Friday, May 01, 2009


Arthur C. Brooks argues persuasively that free enterprise, or capitalism, is the principle at the core of American culture; and that the real 'culture war' going on in this country is about capitalism:
There is a major cultural schism developing in America. But it's not over abortion, same-sex marriage or home schooling, as important as these issues are. The new divide centers on free enterprise -- the principle at the core of American culture.

Despite President Barack Obama's early personal popularity, we can see the beginnings of this schism in the "tea parties" that have sprung up around the country. In these grass-roots protests, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans have joined together to make public their opposition to government deficits, unaccountable bureaucratic power, and a sense that the government is too willing to prop up those who engaged in corporate malfeasance and mortgage fraud....

{T}he tea parties are not based on the cold wonkery of budget data. They are based on an "ethical populism." The protesters are homeowners who didn't walk away from their mortgages, small business owners who don't want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don't need bailouts. They were the people who were doing the important things right -- and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.

Voices in the media, academia, and the government will dismiss this ethical populism as a fringe movement -- maybe even dangerous extremism. In truth, free markets, limited government, and entrepreneurship are still a majoritarian taste. In March 2009, the Pew Research Center asked people if we are better off "in a free market economy even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time." Fully 70% agreed, versus 20% who disagreed.

Free enterprise is culturally mainstream, for the moment.

The key words are "for the moment." And the moment is slipping by quickly. Brooks concludes that a moral case must be made for capitalism and says: is a moral issue to confiscate more income from the minority simply because the government can. It's also a moral issue to lower the rewards for entrepreneurial success, and to spend what we don't have without regard for our children's future.

Enterprise defenders also have to define "fairness" as protecting merit and freedom. This is more intuitively appealing to Americans than anything involving forced redistribution. Take public attitudes toward the estate tax, which only a few (who leave estates in the millions of dollars) will ever pay, but which two-thirds of Americans believe is "not fair at all," according to a 2009 Harris poll. Millions of ordinary citizens believe it is unfair for the government to be predatory -- even if the prey are wealthy.

The 700,000 plus participants in the recent tea parties across the country 'get' these fundamental ehtical points about the essential morality of capitalism and its dependence on individual freedom and the individual pursuit of happiness--the American birthright.

The problem is that for the last 50 years or more, these fundamental ideas--the very culture of America itself--have been excluded from the curriculum in K-12 and barely mentioned even in college.

This state of affairs represents a pervasive intellectual trend in America (and the West) to continually bash capitalism, private property, business, and free trade; while simultaneously enjoying the benefits of all of them.

Our academics--even the kindergarden ones-- rail against business and private property. Our government constantly seeks to control them. Our youth are propagandized to death about its evils from pre-school through college.

Their teachers have been well-indoctrinated at the various teachers' colleges; and are well-equipped to indoctrinate all students into the prevailing leftist dogmas of political correctness, multiculturalism (all cultures are of equal value EXCEPT American or Western culture which is uniquely evil); leftist environmentalism (capitalism is destroying the environment); and, of course, "social justice"--the old Marxist dialectic that holds that capitalism is a system of evil oppressors vs the poor, downtrodden oppressed). (See here for further discussion of some of these ideas)

In other words, our children are going to school and being indoctrinating into an anti-capitalistic, anti-American mentality; as well as into an unquestioning obedience to the collective.

While our popular culture refrains sensitively from prtraying Islamofascists as villians in movies out of political correctness (yet another aspect of socialism's quest for "social justice"); it does not hesitate to make businessmen evil and malignant oppressors of the innocent. Individualism, the pursuit of profit, and private property is always bad and everyone must bow to the will of the collective. Islam (the name even means "submit"),even in all its terrorist varieties, does very well by this perverted moral standard.

One very harmful result of this sorry educational situation is that there are few people--even among those who stalwartly defend the free market, who understand and appreciate the essential morality of capitalism. Certainly our children, taught by ideological purists like the ones above who are leftover from the 20th century debacle of socialist/communist tyranny--never even have a chance to rationally consider any ideas not approved by their aggressively collectivist teachers, so intent at quashing those aspects of human nature they don't like.

Elsewhere, I have referred to this practice as child abuse, pure and simple. It is indoctrination and the willful manipulation of young minds which cannot never be allowed to develop even the capability of thinking for themselves. And this is what is referred to as "social justice."

In fact there is nothing that is "just" about it. It represents the worse kind of oppression with the goal of enslaving the human mind. And enslavement is exactly what is required to establish their socialist utopia, since it refuses to acknowledge the reality of human nature.

Socialist ideologues like many of those teachers know that in a free market of ideas, the social system they are championing-- which has only brought human misery, slavery and death to those who have embraced it--cannot function in the real world. Thus they must "stack the deck" and take absolute control over the thinking of the utopia's future citizens.

On some level they even understand that the very foundation of capitalism is human freedom in its most classical, liberal tradition. And that frightens them to death.

Capitalism's incredible production of wealth is the economic side-effect that occurs when political freedom is present. It has been argued, and I agree, that both economic and political freedom are absolute prerequisites for moral behavior.

Children propagandized by dogmatic tyrants like the ones above have had not only their capacity to think for themselves abrogated; they have had their capacity to make moral choices taken from them.

The moral case for capitalism is not taught in our schools, nor is it argued much in our culture. In fact it has been more or less universally accepted by the intellectual elites that systems such as communism and socialism are "morally superior" to capitalism (hence more "socially just")--even though in practice such systems have led to the death and enslavement of millions, and to those unlucky enough not to die from them, they have led to the most horrible shrinking and wasting of the human soul.

The truth is that neither socialism nor communism nor any kind of religious fundamentalism is compatible with morality at all.

If one's actions are coerced by the state or religion, or both; if human activity is indoctrinated, legislated, regulated and ordained down to the last minute detail--particularly to the degree we see in other countries of the world (e.g., Cuba, China, most Middle Eastern countries, North Korea, and now in Venezuela--then how can it possibly be argued that one's actions are moral? Human behavior under such systems is not voluntarily chosen, but actively coerced.

Morality, though, must always be a matter of choice, not mandate.

One cannot hold a person responsible for actions that are coerced or forced from him. Morality can only exist when freedom of action exists; and thus moral actions in any field of human endeavor require freedom.

Conduct may only be thought of as moral or immoral when it is freely chosen by the individual. It is only then that the moral significance of the action can be assessed. It is only when we are free to act that we can exercise moral judgement.

Which brings us to a capitalist political/economic system. Only in a free economic system within a free political system is it even possible to be moral, since benevolence toward others, compassion, charity, and generosity cannot exist without freedom. Benevolence, generosity, charity, and compassion that are mandated by the state, or by a religion (on pain of death or other consequence); or by any regulations on behavior; or by force--are meaningless insofar as individual morality is concerned.

So yes, we must make the moral case for capitalism. We must continually put forth these ideas in debate and argument because they are good ideas and shining through them is the essential morality of America and Americans. The "ethical populism" that we saw in the tea parties is just the beginning of the argument.

As I argued yesterday, ideas matter. The morality of capitalism derives directly from a rational metaphysics that says reality exists independent of our thoughts and feelings; every action in the real world has a cause and effect and that things (and people) each have a specific nature and act according to their nature. A rational epistemology is one that says that our senses give us information about reality and that reason and logic are how we gain information about the real world. Our Founding Fathers understood that human life is the fundamental value or ethical standard in a rational world; and that each individual must use his or her own life as the basic moral standand. And that every individual, in order to live his or her life, must be free to pursue their own happiness--without undue interference or coercion from other individuals or from government.

These are the principles on which America was founded; these are the fundamental ideas which have been the motor of her prosperity, wealth and exceptionalism. And these are the ideas that are now being challenged by the culture war being waged with increased intensity and fervor by the political left.

The goal and focus of the current Administration is nothing less than to definitively win that war (no prisoners and no mercy); and to formally install the anti-capitalist mentality and collectivist/postmodern world view in its stead.

But if they win this war, the America that was the shining city on a hill: a beacon of life and liberty in a world of misery and poverty will be no more. There will only be the USofA, one of 190 countries on planet earth, with nothing special to recommend it over the other 189.

All those malignant states whose tyrannical leaders truly hate America and all it stands for, have devoutly wished and prayed for some time that this would happen. The anti-American, anti-capitalist left have also hoped and prayed for America's demise as a power in the world. For them, and for collectivists everywhere, Barack Obama is a dream come true....

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