Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some Thoughts on Capitalism & Freedom

Came across a thought-provoking post by Hugh Howey titled, "A Fan of Freedom," in which the author defends some basic tenets of capitalism against those who, in light of the extraordinary incomes received by those in the banking industry in recent weeks, are questioning its value.

Hugh states the problem (emphases his):
All capitalism means is that the people own their own stuff. We can possess our own land, we can start our own business, we can determine the price of goods we create, and we can enter into binding contracts with one another. That’s it. This is a system that creates economic freedoms of potential (if not outcome). How can people be against freedom? Because they don’t like the choices other people make and would really like to have complete control over someone else.
This makes sense. A lot of people are just plain envious of the wealth others have accumulated and prefer to bring them down to their level rather than do the work required to achieve similar levels of financial success. What capitalism allows is the opportunity for someone to drop out of college, build a business (or work in one), and become a billionaire. This is a good thing. What a country!

Hugh on money:
A side-note on what money is, for those that seem to hate or distrust it. Money is a token used to represent work. It’s the stand-in, the go-between, for a cobbler and a butcher. One man trades shoes for another’s sausage. Even when they don’t need each other’s wares at the exact same time. Hating money is like hating trade between two free peoples, or hating the idea that a person’s work has any intrinsic value. I usually find that people who hate money are misplacing their hatred of greed (or expressing their own envy and materialism).
Exactly. If people have a problem with others earning and accumulating money, they're really commenting on their own unwillingness (or laziness) to do the hard work of building their own fortune. That's the system we live in. If you or Michael Moore don't like it, move some place else.

Otherwise, here's what you're left with. Hugh again:
The current thinking on economic freedom seems to be this: Human liberty occasionally results in abuses of human liberty. Free people often use that freedom to trample the freedom of another free person. In order to make sure the latter has freedom from the former, we need to remove ALL human freedom. That is, in order to make sure nobody murders anyone ever again, we need to all be locked up in our individual cages. This is what’s best for mankind.
Freedom to build wealth means that someone will abuse the system through illegal means. They should be punished, obviously. But don't punish the system that allows all of us the ability (the freedom) to create wealth by legitimate means.
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