Letter to the Editor: Capitalist and Proud
Last semester, the Empire State Tribune published a profile of presidential candidate and self-described “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders. With so many students caught up in Bernie fever and sympathy for socialism rising dramatically on campuses across the country, this seems like an appropriate time to bring some diversity to the conversation—some intellectual diversity. Below are five reasons that I’m proudly pro-capitalist.* 1. Capitalism respects my right to live for my own sake.
The vast tome of human civilization features a dark, suffocating, relentless motif: the enslavement of the individual by the collective. Whether in the name of the clan, the tribe, the nation, the race, or the proletariat, the resounding imperative has been that the individual live to serve the “greater good”—greater, that is, than his own good.
The Enlightenment, with its culmination in our Declaration of Independence and the emergence of capitalism, gave its shining answer in the name of the individual: “NO—I have the right to live for my own happiness, my own flourishing, my own joy.”
2. Capitalism recognizes that my mind is my basic tool of survival and that in order to think, I must be free to use it.
In order to live, human beings must think. All other animals have some distinctive set of physical tools that make their survival possible. Clip a bird’s wings, remove a snake’s fangs, file down a lion’s claws, and you make impossible the task of hunting prey, of acquiring food, of living for those animals. But human beings aren’t primarily hunters of prey—we’re first and foremost creators of the values we need in order to survive and prosper.
Our mind is our chief creative tool. To thwart an individual’s capacity to think is akin to clipping his wings, or removing his fangs, or filing down his claws—it’s to curtail his ability to produce and, therefore, to abridge his life. In order to function, a mind requires one basic condition: freedom—specifically, freedom from force. Capitalism recognizes that the freedom to think stands at the root of all the wealth produced and all the happiness ever achieved on earth.
3. Capitalism treats me as the sole proprietor of my life.
I was born free, and have ever-since owned myself. Capitalism treats me not as a serf of society—not as not as fodder for my fellows—not as chattel to be chained—but as the king of my every breath. Under capitalism, my time and energy, my triumphs and failures, my burdens and my beloved dreams, are my mine alone.
4. Capitalism treats me as the rightful sovereign of my soul.
Whitman wrote of an immense joy, the joy of being “a sailor of the world bound for all ports!”—and more, to be “[a] ship itself” (emphasis mine). He was picking up on something deep and true of all individuals: that our proper position in life is that of captains—the captains of our respective purposes, values, and journeys. By leaving me free to sail the world as I see fit, capitalism respects my authority to chart my own course in the one, precious life I have on this earth.
5. Because capitalism does not shackle me to any of you, I’m free to respect and value you.
Neither respect, nor cooperation, nor love for his fellows can be imposed on an individual, but attempts to do so can and will destroy those ends. Because it does not command that I serve you or that you serve me—because it treats us as fellow captains seeking happiness as our respective and proper ends—capitalism opens the door for genuine, organic benevolence between free individuals.
My goal with this short note has been to stimulate a respectful, constructive dialogue between socialist, pro-capitalist, and other interested students. To this end, in order to make our voices heard and to open up this debate, I’m calling on all like-minded students to let your classmates know if you too are #CapitalistAndProud!
*By “capitalism,” I mean a laissez-faire social system that protects each individual’s right to life, liberty, and property by banning the initiation of physical force from human affairs.
Josh Windham is a 2013 graduate of North Carolina State University (B.A., History) and currently attends the University of North Carolina School of Law.