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Think for a moment about the moral positions people take against capitalism and in favor of their preferred system. Capitalists are atomistic, selfish people with little appreciation for community. Capitalism is immoral because “it” allows inequality, and so on.

Let me make this brief. My sense is that folks find capitalism immoral because under a system of free exchange and private property, there is no guarantee that the values YOU cherish are going to be rewarded, elevated and appreciated. Things that you deem meritorious do not necessarily earn massive wealth. Intelligence, wits, etc face a similar fate.

Do you not find this objection rather … selfish? I do. People are angry because the rewards under capitalism do not satisfy THEM. But think about how rewards are determined under capitalism.

Individuals only obtain rewards when they can satisfy not their own values, but rather the values of OTHERS. That is precisely the opposite of the selfish behavior that is caricatured by opponents. Now of course there’s not a guarantee within capitalism that the values that earn rewards are morally praiseworthy. But no capitalist I know makes that case. The good life requires something more.

I’ll post my short “proof” of this, or rather a question for you, in a few days.

4 Responses to “The Ethics of Capitalism”

  1. jb says:

    Nice summary. Steve Jobs got rich by finding innovative ways of meeting OPN (Other Peoples’ Needs). Who is greedy, Mr. Jobs or the guy who would gang up with other voters to take his wealth to fund “their” view of social justice?

    Look forward to your proof!

  2. jb says:

    And their failure (refusal) to make that simple elegant point is why Republicans lose. Too many apolotists arguning for “compassionate conservatism”, etc.

  3. Michael says:

    I know that we economists often discuss “self-interest” as a basic assumption in economics (where people get the idea that capitalists are selfish and atomistic), usually citing the “Wealth of Nations” at the same time. However, self-interest is not necessarily the only factor a person considers when making a decision. It is hard to explain why a soldier jumps on a grenade in terms of self-interest. To get around this, many economists state that, in the previous case, the soldier would be more satisfied knowing he saved the lives of his comrades rather than having them all get injured or killed . Perhaps the main reason why economists assume self interest is so we have something to maximize in our little models. I find it all unnecessary; we just need to realize is that a person subjectively views the benefits outweighing the costs, regardless if the view is in self-interest or some other criteria.

  4. RIT_Rich says:

    “People are angry because the rewards under capitalism do not satisfy THEM.”
    How dare you say such a thing? They only do it for the good of the exploited masses! :p They say so!

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