Capitalism is Good for the Soul

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
An article I wrote ages ago.

Submitted: November 02, 2008

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Submitted: November 02, 2008

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Socialism inspires, but it cannot deliver. Capitalism delivers, but it cannot inspire*. The contribution of capitalism to the freedom, equality and happiness of humanity today cannot be overstated.

 

In a topic as broad as this, terminology needs to be tightly defined. Capitalism is a system where property is in private hands, and where buyers and sellers decide the prices of goods and services. It is opposed to socialism – where the state or community controls property. For something to be “good for the soul”, it must allow each individual to pursue their heart’s desire as long as that desire hurts no one else. This definition avoids metaphysical debate over the ‘soul’, is easily testable, and is something that most of the population can understand and practice for themselves.

 

For someone to follow their heart’s desire, they must have – to paraphrase the US Constitution – “life, liberty and [the ability to pursue] happiness”. Since wages are greater, life expectancy is higher, and crime is lower under capitalist societies, long life has become a guarantee for most humans. Under capitalism, the coercive power of the state is reduced to the advantage of the people. Because capitalism creates wealth, more money is spent on public education and public universities, and the variety found in capitalism creates a wide variety of jobs – both of these points increase someone’s ability to choose the profession they most desire.

 

The 20th century has been marked by the rapid and uplifting spread of capitalism across the globe. Despite the spectre of the Comintern, the Khmer Rouge, and East Germany, and the still-present South American socialism and dictatorships of Mugabe and Kim Jong Il, most countries have adopted capitalism to one degree or another. Those that have adopted it most resoundingly – Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland and Australia have the greatest economic freedoms in the world – have seen poverty massively reduced. The most compelling piece of evidence for capitalism is that of life expectancy.

 

Medicine has no manifest destiny. There is no guarantee that life spans will grow longer, more diseases will be wiped out and we will become healthier. The only reason we are so much healthier than our grandparents is thanks to the impetus of capitalism – medicine patents origin in the West because that is where scientific research and investigation is rewarded. In 1901, the citizens of the wealthiest nation on Earth – England – had a life expectancy of 50 years. In 2001, the citizens of the poorest nation on Earth had a life expectancy of 65 years. For all the complaints that capitalism widens the gap between rich and poor, here is inescapable evidence that capitalism improves the lot of every human being.

 

Of course, medicine cannot take all the credit, even though almost every major medical development originated in capitalist nations. Improvements in nutrition and more balanced diets have improved body strength, resistance to disease, and longevity. Here, capitalism’s influence is even more profound. It is the capitalist exchange of goods and services that allows nations to trade as equals, and it is free trade that has allowed nations to share their bounty. Grain and protein producers, such as Australia, freely trade with fruit and vegetable producers, so that every person receives grains, protein, fruit and vegetables. In socialist societies, there is little motive to trade because prices are controlled – and thus there is no economic incentive. That is one of the reasons that the U.S.S.R. suffered such miserable famines.

 

For those in socialist nations, liberty is a privilege and not a right. The freedom to pursue your own affairs and live your own life is one we hold dear, but it is frequently circumvented in socialist nations. In Zimbabwe, white farmers are forced to give up their farms or be hacked apart by government thugs wielding machetes. In Venezuela, it is illegal to sell a chicken for an economical price, stopping families from making a living. In North Korea, labour camps hold those that tried to escape the oppressive authoritarian regime. In China, a 2-year old baby girl is under house arrest in the ironically named “Bo Bo Freedom City” because her father criticised the government. 51 online dissidents have been jailed by the Chinese Communist Party. During the Spanish Civil War, the Comintern crushed its own allies – Catalonian anarchists – because it could not bear to share power.

 

The most important aspect of capitalism is the freedom it grants human beings. Along with the freedom to buy or sell goods at whatever price you choose, the freedom to become educated in any profession you desire, the freedom to work or to be paid not to work is the most important freedom – to establish alternate economic systems. In a capitalist society, there is nothing stopping any one of us from purchasing land and making it available to the community. If several people want to live an anarchic lifestyle, they are free to do so as long as they do not stop others from living a capitalist lifestyle. If there were interest, a communist society could be set up within the capitalist society. But there is not interest, and never will be. Such a capitalist-communist society would require people to share property of their own volition and work without direct reward. And people will only do that if the state forces them to – like it did in the U.S.S.R. There is no greater condemnation of communism than the fact that it could be implemented now – but it is too unpopular.

 

Art, the greatest expression of the soul, does not thrive in socialist states. Art does not exist in socialist states, except ‘art’ glorifying the proletariat and the state – and when an artist is forced to paint or draw something that is not art. By comparison, art thrives in capitalist societies. In fact, any Australian citizen is free to leave their job, live on the dole, and create whatever their heart desires. The fact that very few choose to do so is not a flaw of the system – in fact, it demonstrates that the system gives such robust options that the life of an artist is not most people’s first choice. Many great works of art have been created in capitalist nations, but not a single prominent work of art originates from a socialist nation.

 

Ironically, for all its talk of equality, socialism is the most elitist political system because it demands people think and feel a certain way. We have all heard the criticism that capitalism makes people consumerist and materialist, but this shows a misunderstanding of cause and effect. People – whether they were born in communist Russia or capitalist America – are typically consumerist and materialist, and that is why capitalism is such a popular political system. Capitalism meets peoples’ needs and wants, and people want consumer goods because they make them happy. It is elitist socialists who claim that people have been brainwashed into wanting consumer goods and don’t truly know what’s good for them. The idea that people should be allowed to consume if that is their heart’s desire is completely foreign to socialism, which is built on the assumption people must be patronised and forced to do “what’s best for themselves”.

 

In conclusion, only with life and liberty can people pursue their heart’s desire, and the evidence is here: life and liberty is guaranteed only in capitalist societies. The evidence abounds – the superior public education, greater safety, transparent government, greater liberty to purchase necessities and luxuries – but the most important evidence is the testimony of those present today. If one wants to leave a capitalist society, they are free to do so. No one here has chosen to do so. If one wants to leave a socialist society, one risks their life, their dignity and their liberty – and yet people took and continue to take that risk in the hundreds. Whatever your personal ideological attachment to socialism, you cannot deny that it alienates and capitalism attracts. Socialism is anathema to human nature, while capitalism gives Indian migrant, disadvantaged Aboriginal, bourgeois student and rebellious teen the power to do what they want with their life – to fulfil their heart’s desire.

 

* Paraphrasing Peter Saunders’ “[C]apitalism delivers but cannot inspire, socialism inspires despite never having delivered”. http://www.cis.org.au/Policy/summer%2007-08/saunders_summer07.html


© Copyright 2019 William George. All rights reserved.

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