Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Capitalism and Morality

I am a fan of Glenn Beck. I like his shows, website, and enjoy his books. Recently I spent some time with his latest, Arguing with Idiots. The book is excellent, although I choose to not waste my time with idiots since there are so many "sincere undecideds" that I believe are open to a better way of thinking about policy issues. He tackles several of the key headline issues that we hear about daily and clearly shows the insanity on the left when it comes to approaching our national problems. However, I had a very difficult time with his view of capitalism.

Beck's book tackles the question of capitalism from a purely utilitarian perspective, in my opinion. Capitalism, he argues, is not right or wrong, but is simply the most efficient. He recognizes the role of human behavior and the fact that capitalism clearly leads to better results, but in the end he says it as neither bad nor good. I could not disagree more. Capitalism is the most moral economic system in the history of the world.

Command economies -- be they communist, socialist, democratic socialist, or whatever -- have the following immoral characteristics:

  • The government is a common vehicle for theft, taking money from one group to give to another in pursuit of political, social or other objectives. The taking of money from some to give to others is little more than stealing. Just because it has taken the power to do it, it does not make it right. Government expenditures are only "moral" when they benefit everyone and show special interest to no one. Furthermore, it must be in areas that the government is the only one that can do it.

  • These types of governments have monetary policies that print money to pay for government programs (inflation), which devalue all other money in an economy. When individuals or crime syndicates do this, we call it producing counterfeit money, when government does it we call it business as usual. A truly capitalistic economy would depoliticize the currency and link it to gold or other precious metals to preserve the currency's value.

  • These economies create social distortions on a macro level that we would never want on a micro level. We would not want families to be subsidized in a manner that encourages divorce so the children would receive more money, we would not want to reward poverty and waste or discourage individuals from increasing their income. These type of distortions are common in these types of command economies, but are contrary to free markets.

Few can honesty argue against capitalism's power to produce jobs, new technology, better opportunities, and personal economic growth. But these are only part of a much more important system. I guess it is fine if one wants to reduce the virtues of capitalism to efficiency, but to me it is selling one of the most powerful -- and moral -- systems far too short. Capitalism embodies liberty, efficiency, and morality. The most important and persuasive, is its morality. That is a high ground that should be taken in the war of ideas.

Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business, the longest running show on AM 650 (M-F at 11 am) in Houston, Texas and on AOL Radio. His articles often appear in Chicago Sun Times, Reuters, USA Today, and other national media. Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal calls Price the “best business talk show host in the country.” Find out why and visit his blog at www.BizPlusBlog.com and his show site at www.PriceofBusiness.com. You can also find Price on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com.

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