By Vasko Kohlmayer
"Capitalism is an evil, and you cannot regulate evil... you have to eliminate it and replace it with something that is good for all people," concludes Michael Moore in his latest documentary Capitalism: A Love Story.
Moore's fulmination is neither surprising nor atypical in this era when capitalism finds itself under all-out assault. Having become something of a derogatory term, capitalism gets faulted for almost every societal problem and ill. Blamed for exploitation, poverty, fraud, alienation, crime, racism and nearly everything else, capitalism is increasingly cast as the great villain of our time.
The bad rap could not be more undeserved. Rather than mankind's scourge, capitalism has been its greatest benefactor. It is, in fact, the only socio-economic system that can provide ordinary people with dignified and prosperous lives. It was only with the advent of capitalism that the common man was able to escape the penury and filth of his existence to which he had been previously consigned. Until then, the lives of most people were short, hard and miserable. Today, as if by miracle, we can enjoy greater comforts and ease of life than the kings of the past. It is to capitalism that we owe this good fortune.
Capitalism is responsible for nearly everything that makes human existence easy and comfortable. The automobile, the supermarket, the personal computer, the washing machine, the hammer-drill, the iPhone, the airplane, the TV set, the chewing gum, electricity and countless other good things have all been birthed and mass produced by capitalism.
Because of its immense wealth generating power, people who live in capitalist societies enjoy rising standards of living and material affluence. Conversely, those who live in non-capitalist societies invariably experience the opposite. To see this, it is enough to compare the experience of, let's say, the United States, Switzerland and Australia, on one hand, with that of the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea and Saudi Arabia on the other. The rule always holds: Capitalist societies are invariably prosperous. Non-capitalist ones are always poor.
But wealth and prosperity are not the only benefits capitalism confers. Capitalism fosters freedoms of all kinds and affords unprecedented opportunities for personal fulfillment and growth. It rewards efficiency, resourcefulness, originality and inventiveness. Those whose oddness would consign them to marginalization in less free societies often excel under capitalism. Capitalism rewards good ideas regardless of who their authors are. Thomas Edison was a hearing-impaired eccentric while Bill Gates is a well-known nerd. It is inconceivable that these men could develop their gifts in the way they did under any other system. Mankind has benefited greatly from the fact that they were born under capitalism rather than under a communist or Islamic regime. Andrew Bernstein was right when he said that capitalism is, among other things, “the system of liberated human brain power.” Capitalism uniquely encourages individuals to realize their talents and pursue their dreams no matter how far-fetched they may seem.
Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of capitalism is its ability to transform the pursuit of self-interest into the general good. In the process of pursuing profit, people satisfy the needs and wants of their fellow men. This is because success under capitalism is tied to one's the ability to provide something – a product or a service – that benefits other people. In a very real sense capitalism is the most effective and successful welfare program ever implemented. In the process of becoming the richest man on earth, Bill Gates provided a product which tens of millions have found immensely useful. This is the story of nearly every successful capitalist. John D. Rockefeller provided the masses with cheap oil, Henry Ford with affordable cars, and Steve Jobs with ingenious gadgets.
Anyone who genuinely cares about the well-being of mankind – anyone who claims love and compassion as his personal traits – cannot but become a passionate advocate for capitalism. The question to ask is: Under which system are people best off? Capitalism wins hands down. The difference between capitalism and even the best alternative is that of light and darkness. Michael Moore and all those who oppose and revile capitalism cannot have the best interest of their fellow men at heart. If they did, they would dedicate their efforts to its defense. By trying to destroy it, they are inviting hardship and misery on their society.
Free-market capitalism can only exist if people possess the liberty to engage in the free exchange of goods, services and labor. Freedom, therefore, is the most essential prerequisite of capitalism; the absence of coercion is the soil on which it thrives. “Capitalism is what people do when you leave them alone,” observed Kenneth Minogue. Given its inherent tendency to tax, control and regulate, government is by nature the greatest threat to capitalism. It is impossible for big government and capitalism to coexist. The bigger a country's government, the less freedom and capitalism that country will end up with.
America became the wealthiest, the freest and the most prosperous country in history, because it was the most capitalistic country in history. By enshrining the ideas of individual freedom and limited government in America's founding document, the Founding Fathers created an ideal environment for capitalism to flourish. The Constitution made capitalism the socio-economic foundation of the United States of America.
What is commonly called the American Dream is in reality the capitalist's dream. It is the idea of turning one's abilities and labor into material plenty and financial success. The American Dream embodies that universal human desire of becoming rich. But unlike in other places, in America everybody is free to give it a try. And most people do try, with varying degrees of success. The striving for wealth is the national pursuit in America. Calvin Coolidge, the country's 30th president, zeroed in on this truth when he said:
“The chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.”
It was precisely this striving for personal prosperity by countless Americans that produced the richest and the most advanced society that has ever existed.
Contrary to what is generally believed, America does not have free market capitalism today. Battered by the increasingly oppressive and domineering government, America's capitalism has been badly vitiated. The government's assault on capitalism is sustained and relentless, carried out by more than a dozen cabinet level departments, numerous agencies and countess regulatory boards whose main purpose is to interfere with and restrict the activities of the market. Tens of thousands of pages of rules, laws and regulations control nearly every aspect of American commerce. Today it is virtually impossible for private parties to enter into a transaction without the government dictating the terms. The government's daily battle against the forces of free enterprise is carried out by a well-funded army of bureaucrats numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
Those who still work see half of their income taken away by taxes of various kinds. Nearly half of America's total economic activity is now driven by government spending. To call this a free market is absurd. The notion that America has unbridled capitalism is one of the great misconceptions of our time. What America has is a heavily regulated system in which the government rides roughshod over the private sector.
All this government interference inevitably causes severe economic dislocation and numerous social ills. Corporatism, welfare dependence, malinvestments, wide-scale illegitimacy, currency debasement, inner cities slums, the business cycle – all these are a result of government policies. But most people fail to grasp this, because politicians have become very adept at pinning the blame on capitalism for the ills they themselves cause. We have seen a glaring example of this recently when the very government officials who brought on the financial crisis railed against the free market for its unconscionable “excesses.” Their solution is to take over and nationalize whole industries and thus incinerate a bleeding stump of the free market which is all that is left from what once was great American enterprise.
That destructive effort got under way in earnest in the 1930s, carried out by statists seeking to remake America in a collectivist image. They knew that to achieve their goal they would first have to tear apart the country's socio-economic base. America can survive the destruction of lesser institutions, but it cannot survive the destruction of its capitalist foundation. A man dies when his heart stops beating. America will die when the remaining vestiges of its capitalism are eradicated at last.
America's enemies – both domestic and foreign – realize that capitalism is America's jugular. This is why the final objective of almost every leftist cause is to clamp down on the free market. Consider, for example, such seemingly disparate movements as animal rights, civil rights, workers rights and environmentalism. If you take a careful look at their modus operandi you will realize that the terminal point of all their activism is legislation that would place some aspect of the free market under governmental control. What ultimately drives all leftist movements is their anti-capitalism. Their seeming variety is largely superficial, for they are all expressions of the same mindset. The different aims for which they ostensibly strive are merely guises under which they work their anti-capitalist subversion. Predictably, the cumulative effect of their activism has been the devastation of the marketplace.
The left's anti-capitalist goals are shared by America's foreign enemies. It is no accident that the 9/11 hijackers chose the World Trade Center towers as their target. In their effort to bring America down, they revealingly attacked structures that were widely perceived as capitalist symbols.
America's survival ultimately depends on the preservation of its capitalist system. Although the great political, ideological and cultural clashes of our time are seemingly fought over different issues and on different fronts, all the fault-lines ultimately converge in the great struggle over capitalism. The progress made by its enemies is nothing short of remarkable given that facts, evidence and history are overwhelmingly stacked against them. But after decades of brainwashing, reviling, indoctrination and propaganda they have been able to convince many that capitalism is evil and government good. This is the equivalent of convincing someone that white is black and black is white.
There is only one way in which this process can be reversed – through education. People must be exposed to facts and information about the beneficial nature of capitalism and the deleterious effects of government intervention. Although changing the prevailing mindset is never easy, we have at our fingertips an immense amount of material to make the case. The fact that most people have never been properly exposed to it shows what a monumental fraud our education establishment is. It is our task to ensure that people get this information, so that they can see through the lies they have been taught and told. Only when enough people see the truth will we be able to restore this country's capitalist foundation. America's survival depends on it.