Free enterprise, or to use the Marxist pejorative–capitalism, never had a conscience, and never will.
A “conscience” is a quality of a single mind expressing a moral conclusion. This moral conclusion comes from a person making a decision that something is either right or wrong. It is a subjective individual assessment. To say that capitalism should have a conscience is to say that capital should be employed to do the right thing. While easy enough to say, this statement assumes an objective moral answer exists, and it assumes that capital is a single entity. Both assumptions are wrong.
The current Occupants of various streets around the world, politicians, religious leaders, historians, in fact just about everyone has an opinion about the right way to employ someone else’s capital. But capital doesn’t belong to society, governments, taxpayers, beneficiaries, or to the public. Capital belongs to individual legal entities who hold title to it, and only those holding title have the right to decide how to employ it.
Undeterred, the protesting Occupants of Wall Street along with their Occupant Organizer in Chief currently running the executive branch demonize the owners of capital. They’ve reached a moral conclusion that the capitalist system is mistaken, unfair and a crime against humanity. They prefer social justice instead. Social justice amounts to the forceful removal of wealth from some people, giving a small percentage of the removed wealth to leftist associates, and consuming the rest of it in government bureaucracy. It’s a fluid notion that means something different to each proponent, however, the common denominator between all versions seems to be the confiscation of private wealth for government redistribution.
In the real world, the owners of capital don’t control people, natural events, the environment, or government, as the Occupants allege. Moreover, entrepreneurs could never be culpable as a group for some collective wrong doing because, technically, there is no such thing as a collective mind. Reality, however does not deter believers in collectivism from pushing political myths. Alleging groupthink sins against the collective is one tool they us to bury their opposition in a fuddle of mysterious indefensible wrongdoing. Once you step outside the bounds of cause and effect, the supply of mudballs to hurl at opponents becomes limitless.
Entrepreneurs live in the world of real markets where they must make a profit to survive. The market is neutral. It doesn’t have a conscience, an ability to think, a moral sense, a free will, or qualities of mind like beneficence or malice. It is merely the point where two freely thinking people voluntarily agree that two different things have roughly equivalent value and are potentially worth trading between them. The market is a place in space and time where valuations are objectively decided between willing buyers and sellers. Those valuations are as close as the market ever gets to a moral decision about right and wrong.
The capitalist enters a market at the risk of losing his capital to create something he thinks people in that market will want to trade freely for. In doing so, jobs are created, products are made, and a stream of commerce springs up around his products to the extent other people freely choose to engage in the trade of his product. If the capitalist is right he is rewarded with profit. If he’s wrong he loses his capital and goes away. These voluntary transaction points form the economic basis for our entire society. When we allow ourselves to freely function in this milieu, amazing things happen that organically, systemically, broadly, accrue to the benefit of all of us. Creation and trade generate wealth, prosperity, the fabric for society, and a place for subsequent generations to flourish.
Moreover, the psychosis of moral repugnance that seems to possess the minds of the Occupants from the President on down through the ranks of community organizers and foot soldiers in the streets, is obviated, made moot and superfluous by the mechanism of free trading. When the fabric of our social dealings is built on a voluntary set of trades for values that we individually judge to be equivalent and in our own best interest to make, we simply lose all legitimate grounds for umbrage against other people in society.
It’s only when we introduce corruptions into the market mechanism that the system breaks down. And a lot of corruptions–encumbrances–have been introduced. Taxation, regulation, tariffs, price controls, trade barriers, unionization, guilds, fees, legislated social and behavioral controls, market interventions abound. We are quick to adjudicate power over this or that individual act, quick to narrow the domain of freedom in which we can express our individual judgment, quick to make a rule in our own favor. Literally hundreds of new general rules are created every day.
The Occupants really despise the market mechanisms our system provides to thrive in our society, but at the same time, they blame the market system for failing to guarantee them a job, health care, sustenance, and housing. It was never our society’s responsibility to provide these things to them. Moreover, no society in history that made those sorts of promises ever made good on them. All experiments in collectivism have failed, or are in the process of failing.
Societies don’t have responsibilities. They have rules to govern their members. In our society people have responsibilities to provide for their own well being. We have God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These fundamental rights imply responsibilities, in this case, duties to ourselves. A failure to adequately perform a duty to our self does not create a duty for other people to step in and pick up the slack for us. Third parties may freely choose to help those who fall short, and we uphold charity throughout our society as a moral good. But a law that forces people to be charitable is an enslavement. A slave cannot make a moral choice.
For too many years we have burdened our markets and our society with well intentioned controls that have had the effect of shutting down free choices, foreclosing free trades, and removing individual responsibility. In doing so we have narrowed the risk and reward potential for human life. By what right did we limit the future potential of our offspring?
Industry didn’t leave America voluntarily. It was taken away by capital owners acting as they have always done, in their own best interests, chased out by people–unions in many cases–who failed to uphold the individual rights and voluntary foundations of the market system. Capital and industry were moved to places where people, under adverse political systems in many cases, knew how unleashing human creativity would improve their society as it had done for America, and they created conditions attractive to entrepreneurs.
Capital and industry will return to America only when we reestablish legal conditions favoring the accumulation, application, movement and employment of wealth. Industry won’t return to America by government order, by redistribution of wealth scheme, by equalization of condition regulation, by any freedom-limiting law, or by any appeals to fictional collective morality. All of these tactics of the left can only serve to further discourage entrepreneurs from returning.
We have hundreds of thousands of pages of well intentioned legislative and regulatory nonproductive nonsensical laws we must eliminate if we expect industry to return to America. This insane statutory burden–the legacy of the progressive century–will kill us if we don’t kill it first. The sooner it is done the sooner we may begin to heal our economy and put our standard of living back on an upward trajectory.
Do you suppose it’s a coincidence that the former Communist countries in the world who have woken up, have all embraced free enterprise to cure the ills of their respective collectivist nightmares? These Occupants, these perpetual children, need to get a clue. The disgraced myth of Collectivism can only expand through force and oppression because it violates human nature. The Market system, built on voluntary exchange, seeks equilibrium, is intrinsically peaceful, and harmonizes with human nature.
Ironies don’t get much thicker than a first black President attempting to lead America to a future of collective state sponsored enslavement.