Columnist Paul B. Farrell writing in MarketWatch to carry the water for Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel tells us we are doomed because capitalism creates such income disparity, the wheels will eventually come off, sparking global war. This is inevitable they say because a market-driven economy means everything is for sale, all is exploitation, morality is destroyed, the law of the jungle prevails.
One must agree with Farrell and Sandel in one respect. Markets have become detached from morality, but that is not the fault of markets or capitalism. That detachment results from willful people indulging their passions. Selfishness always opposes a moral approach.
Furthermore, the collapse of 2008 did not derive from economic freedom, as Farrell and Sandel insist, but from government intervention and immoral business practices combining to cause collapse. One cannot blame the system but it is logical to blame corrupt people who corrupted the system.
The immorality of it all preceded the central planners. The origin can be traced back to the Garden of Eden when man invited corruption. Ever since we have been stumbling around fighting each other in vain attempts to save ourselves from ourselves, always blaming someone else in the eternal quest to avoid responsibility.
The central problem with the analysis provided by Farrell and Sandel is it completely misses the point. It is easy to demonize the rich, Wall Street, lobbyists and hedge-fund types, and decry money influence in government. No sane citizen promotes political corruption or dishonest business practices. But to leap from an identification of problems to a complete castigation of capitalism — is that presenting a solution? No. That is myopic and knee jerk.
The point is this: which system is preferable? Do you prefer centralized power in the hands of oligarchs running a communist system which always leads to despotism? Or do you prefer economic freedom, the foundation of liberty? Do you prefer centralized economic planning that has always failed, delivering only generalized misery? Or do you prefer open markets, free trade and the creativity and productivity driven by incentives delivered by freedom, a freedom possible only through limited government?
One must admit, where there are people, there is corruption. Neither the capitalist nor the communist system is free from corrupting influences and neither has a corner on the selfishness market.
Furthermore, morality does not derive from the economic system put in place as Farrell and Sandel suppose. Morality must transcend mere systems for it to effectively address corruption and selfishness and greed. Man-made morality, housed in a communist system, has proven in the last 150 years to result in war, deprivation and mass murder.
This is not to say capitalism alone delivers better results necessarily. Capitalism run amok, unrestrained by a moral code demanding honesty and fair play, is also destructive. What differentiates that kind of exploitative capitalism from a higher form?
The difference resides in three words uttered by J.C. Penney when asked for a definition of business—
“Business is Friendship.”