Tag Archives: Capitalism

Don’t Tread On My Private Property

In our current day of “social justice”, fair has come to mean an equal distribution of resources.  But there is a barrier to this goal.  That barrier is known as private property.

For years, being a moron myself, this term, “private property”,  was confusing.  I was raised in a rural area with plenty of “private property” signs around.  But this is not what private property is; at least not solely.  There are all kinds of private property… like money for example.  The fundamental component of “private property” is ownership.  One can say “that’s mine” with the weight of law backing it up.

But the misguided ideas that drive “social justice” muddies this concept.  One of the tasks of capitalist governments is to protect private property, which is why there are laws against theft.  But what if the government is enlisted by the majority to participate in theft from the minority?  If this can happen, is anyone’s property really private, or is it more a privilege dependent on the whim of the majority?

While the tension between ownership and social justice involves many facets, here is one: The emotion based appeal of equality versus the right to acquire and accumulate private property to do with as one pleases.

Most however don’t see this tension because most don’t have what is arbitrarily deemed to be more than their fair share.  There is no reasoned defense capable of answering this emotional argument, but there is sound economical reasons to defend private property. And, there are sound reasons to deny the authority in society to participate in theft.  To not do this is a slippery slope because once the right to private property is destroyed for one, the door is opened for it to be destroyed for all.

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Can’t We All Just Have A Utopian Style Economy?

Some time back I told a group of ten year olds that I had hidden a bag of candy.  I passed out maps that I assured them would lead to the treasure, but I purposely withheld the beginning point.  They began walking around, turning this way and that, counting their steps, as they each dutifully followed the map .  Not one of them asked for that key piece of information that would have unlocked it.  This surprised me for some reason.  In the end no one found the candy. So I ate it myself… In front of them.

There is a lesson here in economics.  Where one begins in the study of economics will determine where he ends up.

When most hear the word “economy” they think of the availability of jobs, money and so on.  But the starting point of economics is man, namely, answering the question, how will he act, good or not so great, under given circumstances?  With this answer in hand it then attempts to answer another question, how do we enlist our fellow man to participate in our own benefit?

While capitalism begins with the more negative view that man is only interested in himself, and from selfish motives will work, improvise, innovate, trade, think, risk, explore and other things that make for a good economy, communism is based on an assumption that man is more altruistic. It assumes he will do these same things with the same zeal in return for his fair share of resources, however much some wealthy, innately-benevolent leader decides that is.

That this hasn’t ever worked is a testament to the faultiness of communism’s premise.  That it will ever be attempted  is a testament to the validity of capitalism’s premise regarding man’s condition… well, that and his resilience to the truth regarding that sad condition.

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Capitalism In A Nutshell From Its Founder, Adam Smith

Below I paraphrase Adam Smith’s words about the famous “Benevolent Butcher”.

We all need each other to survive. But it’s folly to think that people help others simply out of the goodness of their hearts. For this reason we all do much better if we can enlist our fellow man’s own self-interest in helping us; that is we must show our fellow man that his helping us is to his own advantage. We say to our fellow man “Give me what I want and in doing so you will get what you want”. This is the basis for every transaction we make from day to day. We eat food grown by a farmer we’ve never met. We live in houses, the builders of which we’ve never met. We have food and shelter, not because someone thinks we’re special, but rather because they got something they wanted out of the bargain. It is not because of the benevolence of the butcher that we expect to get our meat, but from the butcher’s regard for his own interests. And we don’t live our lives wondering if the butcher has what he needs. We assume the butcher loves himself enough to give us what we want because we have something he wants.

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Here is his original work.

[M]an has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages”.

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What Are The Extremes?

Socialism has an emotional appeal. The Utopian society envisioned by socialist is one in which resources are shared more evenly. The extreme view would be that all resources are shared exactly even. In such a world no one person would possess any more resources than any other person… even the king. The extreme opposite is how I think socialists see capitalists. In this world all resources are controlled by a few while the rest must become their slaves in order to partake in life giving resources such as food and housing.

I’ve yet to encounter a socialist that thinks the extreme view of socialism should exist. But at the same time I’ve yet to meet a socialist that doesn’t think we are headed toward the other extreme. The question being answered in our current elections, then, is just where between these two extremes should a society exist? But while this question is the one that our society seems to be attempting to answer, it, in the end, is the wrong question.

The reality is that things are never quite so simple as the divvying up of resources. There are many more factors in play than who ought to get what? These factors can all be summed up under the heading of “The Condition of Man”. Under this heading are factors such as emotion, greed, laziness and morality… to name a few. Ignoring these factors, or rejecting that there is a higher order through which these factors must be seen, will end in convoluted economic policies that will, in the end, determine who gets the larger share of resources rather than if they will be shared evenly.

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