Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: March 18, 2013

Is Capitalism moral?

We spent quite a bit of time discussing this on the podcast yesterday.  It’s from the Washington Post and is written by Steven Pearlstein.

I have some real issues with his characterizations of Capitalism, especially where he tries to use events and problems to imply that Capitalism is less than moral.

I had hoped to write up something, but as happens more frequently here lately, life has intruded. However, a commenter to the WP article summed it up nicely for me:

Free markets don’t regulate my excesses, guarantee equal opportunity or fairly divide the economic pie. Yet Mr. Pearlstein seems to be arguing that if free markets don’t do these moral things, then they’re immoral.

So there’s the central fallacy in the debate as posited by Pearlstein: Your system doesn’t do what I want it to do so it’s bad, even though your system can’t do what I want it to do because that’s not its purpose or design. To illustrate, your religion is bad because it doesn’t promote gay rights like I want even though gay rights is an utterly foreign and inimical idea to your religion, whose purpose and design is to save souls. (This was the essence of CNN’s coverage of the papal conclave.)

See the problem? OK, another try: Free markets don’t make me use less gasoline, guarantee me a nice job in return for getting a degree in Latino Studies, or prevent Donald Trump from getting too rich compared to me. Therefore, free market capitalism is bad, or at least not moral. OK, but free markets don’t and can’t do any of these things, so your standards and measures are irrelevant and thus illogical, see? Why not measure the moral character of free markets by what they do? For example, free markets provide places where people can meet to voluntarily transact business without worrying about getting clobbered or expropriated by government or criminals. What’s immoral about that?

You’ve gotta hand it to the left: They really know how to enshroud a debate in illogic, falsehood and emotion. Take off those pinko-colored glasses, though, and you realize that the debate Pearlstein wants to have is nonsense: Free markets can’t, don’t and won’t do what he wants government to do because free markets are not government. Ergo, the valid and relevant issue is whether we all want government to continue doing all that it’s doing at the price we’re paying for government to do it. And I guarantee you that no one on the left wants to have that debate.

The commenter, Lavaux, does a pretty decent job of nailing the fallacy which Pearlstein and many critics of Capitalism (and many other issues as he demonstrates) suffer under – claiming that it is something other than it is and then attacking that “something”, or, as we usually say, using a strawman argument. Pearlstein, as Lavaux points out, is slashing at those strawmen throughout his piece.

Capitalism has become the “go-to” boogy man on the left.  All sorts of things that have no relevance or aren’t a part of Capitalism are blamed on Capitalism.  Usually, however, if you dig deep enough (sometimes you don’t have to dig at all) you’ll find the hand of intrusive government somewhere in the problem mix.   That immediately takes it from the realm of Capitalism to all sorts of other nether regions which have nothing to do with with it.

But, you know that …. unfortunately, a vast majority of your fellow citizens don’t.

Thus the demonization of Capitalism and the exoneration of government continue apace.