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Thursday, January 5, 2012
THE MORALITY OF CAPITALISM
While penning this ode to capitalism I peered out my window onto my garden. It was in its final days of full flower and the dynamics of its beauty caused my mind to drift into a pensive state. I found myself enthralled by the luminous emerald green grass, the strength and dignity of the mighty oak, the vibrant bursts emanating from the stately maple, and the mosaic-like array of roses, peonies and hydrangea thriving in a garden bed of rich, fertile soil. But while gazing onto this ornate landscape, admiring and grateful for God’s handiwork, I had an epiphany for I was also witnessing first hand the wonders of capitalism.
Caught in rapturous thought of how God’s panorama can never be recreated, improved or enhanced, I simultaneously realized that His topographical gifts could be conserved. The grass must be fertilized to preserve its luster; the trees require pruning to flourish and bloom; and the flowers demand nourishment to subsist and blossom. There must be pesticides for safeguarding the foliage, implements for tilling the soil, and mulch for preserving its nutrients. Scientific study of botany and horticulture is needed to advance knowledge, management, treatment and care of plant life. While beholding God’s marvels He instills in us the need to preserve their beauty and inspires us to act as the custodian of His creations. The need to venerate His grandeur musters within humankind the initiative to develop the necessities to satiate that goal.
This is the germination of capitalism. A societal need is detected and a valued product or service is produced. Forthwith, the enterprising individual recognizes this opportunity and applies their God given talents to fill the void. In the capitalist system the public, as the buyer, and the enterpriser, as the seller, collaborate to create a market and a price for a product or service borne of mutual assent. Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market is in play. Left unfettered the buyer-seller symbiosis inherent within capitalism is, at its core, the purest form of contractual consent. This relationship fulfills David Hume’s three laws of nature, which are (1) the right of possession, (2) transference by consent, and (3) the performance of promises.
The chaste relationship between buyer and seller is tainted only through uninvited third-party intercession. This typically arises in the form of statist intervention wherein the state interlopes under the guise of ‘perfecting’ the contractual arrangement for society as a whole. This is not to be confused with government’s role to create an ordered society to protect rights, privileges and person. Statist engagement in the capitalist process is a presumptuous and feckless power grab by elitists attempting to create a terrestrial utopia in the name of a collectivist ideology. But the statist’s attempts to social engineer the capitalist process inevitably leaves in its wake a contagion in the buyer-seller arrangement. Governmental intervention disrupts the native efficiencies of the capitalist process through burdensome levies and regulations that infringe on the freedoms of both buyer and seller.
The entrepreneur’s plea to elected representatives for aid, guidance and support to survive the mounting tolls, taxes and fees and navigate the bureaucratic maze sows the seeds of corruption. This is manifested through the introduction of the lobbyist, the catalyst for the cronyism that afflicts capitalism and ultimately serves to inhibit the entrance of new enterprises and competition into the marketplace. Buyer and sellers are then resolved to accept the market and price dictated by the statist authority. In the words of Whole Foods Co- Founder and Co-CEO John Mackey, “Capitalism is ultimately people cooperating together to create value for other people, as well as for themselves. That’s what capitalism is.” This is the essence of capitalism, but like the botanical gardens capitalism can be infected with unnatural influences, and will only flourish with proper care and nurturing.
If need is its heart and the market forces are its mind, then applying one’s talents and skills is the soul of capitalism for it breathes life into the system. Capitalism is not unlike humankind that animates it; it is an organic process with it’s own set of natural rights, laws, desires and ambitions. In its natural state capitalism is prudential towards needs, just in negotiation, temperate towards excess and courageous in the face of uncertainty. Capitalism is the manifestation of the virtues innate to humankind. Based on that premise, how could anyone doubt the morality of capitalism?