Capitalism: A Necessity

My 17 year old wrote this essay for his English class this summer.  While the Brits are rioting over what kind of socialism they want, and American public employees have taken to the streets for more of our money, calling for revolution if they don’t get 100% of the coerced funds they think they want, this is a timely piece.  Advocating freedom is always timely though.  I didn’t help him a whit (other than to try to raise him right) and here I left in the parts with which I had minor gripes over syntax, or over a word or two;

Capitalism: A Necessity

We live in a world full of criminals, fools, rapists, murderers, and countless other evil-doers. Many of us are left to deal with the ramifications of these burdensome people. However, evil-doers are not the only issue; many well-intentioned people make mistakes that affect millions. In considering these seemingly never-ending problems of the world, one is left with quite a dismal picture. The subsequent thought is, how can these problems be solved? Is it possible? How can we make society better? There are many ideas about how to best deal with society, some of them promising to perfect it and eradicate crime and evil. In all reality, there will always be evil and evildoers. However, a condition can be imposed which makes life better for all of us, protecting us, and allowing us the freedom to think, create, and trade with others. This condition is Capitalism.

Capitalism is the only system of government which allows individuals the most possible freedom while, at the same time, protecting them from the potential harm of others. This is because its main function is the government recognition [of] individual rights. Individual rights are “conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival” (Rand, Man’s Rights). Among them are:  that a person has the right to their  own life, that a person has the right to liberty (or the freedom to think and act), and that a person is free to “pursue happiness,” or to do what they please. A person assumes these rights with the caveat that they may not violate any other person’s rights. A system such as this protects individuals, while still allowing them freedoms proper for their survival.

All rights are actually corollaries of the right to life. Man is a living creature; naturally, he must have the freedom to perform all actions necessary to stay alive. Also, Man is a thinking creature; he relies on his creative faculty to produce the tools necessary to live. Therefore, in order to have the right to his own life, he must have the freedom not only to create, but to own what he creates. Otherwise, he is a slave, subject to the whim of a master (Rand, Man’s Rights 322) and has no right to his own life. Essentially, all other rights ensure Man’s right to life which, in itself, is a basic condition for his survival.

Capitalism holds that government’s only enterprise is the protection of these basic rights. It was also the form of government originally intended for the United States by its founders. As stated in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” (Declaration of Independence). It is clear in this excerpt that the founders of the United States thought of government as a protector of the people rather than a controller or a regulator.

A well known  aspect of Capitalism is the absence of economic regulation, or a free market system. No economic regulation can exist in a capitalistic system because it inherently inhibits people’s right to free trade – therefore violating their right to life. A common argument against Capitalism is that a lack of regulation would allow business to grow exorbitantly, take advantage of society, cause poverty and contribute to a general degradation of people’s lifestyle. However, in a free market, if a business is not practicing in a manner that is beneficial to the public, a niche is created for another business to enter, and the public is free to boycott the business in support of an emerging one. As long as a business does not violate another’s rights, they are free to act as they wish. However, in the situation where a business is violating other’s rights, judicial action would be appropriate, just as with any other criminal.

Capitalism is the only system of government that does not require, and in fact prevents, control by force. It ensures that no force may ever be initiated and that the only appropriate force is self-defense. The only method by which any trade may occur is by mutual consent – a transaction in which both parties involved must agree. In this system, it is inherent that both parties benefit; both consensually walk away with something they consider more valuable than what they traded. Other systems of government such as Socialism and Fascism are based on the notion that each individual in society is less valuable than a “public good” and that force may be initiated on society for the sake of this “public good.” In reality, this translates to an ever-growing government control of the citizens. These systems, unlike Capitalism, fail to recognize that society is actually a group of individuals rather than a single entity. In a capitalistic system, individuals are free to act in their best interest and are barred from violating another’s right to do so, creating an optimal situation for the success of society.

An argument made against Capitalism is that it inherently results in people unable to take care of themselves being left to starve because of the lack of redistribution programs such as welfare. However, in a Capitalist system, people are free to help other people as they wish. If an individual believes another person or group should receive help, then that individual can provide monetary support or bolster more widespread support. Additionally, charity organizations can flourish and help millions worldwide. By no means does Capitalism prevent needy people from receiving help. It actually works more efficiently than a welfare system; Capitalism does not support people who, entirely capable of caring for themselves, decide instead to take advantage of a government redistribution system unless other people willfully decide to support them. In a Capitalistic system, force upon any party is forbidden because it violates people’s rights, so redistribution is impossible.

Capitalism is the system that best allows man to produce wealth – anything of value which helps improve his survivability. It does this by giving man the freedom to think, discover, and act on his own volition without oppression from any entity (government, criminals, etc.). Man did not evolve as a highly specialized community species such as bees or ants. By nature, man works best if he is allowed to make his own choices. The early caveman did not create the spear because his only motive was to work for a “public good” – to improve the lives of other cavemen – he created the spear out of his self-interest in his own survival. Even so, the result was an improvement in mankind as a whole; because they saw the first, other cavemen’s lives were improved by using his idea for themselves. Capitalism does not ensure a perfect society. Rather, it ensures the conditions which best allow society to function. It does this by protecting Man’s rights.


Works Cited

Decaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (1776). Print.

Rand, Ayn. “Appendix: Man’s Rights.” Capitalism the Unknown Ideal. New York: Signet, 1967. Print. This chapter specifically outlines the nature of man’s rights and their necessary existence.

The public college teacher gave him a “B”.  I’m a little bit suprised she didn’t lose composure and start breaking things.  Maybe she’s been in contact with her higher-ups, trying to find ways to deal with this problem “under the radar”.


10 thoughts on “Capitalism: A Necessity

  1. Well done.

    However I will take issue with capitalism as a form of government. It is an economic system. Capitalism can exist under a number of governmental systems including totalitarian.

    If you toss in “Free Market” which is where I think the writer was headed, you can limit the forms, but still it may look a great deal different than one might expect.

    I would also argue that we do not live with Capitalism as our economic system, but rather Merchantilism.

  2. This is easily an A-grade paper for a high school student. Frankly, most of the people in my 400 level college courses can’t write or reason this well.

  3. Nice essay! It shows some good insight for a 17 year old.

    My quibbles:

    As Rob points out, capitalism is an economic system, not a governmental system. What is described sounds more like a libertarianism/minarchism type government. Allowing for this substitution, though, his conclusions are spot-on.

    The biggest argument made against capitalism is actually the possibility of monopolies. One or even two large companies can use economic advantages to suppress newcomers in a market, even to the point of simply absorbing losses in order to undercut the newcomer’s prices. The prevention of such monopolies without suppressing the free-market has been one of the biggest questions in a capitalist free society for a long time.

    As I said, good essay!

  4. Capitalism is a government system, in that it is nothing more and nothing less than a system of rights protection. Capitalism can happen under a thoroughly communist system, but only in dibs and dabs, under the radar (normally referred to as a “black market” because it can only exist in the shadows). You say it’s an economic system, which of course it is, but one that can’t really exist without the government system to protect the rights.

    I’ll call it the economic incarnation of liberty and justice, or simply, “what happens when there is liberty and justice”.

    I dismiss the monopoly argument thusly; no coercive monopoly can ever exist for more than a very short while without government collusion (hence, again, capitalism is a government system in that it needs a consistent and stable system of rights protection to function widely). A non-coercive monopoly can only exist by doing a better job and/or doing it more efficiently. That is a feature, not a bug.

    If you have a giant corporation and you want to squash your competition by selling at losing prices, good for you, chump. I’ll get a hundred thousand people together and buy up all you have (through an IPO for another corporation set up strictly to take advantage of suckers like you). For that matter your competition could do the same– buy up your product at less than production cost. Again, that’s a feature, not a bug. Bring it on!

    Furthermore, if certain designer clothing companies can sell crap right now for six times the price of essentially the same thing elsewhere, purely due to good marketing, then you’d best hire a marketing firm, Dudes and Dudettes. See; price ain’t everything that drives sales.

    I’m starting to get tired of people who give me these, “If “We” do A, then B will happen” type of arguments. The only argument I’m willing to have about now would go something like this; “Is A or B really any of your business, or do you have some other business you should be attending to? You know; there are five or six billion other people out there and some of them are ready and eager to tackle those issues on their own time and at their own expense, and they might very well know a hundred times more about it than you.” or; “What is it about rights protection that is so terribly frightening to so many people? People would get rich? Perish the thought?” Stuff like that.

    You can point to all sorts of harm that one might do to another (competing in business can and does often harm others) and you could go to Washington shouting, “Something Must be Done!” all day, but have you asked yourself the one pertinent question; “Who’s rights are being violated?”

  5. Anyway; he said it right here;
    “However, in the situation where a business is violating other’s rights, judicial action would be appropriate, just as with any other criminal.

    Does that not click with anyone?

    Here’s the click, so you don’t have to wait for it go off spontaneously in your head;
    Back in the early 20th century, when the Progressive movement was sinking its teeth and claws into our society, there were businesses violating others’ rights. Rather than address the violations head-on through the justice system, our Progressive government grabbed power, using the horrible practices of a scant few businesses as the excuse. This has been going on now for over 100 years, and is at this very moment in full swing worldwide. Please stop repeating their deceptive rhetoric.

  6. Something for your son (and you perhaps) to consider:

    “…has serious doubts about capitalism’s ability to address the biggest problems facing humanity. When he reminds us that modern capitalism isn’t equipped to handle long-range problems or tragedies of the commons (situations like overfishing or global warming, in which acting rationally in your own self-interest only deepens the harm to all), when he urges us to outgrow our touching faith in the efficiency of markets and boundless human ingenuity…”

    Capitalism may be the best system to date, but it’s not clear to me that it’s the best system we can devise going forward. Population growth (and the consequent resource depletion) are forcing changes to the rules of the game.


  7. LJ, consider what you are really saying:

    “Allowing people the freedom to take care of themselves (capitalism) will result in destruction. In other words, people do not have the intellectual capacity to survive on their own. Therefore, they need care from an outside source — someone to tell them what to do (socialism, communism, etc.). So, we must give a select people power over the rest of the population.”

    To sum it up: “People are unable to take care of themselves, therefore, the only way people can survive is if people tell them what to do.”

    I believe the error in the logic is obvious. The argument that capitalism cannot work because of the fallibility of people is fallacious — regardless of the system, there are still people making decisions. The difference is that communism (and related systems) requires coercion, while capitalism prevents it.

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