Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why You'll Lose

When I presented to a co-worker friend the idea that Capitalism could be defended only on the basis of reason, he asked me this question in response: Why can't a person of faith (a christian libertarian/conservative) effectively argue for Capitalism based on the idea that it achieves the greatest common good?

I promised him a written reply because the topic would require a good bit of elaboration. I won't start by presenting a defense of Capitalism since that has already be done very nicely at Capitalism.org. I'll let them speak for me.

There are two areas where a christian libertarian will encounter conflict in advocating for capitalism. One applies to the nature of human cognition, the other applies to how we define what is good or evil (morality).

Human Cognition
If you read through the Capitalism.org tour then you will understand what I mean when I say that individual sovereignty and rights are based on Reason being the only means of cognition and thus the only tool of survival for a human being. A person who accepts religious beliefs on faith has undercut Reason. In effect, the person is declaring that he accepts as valid an idea that he has no evidence to support. By holding Reason as an equal or a lesser to mystic revelation, logic is pushed off the table entirely.

So, on what basis can a mystic defend Capitalism or any idea whatsoever? The idea of trying to persuade someone using logic and fact pre-supposes that logic and fact cannot be superseded by mystic revelation or any other magic bullets. In order to defend any concept, you have to be able to demonstrate its validity by reference to the nature of reality. This means that you're setting aside faith for the duration that you're making any argument - and thus you must base your defense on reason.

In the end, it comes to this: To the extent to which you fail to live according to your chosen convictions (your faith), you lack integrity. On the most fundamental questions of life, you have already declared that no evidence and no logic are necessary. If a person "of faith" is considered to be weak in his faith for demanding evidence, then how is a man who presents an argument to be evaluated?

Morality
In practice, the morals provided by christianity and the morals of secular altruism are one and the same. Your existence is not justifiable except to the extent that you serve others. For the purpose of brevity I will lump these together as "altruism".

Altruism holds that your action is good for the reason that you are not the beneficiary of it. This means that the extent to which you support your own existence or pursue your own happiness, you get no credit from morality, and possibly some demerits. If you live your life for yourself, working hard, and harming no one else in the process, you are not necessarily a good person. If you sacrifice your life to save the lives of 10 strangers, you are a good person. If you become a millionaire by producing and selling high quality computers, you're not necessarily a good person. If you give all of your money to charity, you are. The common differentiating element is: sacrifice.

Living in support of your life depends on acting in accordance with your nature as a human being. You must use your judgment to determine what is required to preserve and further your life. If morality expects that you sacrifice all of the products of your actions to the needs of others, then the purpose of that morality is to lead you to your death. Altruism cannot be defended in reason. There is no reason given for why it is improper and good for a man to act in support of his own life and happiness. There is no reason given why some men must be sacrificed to the need of others. There is no reason given why their need is your guilt.

Given the nature of altruism, how can a person effectively argue that Altruism, the morality of self-sacrifice, and Capitalism, the system of individual rights and sovereignty, are not complete and utter contradictions of one another? Even if your argument was that Capitalism is the system best-suited to achieve that goal, your argument would be weakened by divorcing means from ends.

Capitalism would leave people free to keep their profits for themselves, which altruism would consider greedy and corrupt. It would obligate no one to act toward the greater good of society because it grants society no recognition over an above an individual, thus permitting people to live immorally. The argument that Capitalism is the best system to support to goals of altruist morals is unconvincing because altruism and egoism, the morality from which Capitalism is derived, are opposites.

In Closing
The political system fully consistent with altruism is socialism. Because your opponents political views are more consistent with their views on morality, they will win and you will lose. The only way you can consistently advocate Capitalism is based on reason and man's right to live for his own sake.

I will close with a quote from Rand's, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

Consider a few rules about the working of principles in practice and about the relationship of principles to goals . . . .

1. In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.

2. In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins.

3. When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.

--Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal “The Anatomy of Compromise,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 145.