Free Market Capitalism as the Highest Value (Part Two)
Returning to Ira’s question:
Is it inherent in the nature of free market capitalism for the most wealthy individuals and/or corporations to capture government power?
I begin with the conclusion of part one, as I believe it will be valuable to restate and summarize my earlier thoughts:
Certainly, building wealth has always been of value, throughout man’s history. But it has only been the highest value in the last centuries, at least in the West – and the best means to achieve this value is through free markets and capitalism…in other words, respect for private property. It need not be the highest value for each individual for it at the same time to be the highest value on which society could agree.
In fact, isn’t this precisely the message by advocates of free markets and capitalism? When we trade, it is irrelevant the other values we do or don’t hold, whether we agree or disagree on these. This is quite true. Few of us need to hold free markets as the highest value for us to have agreed that it should be (at least for a time) the highest common value.
I think it can be argued that this has been the case since the Enlightenment, at least until recent decades, where this hierarchy based on egalitarianism is being attempted. It is on this topic that I will focus next, when I begin to address Ira’s request to address “the historical context, the current dilemma, and future directions.”
I say “begin,” as I don’t think it will happen in one additional post.
We are speaking of the highest common value, the value which is supposed to hold society together. Depending on the ends of any particular individual or entity, there are various different values placed at the highest. For example, if the end is to win a championship in basketball, the hierarchy would be determined based on the ability to score points, defend, rebound, facilitate one’s teammates, etc. But winning a basketball championship isn’t the highest end in life – and certainly not for the overwhelming majority of individuals on the planet.
If our highest common value we hold is free-market capitalism, there is only one way by which we can measure success: wealth. Wealth is the objective measurement used to determine those who are best at the game of free-market capitalism.
Yet, it is contrary to human nature for those who have achieved wealth to place it at risk in defense of the abstract idea of free-market capitalism – just as it is contrary to human nature for those who achieve success at what is held as the highest end in life to place their position in the hierarchy at risk (well, other than for one specific end, but I am skipping ahead an installment or two).
Returning to Ira, and his challenge:
My challenge to the LRC community is to refute this charge against capitalism addressing the historical context, the current dilemma, and future directions.
If free market capitalism (with success measured in the accumulation of wealth) is the highest end, this cannot be refuted. As I noted previously, free-market capitalism requires a respect for private property – all other factors can be derived from this fundamental position. As the non-aggression principle also requires this condition as foundational – with all other factors derivable from this – my thoughts apply equally to this.
In other words: just as free market capitalism, if held as the highest end, will devolve into crony capitalism, the non-aggression principle if held as the highest end, will devolve into a loss of liberty.
“But no one is claiming either of these as the highest end.”
Article from LewRockwell