, if you earn it, it’s yours. You are under NO moral obligation to share with or do for others.
That’s because acting with the interests in mind forces us to ignore our own…
Like Adam Smith, Rand’s moral philosophy is also applicable to economics.
However, Randian economics holds that any attempt to regulate the economy or to influence what we do with what is ours is an infringement on an individual’s liberty and rational self-interest. If you do not do well financially, that is your problem.
No safety net. No invisible hand.
You shouldn’t expect that others will bear the responsibility of maintaining your well being.
No help for you, moocher.
Rand’s influence on American politics and economics is far-reaching.
Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, was a student of Ayn Rand.
It’s said that Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were fans of Rand’s philosophy.
As are Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who forces, whoops, recommends that his staffers watch the film adaptation of The Fountainhead.
Former Congressman Bob Barr is a fan of Ayn Rand.
Other members of Congress who follow Rand’s objectivist philosophy include Representative Steve King (R-IA), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), and Paul’s father, former Representative Rand Paul of Texas.
Former 2012 Vice-Presidential candidate and current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-WI), stated that he handed out copies of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to his congressional staffers as Christmas presents.
Paul Ryan said of Rand
You know, it doesn’t surprise me that sales of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged have surged lately with the Obama Administration coming in, because it’s that kind of thinking, that kind of writing, that is sorely needed right now. And I think a lot of people would observe that we are living in an Ayn Rand novel right now, metaphorically speaking… The attack on democratic capitalism, on individualism, and freedom America is an attack on the moral foundation of America, and Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. And this, to me, is what matters most, it’s not enough to say that President Obama’s taxes are too big, or the health care plan doesn’t work for this or that policy reason. It is the moral [aspect] of what’s occurring right now and how it offends the morality of individuals working [by] their own free will to produce, to achieve, to succeed, that is under attack. And it’s that which Ayn Rand would be commenting on, and we need that kind of comment more and more than ever.
… Although to be fair, Ryan later said that he rejected Rand’s atheism.
To be honest, Randian capitalism-influenced economic policies work.
People make money.
And when pursuing one’s own interests, one is usually happy.
Because they have money.
Rand’s rational self-interest rejects Smith’s (capitalist) ethic that when we do for ourselves, we are actually acting in the interests of the common good.
And as 9 out of 10 philosophers will tell you, when we don’t act in the interests of the common good, society doesn’t fair too well.
The tenth philosopher is Ayn Rand.
She thinks giving the finger to society is ok.
Ok, the Capitalist-Socialist divide has been going on for quite some time. Despite the fact that both theories have had the chance to prove which one is correct, all we’ve really done is proved that – well, that nobody has really gotten either theory right.
After all, both theories are over a century old. It’s a little difficult to ring up Adam Smith and ask him how capitalism is really supposed to work.
Besides, I have a feeling that Adam Smith spend all of his time on the phone taking selfies.
The way things are, we’ve been made to think that there are only two economic theories to choose from. However, Capitalism is not without flaws.
But neither is Socialism.
‘Cause as much as I want universal health care, having a bunch of cash really isn’t that bad of an idea.
*I realize that throughout this post I have been using the terms Socialism, Communism, and Marxism interchangeably. And yes, I am aware of the differences between the three ideologies.
Great Treasury of Western Thought: A Compendium of Important Statements of Man and His Institutions By the Great Thinkers In Western History. 1977. Eds. Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren. NY: R.R. Bowker Company. p. 803.
Adam Smith. “Benefits of the Profit Motive”. Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. 1988. Eds. G. Lee Bowie, Meredith W. Michaels, Robert C. Solomon, and Robert J. Fogelin. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. p. 747.
Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. 1988 . NY: Signet Classic p. 67, 70.