By now, much of the country has heard or read about the City University of New York law school graduate who was allowed to unspool a spiteful tirade as the school’s commencement speaker. She made a number of vile statements, but her call to “fight against capitalism” stood out to us. She and her fellow travelers know what few casual observers are aware of, that is, an attack on capitalism is an attack on liberty.
Condemning capitalism is nothing new in this country. We’ve heard the angry criticisms all of our lives, and they weren’t novel when we were young. It’s tragic, really, that so many in the West see the tension between “capitalists” and their ideological opponents as merely a conflict between ideas about which economic system we should have.
But it’s more than that. It’s a battle between freedom and subjugation.
Capitalism is not an economic system imposed by government in the way socialism or communism or any form of Marxism or planned economy is imposed on people against their will. Capitalism is merely the economic activity that men will engage in when left alone, when they are free to act as they wish. It is spontaneous, ordered and entirely organic.
When men are free to trade with each other without government intrusion, they will inevitably seek and sell capital. And why wouldn’t they? It is their nature. Innovators and entrepreneurs hungry to make their ideas flesh need capital to fund their ventures. Those who have capital see opportunities to reap profits, so they trade their capital in an open market for profits to be realized later.
This is not exploitation but the manifestation of liberty. Ludwig von Mises wrote in his 1952 “Planning for Freedom” essay that “planning and capitalism are utterly incompatible.” The former is “conducted according to the government’s orders” while the latter follows the plans of entrepreneurs “eager to profit by best filling the wants of consumers.”
Von Mises also noted in the same essay that “the idea that political freedom can be preserved in the absence of economic freedom, and vice versa, is an illusion.”
This clearly explains why it’s so important for the progressives, Democrats and the usual assortment of leftists to constrain economic freedom: They want to suppress political freedom so they can hold power, and hold it unassailably. There is no way to argue otherwise, as it is virtually impossible to name a single public policy idea that has emerged from the left in the last 40 years that promotes economic freedom. Rather, the left is ever busy producing proposals that give the government more power at the expense of a “free” people.
Government interventions can at times be well intended. But good faith doesn’t negate the harm that always follows when capitalism is skewed, impeded and mugged by public policy. Liberty will continue to suffer as long as this lesson remains largely unlearned.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board