It is often asserted that free market capitalism inspires greed, ignorance, and corruption; and defenders of the free market usually respond by proposing the effectiveness of capitalism, spewing out memorized figures, in hopes that the argument will be won. Despite these efforts, the ideals of a free market are losing among younger people; so why is there a disparity when the benefits of a free market are so clearly defined? The answer is simple, most young people aren’t going to spend their time reading the Wall Street Journal or The Economist, and more importantly, the moral appeal of an argument sticks more than facts or figures ever could.
Although free markets provide an ingenious efficiency, not seen before in the history of mankind, it is the argument that free markets are morally hazardous and detrimental that wins out. According to a national Reason-Rupe survey, a striking 53% of people aged 18-29 view socialism favorably. Emily Ekins and Joy Pullmann of The Federalist offer more unbelievable data on why socialism is seen favorably among millennials here. So, to take an unpopular stance in a seemingly favorable strategy, I offer a moral vindication of free market capitalism.
To argue in a moral context, it is important to accurately state from which moral basis we derive our standards. The foundation from which western civilization was built, is that of a Judeo-Christian value structure. It is from this foundation, that all the principles proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence come from, and by which this country was founded on. How then, do these two-distinct economic systems fair up against Judeo-Christian standards? Socialism at its core, contrary to what Woodrow Wilson believed, violates several of the central teachings of Judeo-Christian beliefs.
First, socialism is based on the premise of entitlement. One of the logical fallacies of leftist thought is that the appearance of inequality inherently means there is inequity. In other words, if one person has more than the other, the person who has the least must have been wronged. It is this argument, that leads socialism to its next moral crisis; since that person has been wronged, we must correct this cosmic injustice, by taking from the individual with more.
The next fallacy, and possibly the most potent, is the notion that these injustices can be wholly solved by the government. These inherent flaws directly contradict some of the most basic, yet important principles in the western world, but still, Millennials continue to flock towards the ideas of Marxism. Nonetheless, it is the claim that capitalism fertilizes greed and is motivated by pure self-interest that turns so many away.
The free market, however, is firmly based on an altruistic mechanism which is achieved through profit incentives. For an entrepreneur, their success relies on the business’ ability to create a profitable product that is of value to the consumer. The sustainability of the entrepreneur’s business depends on his/her willingness to capitulate to the wants and needs of their consumers. This is not to suggest that greed, a central charge against capitalism, is non-existent, but to affirm that in order to pursue a life of worship towards material goods, the entrepreneur still must submit to the consumer, as Reverend Robert Sirico writes in his book Defending the Free Market:
“Other people may be greedy. But in a free market economy, the most efficient way for those people to pursue their disproportionate love of wealth is generally to subordinate themselves to the service of others. They cannot satisfy their greed without helping other people.”
Unlike a central government under the socialist utopia, entrepreneurs in a free market have much more of an incentive, that is of their own well-being, to be accountable for their consumers. In a counter-intuitive manner, the profit incentive serves as the “brake” on too much greed, and stripping those incentives, as it does in centrally planned economy, removes the accountability that consumers hold over producers. In fact, taking away this incentive inspires more greed; government agencies under collectivist societies are infamous in being indifferent to the consumer’s woes because consumers can’t hold the government itself to be as accountable as they can producers in a free market.
Another key principle that separates the free market from socialism, is that capitalism relies on the voluntary exchange of goods and services. Contrary to socialism, the free market is founded on the free exchange of goods and services, mutually agreed on both sides of the transaction. For example, in the labor market, a worker who works against his own will would be considered in a state of indentured servitude. By the same exact measure, a government action that forces a producer to either sell their services at a non-negotiable price or pay a wage that is not agreed upon between the employer and the employee, the government condemns the producer to the same servitude. The relationship between an employer and employee in a free market is voluntary; the employee is not forced to work for the employer, and the employer does not have to accept the labor.
In a free market, if the consumer feels the price is unfair, that consumer can choose to take their business elsewhere with no repercussions whatsoever because the exchange is completely voluntary. This is the beauty of a competitive market; the freedom of the consumer to buy where he or she wishes provides an opportunity for businesses to compete, and whichever business wins over the consumer is inevitably the business that fulfills the wants and the needs of that consumer the most. When the business successfully accomplishes this end, it profits, and the consumer leaves the transaction satisfied. This essential absence of coercion distinguishes free market ideology from its counterparts both morally, and practically.
Free markets then, under the basic rule of law, are not only more efficient and more successful than its counterparts, but also morally superior. The failures of a centrally planned system far outweigh the supposed cosmic justices it serves, as its fantasized moral success that it claims to fulfill actually acts as its greatest weakness.