The Morality of Capitalism

This is part one in an eight part series on the morality of capitalism.  Originally posted here

It is a common belief that capitalism “delivers the goods” and creates prosperity, but does so only at the cost of our souls, our dignity and our humanity. Many people doubt capitalism not because they fail to see its wealth-generating capacity, but because they believe it to be immoral. I wish to contest the idea that capitalism is immoral and present evidence to the contrary. Not only do I believe capitalism passes the minimum test by failing to violate basic moral standards; I believe it actively promotes a robust sense of morality in a way far superior to any other system.

Before I present my arguments, I would like to define what I mean by the word “capitalism.” I mean only a system where individuals are free to keep, trade, use or give away property that was peacefully acquired. This is merely a negation of the use of force in the use and exchange of goods. I do not mean a system that is pro-capitalist, or pro-business or pro anything but freedom for the individual.

In matter of fact, capitalists and established businesspeople have always been the most active enemies of capitalism. That is because capitalism is decidedly not pro-business. It allows for human creativity, competition and ceaseless challenges to vested interests as people continually innovate in order to better serve customers. It is a system that does not allow one to rest on their laurels long, and as such, those who have been successful frequently try to slow capitalism down and look to the state to find shelter from its dynamism.

If the word capitalism is distracting, I encourage you to substitute “free trade,” “free markets,” “voluntary exchange” or simply “freedom.” It will not change the meaning of my arguments in the least. I have chosen to use the term capitalism because it creates a more provocative title and because the term is embraced by the curators of this blog. There are good arguments both for and against the use of the term capitalism by advocates of free markets, but I wish to avoid this debate at present.

The titles of the next seven posts in this series provide a clue as to where I am going:

Through these posts I will attempt to briefly explain why a system of free enterprise is the best possible way to promote these virtues. I don’t think we should merely accept or “put up with” capitalism, but we ought to embrace it as the key to unlocking human potential—moral, mental, spiritual and physical. There is much more to be said on the morality of capitalism than I will say in this series, and I mean only to present some of the most basic arguments.

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