Socialism

Free Markets Are Moral, Not the 'Lesser of Two Evils'

A system that lets us make our own decisions about our own lives is more moral than one that transfers them to powerful strangers.

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The past two weeks, this column has been obsessed with "socialism" because the concept has suddenly become fashionable again on the left. I brought up the devastation of various socialistic experiments, but was met with a variety of rebuttals. Some critics view socialism as something warm and fuzzy (free health care, like in Sweden!), while others drip with hostility at the inequality of market-based economic systems. There was widespread agreement, however, that U.S.-style capitalism has somehow failed.

There's even a strain of conservatism—including some thinkers who have bolstered the Trump presidency—that is dismissive of capitalism. In January, this column focused on Fox News' commentator Tucker Carlson, who argued that "Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having." Many social conservatives dislike capitalism because it undermines their cultural values by promoting materialism, vulgarity and hedonism.

Even those in the political center, who might be expected to boisterously defend the market, have some doubts. They seem to view capitalism as a "lesser of two evils" and not a good in itself. New York Times columnist David Brooks in January defended capitalism, but described the way it has turned society into "an atomized collection of individual economic units pursuing self-interest." He called for embedding it with "moral norms" to serve a "larger social good."

In the words of my Russian grandmother, who was driven off her property by a government unconstrained by property rights or limits on its power, "Feh." That's a Yiddish term of disgust. Before you start penning your email, let's get this out of the way: Obviously, the American system is no more a pure capitalist system than the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a pure socialistic system. Even those vaunted Nordic countries aren't exactly what people think. They are more capitalistic than America in some ways, although they have higher levels of social spending.

We're talking generalities. Socialism puts the government in control of the economic system and redistributes wealth as the political authorities see fit. Some socialistic countries allowed the ownership of tightly regulated businesses and private property, while others didn't. Market capitalism lets individuals and companies make society's key economic decisions as they pursue—gasp!—profit. Every modern "capitalistic" system has extensive government regulation of the private sector. They all tax people and provide redistributionist programs.

Nothing is pure, but people like me—that is, libertarians—believe there should be lower taxes, fewer programs and less government control of the economy. Whatever their ultimate societal vision, self-described socialists believe there should be more government control, more programs and more redistribution. They are winning the day because our side keeps making excuses for markets and the flaws in our society. Yet market capitalism truly is moral, even though it cannot provide what some moralists seek, which is something approaching Nirvana.

Markets simply are the sum total of all the individual decisions that people make on their own. I want to buy a car. I value certain features. Companies offer products at different prices and try to sweeten the deal. I negotiate, then buy what I want. Everyone profits, including the tax collector. Wealthier people buy nicer cars than poorer people. So what? In capitalist societies, there are ways to get poorer people a decent ride as they work their way up the economic ladder. In socialistic countries, almost everyone (except the political elite) queues up to take the bus.

Are there shady car dealers? Of course. Bad people are part of life. There needs to be some regulation (e.g., against fraud, theft, violence). But those who complain about the behavior of some private actors gladly give immense power to equally flawed government officials. Markets are about cooperation. Individuals negotiate with others to get what they want. Government is about force, about other people deciding (through edicts or votes) how you must behave and punishing you if you resist. Which seems moral to you?

"Far from being an amoral arena for the clash of interests, as capitalism often is portrayed by those who seek to undermine or destroy it, capitalist interaction is highly structured by ethical norms and rules," wrote libertarian scholar Tom Palmer, in an introduction to the book, The Morality of Capitalism. "Indeed, capitalism rests on a rejection of the ethics of loot and grab, the means by which most wealth enjoyed by the wealthy has been acquired in other economic and political systems."

A system that lets us make our own decisions about our own lives is more moral than one that transfers them to powerful strangers. Freedom is better than coercion. Prosperity is more uplifting than poverty. "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries," Winston Churchill said in 1945. Let's not cede the moral high ground to people who tout utopian ideas that usually result in misery.

This column was first published in the Orange County Register.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998-2009. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

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  1. To be fair, when critics complain about markets, they are not talking about about our interactions at the local farmer’s market. They are talking about stuff like this.

    1. But the solution they propose is raising taxes on the merchant at the local farmer’s market, because they want the cash. Theft looks moral in the eyes of collectivists if the thief first demonizes the group that the victim belongs to through a few cherry picked examples.

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    2. If those critics are complaining about a Verizon executive getting a golden parachute; the market allows them to choose another provider.

      1. You’re right, but to take it one step further, this golden parachute was provided in part by your tax dollars

        Free Market Decision?

        1. So its really a government interferes with markets failure, not a market failure.

          1. Failure is inevitable, and not necessarily a bad thing. The government creates situations in which no one learns from said failure beyond the people who think the government will be there next time as well.

            1. Exactly….It is Cronyistic capitalism that is bad. Forcing people to get licenses for many professions, is just using the govt to keep the compeitition away from the established “cronies”… It caused me to leave New Orleans and go to MS to open my TV shop in the 1970’s, where I stayed for decades serving my obviously satisfied customers. No license required!

              1. Actually — Its CRONY SOCIALISM!

        2. I have no doubt that Verizon benefits from many subsidies, but much of the reporting on that site is weird or strange.

          For example, the biggest subsidy receiver is Yahoo, which is owned by Verizon. They point out that Yahoo has nearly half a billion dollars in subsidies from the state of New York, largely to build a Data Center near Buffalo. But these weren’t cash outlays to Yahoo- they are largely tax breaks and discounts on power. Very few tax payer dollars were actually transferred.

          If Yahoo hadn’t located its data center there, there would not have been income or sales to tax. And much of the money that wasn’t taxed was spent on the local area to build massive data centers. Regarding the discounted power, this is merely an artifact of the State of New York being in the power business. They have lots of power that goes to waste if it isn’t consumed, so they sell it at a discount. Is costco “subsidizing” you because you buy in bulk and get your milk 30% cheaper than at the grocery store? Is Consumer Reports subsidizing you if they give you a 20% discount on their monthly subscription if you agree to a year contract?

          Obviously, I wish the government was not involved much at all up there. But too often people talk about subsidies specifically to suggest that tax dollars are being taken from someone and given to another, and that is not what happened in this case.

      2. Tim Armstrong is an asshat who made many strategic blunders. He also took one of the biggest jokes in the world, America Online, and turned it into a digital advertising powerhouse. He did this by creating or purchasing many of the internet’s biggest niche brands, including HuffPost, Engadget and Autoblog and then scaling them across several technical platforms that allowed them to focus on their audience rather than tech building or monetizing. He brokered the deal combining AOL with Yahoo and that combined entity does some 4 billion dollars of revenue each year, and provides service to billions of users daily, who (for some reason) choose freely to engage with those services, from the rabid SJWs on HuffPost to the people participating in Yahoo Sports March Madness.

        Like any person, he is fallible. The AOL/Yahoo merger and creation of the combined entity, Oath (a creepy brand in name and its marketing) was deeply flawed- from the 50,000-foot-level consultants who he engaged to identify “synergies” in the two companies to his crazy projections of revenue from that deal. He failed big on it.

        Nevertheless, this doesn’t take away from the many successes he had at the company- including making many rank employees if not rich, then at least very comfortable. Verizon executives ultimately decide whether he was worth that $60MM or not (I wouldn’t have made that decision), but that is the beauty of capitalism. They have to live with the mistake, not you.

        1. “They have to live with the mistake, not you.”

          Except when Verizon gets large subsidies, or the government bails them out after they spend all their money on Tim Armstrong parachutes

          1. Except when Verizon gets large subsidies,

            No, even when government subsidizes them. The problem is government subsidies- that money was taken from you whether TA got his parachute or not. And, as I note above, many of the subsidies specifically in Armstrong’s case were not dollars taken from tax payers, but tax discounts which are hardly the same thing.

            And if Verizon needs a bailout, then fuck them. But of course, there is no bailout that I have seen envisioned for them. Indeed, telecoms are notorious for going belly up and sold for scrap with no bailout from the government (c.f. Qwest, MCI Worldcom, etc).

            Verizon paid nearly $4 Billion in income tax last year alone- paying back far more than the CLAIMED $600 million that it has received over the past decades. The idea that those subsidies some how give taxpayers some sort of moral claim on their executives is laughable.

            1. Fair enough, I read both of your replies, and I see your point. Perhaps this isn’t the best example that I could have provided, but I tried to connect it with the original post. My big issue is less about subsidies, and more about bailouts, but I have a hard time justifying either.

              1. I get you. And I am with you in saying that I don’t seek to defend subsidies and would prefer if none existed.

                However, I have a bigger problem with this contention that any subsidy is some sort of poison pill that suddenly makes all of a company’s actions subject to collectivist moral judgments. As noted above, these subsidies are often a pittance compared to the overall budget and contribution of these companies to the economy.

                But beyond that, subsidies are so vague as to mean any sort of government action. Not collecting taxes is treated as a transfer of wealth. Building roads is considered subsidy (You didn’t build that!). If the government does anything, it suddenly is subsidizing a business and gives the public a collective stake in determining what that company gets to do. This same slippery slope of cause and affect is what every statist uses to justify ever more control of the market.

    3. How are the critics impacted by that, other than having their sense of moral outrage piqued?

    4. Every time, and I mean EVERY TIME someone complains about a “golden parachute”, they are ridiculously misrepresenting the situation. It’s pathetic.

      Most of the time, what has actually happened is that the outgoing executive is forced to cash out years of accumulated equities. Since he’s being fired for performance, those equities are probably valued less than they were in the recent past, making the sale a bad deal for the outgoing executive. Regardless, he is not “getting millions to leave.” The money he’s getting is his pay for all the years he was there.

      All of the rants here about government entanglement are orthogonal to this.

  2. The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.

    — Thomas Sowell

    Socialists are better at this. I do not really know what drives politicians, since the whole concept of being an unwanted boss is alien to my soul. The closest pop psychology I can come up with is that they know they suck at daily life, they fear and are jealous of people who are happy living their own lives, and the only way they know to compensate is to bluster and ridicule people who accept some responsibility for their own lives.

    1. Another aspect of all politicians, but especially the redistributionist variety, is the sorry attitude they have towards other people. I know far too many people who help their neighbors, who do good deeds, who know how other people feel and will help those who can no longer help themselves. I also know people who are as greedy and self-centered as possible and have no interest in helping others; their motto seems to be “every man for himself”, that if they could get where they are by being all elbows and assholes, then only unworthy suckers are poor, and they don’t help losers.

      Politicians are only too eager to help poor people with other people’s money, even the infamous “unwilling”, maybe especially them, because it provides an excuse to strip power from the rich. They also do not believe that humans ever care for anyone else, because they don’t, and they can’t imagine anyone else being better in any way.

  3. I’m a socialist, but I believe the way to it is through capitalism. The reason is that capitalism establishes everyone’s true worth. Without that, everyone thinks they are the best and believes they are justified to force others to work for them (via government control). The result is misery. People must freely decide whether to procreate based on rationally evaluating their own fitness. As long as societies are free, this can be done through education and without violence.

    Think of it this way: the way to G_d/Kingdom of Heaven/socialist paradise is through Jesus, who was a capitalist and believed in the free market. Remember that work is our punishment for original sin. Thus the way to freedom is to work hard and amass wealth and then retire. There are no shortcuts, sorry socialists.

    1. There’s a difference between communists and communalists. The communist seeks to force the redistribution of wealth through the government. The communalist seeks to build a community where everyone is charitable out of the kindness of their own hearts. Communalism is a valid way to live a libertarian life.

      1. True but all of history and a great deal of modern science demonstrate that communalism tops out at a population of about 150. That is, once the community that you are building grows larger than the size of an extended family, you exceed the human brain’s capacity to maintain a cognitive map of the relationships between individuals and the “kindness of their own hearts” breaks down.

        1. The Monkeysphere strikes again.

        2. It may be true that “communalism tops out at a population of about 150” economic efficiency-wise, but it’s only reason that suppresses the innate preference for communal, or family, economics. And reason is a weak child compared to evolved emotion.

          Humans are social animals and human nature is very comfortable with the sort of commercial structure that emphasises “fair” outcomes, rather than merely “fair” processes. The fact that this may not be very efficient economically, in an environment where our communities run into the hundreds of millions, does not stop sympathy for socialism being perfectly natural.

  4. Morality exists when people behave morally.

    In an environment of morality everything works as it should.

    The title should read, “in an environment of corruption more people can be greedy in a free market”.

    1. False. There is vastly more outlet for corruption under socialism.

      1. You are absolutely correct. In Capitalism – especially in this age of immediate and mass communication, corruption is called out and the corrupt become insignificant.

    2. “more people can be greedy in a free market” — HOW!?!?!

      In a free-market BUYERS WILLINGLY choose to purchase on their own TERMS! Any supposed “greed” remains COMPLETELY in check and held accountable.

      If anyone thinks Microsoft is “Greedy”; they are ENTIRELY FREE to put in the work to develop and maintain an ecosystem to use and even compete with it and FREELY take that “supposed” Greed away..

      Anyone who can relate the term “greed” to a free market really means — They have a “RIGHT” to someone else’s labor without having to negotiation or provide any VALUE of themselves in return. That is what GREED is.

  5. They are winning the day because our side keeps making excuses for markets and the flaws in our society.

    No, they are “winning the day” (if they are) because self-described “capitalists” and “libertarians” cynically promote tax cuts while downplaying cost-cutting, rely on public subsidy of private enterprise but jealously guard the returns generated thereon, and see the manifestly disruptive and impoverishing effects of a poorly-regulated economy on the real lives we lead.

    I absolutely agree that individual private decisions are the most efficient and effective way to put resources to their highest-value uses, and that centralized government control is to be avoided. But we have to recognize that even “free markets” have to be specifically structured and regulated to operate as such. They need to be supported, for example, by a body of law governing contracts, regulatory regimes that address “tragedy of the commons” and “prisoner’s dilemma” type issues, and evening out playing fields where transaction costs or high barriers to entry limit meaningful competition or efficient free market activity.

    The government should be setting the ground rules, but not dictating outcomes.

    1. What this guy^ said

    2. This was a good article and this a good response. What I take from both is that in a capitalist free market system there is a role for government. Government set ground rules called regulations. The trick is getting the level of regulation optimized to allow the most choice while inhibiting bad actors. So maybe we should not be arguing for more regulation or less regulation, but rather deciding what level is needed. Both sides, more regulation/less regulation, argue at the extremes applying that to whole. It would be nice to see the argument made from the middle. That is, what will work well, accepting it will not be perfect.

      1. If only libertarians had a viewpoint on what level of regulation should be tolerated at the government level. Maybe something like this:

        There needs to be some regulation (e.g., against fraud, theft, violence).

        Wow, right there in the article and everything. Let’s take those prohibitions against theft, fraud and violence and call it, hrmmm, an agreement not to aggress against others. A non-agression principle, if you will.

        1. there is such a rule called the ten commandments yet people think they can do better

        2. OK, lets say I accept the principle of non-aggression. Then I can call for strict air pollution regulations as vehicle and facility emissions are aggressive attacks on my lungs, circulatory and nervous system. Is that what you were thinking in your definition?

          1. There is cause for action due to Pollution- if people would stop thinking it is the silver bullet to put down Libertarians, and actually did a little research, they would find that there is ample real world examples of people being able to sue for damages due to this sort of things.

            Indeed, much of the worst environmental damage in history was done in the name of governments. From the US Mint, which is one of the worst polluters in the States, to the DOE and its nuclear weapons factories to the Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union.

            In places where property rights are protected, damages to person and property are recoverable.

            1. You are correct in that there are law suits. Many of those lawsuits require actions in the form of regulations as part of the settlement. If you look at air pollution regulations you will find that in many cases it is the American Lung Association suing the EPA to get action to improve air quality. So Libertarians can not escape regulation just by using lawsuits as an alternative. Again the original article and the first comment see a government role in market places. The question is how to get the right level of government action to optimize the market.

        3. ^^^ is exactly what I was thinking when I was reading the comment. It’s not as if libertarian philosophy is unclear about any of this.

        4. When self-proclaimed libertarians can justify proactive war in the name of self-defense, the concept and validity of the NAP losses all justification and reeks of selective enforcement, and has more the tenor of “Help! I’m being oppressed!”. As a cornerstone of libertariansism, it’s dead and gone.

          At this point, “don’t be a dick” probably has more usefulness as the NAP has been contorted beyond all meaning.

    3. Which libertarians and capitalists are down-playing cost cutting? Which are relying on public subsidy?

      But we have to recognize that even “free markets” have to be specifically structured and regulated to operate as such.

      No, this is exactly backwards. Free markets are by definition people freely trading. You don’t need to structure that any more than you need to “structure” a bunch of people freely organizing to create a rolling “wave” at a football stadium, or any more than geese need to have an imposed structure to adopt a flying V during long migrations. Order emerges, it doesn’t get created.

      This style of argument from crypto-statists is essentially tantamount to concern trolling. The playbook is so tiring. “Sure I’m with you on this free market stuff. But let me toss out a bunch of problems- many created by government in the first place- to justify a little intervention, which I shall describe vaguely so that maybe you nod and agree even as I justify every intervention conceivable.

      “Tragedies of the Commons” are largely caused by government making certain stuff unownable. There is nothing free about “Evening out playing fields” or “Lowering Barriers to entry” (unless those barriers are caused by government, who is generally responsible for monopolies and regulatory hurdles).

      1. Thank you! Spontaneous organization is all around us; it’s 99% of what we do all day long. That is what makes it so invisible and easy to denigrate. Market failure is the opposite of an oxymoron, because markets depend on market failure — that is what makes them work. Entrepreneurs use market failures to find and fill opportunities.

        Government is a sledgehammer, and incompetent at best.

      2. “But let me toss out a bunch of problems- many created by government in the first place”

        Exactly. The answer to poor governance should not be more governance

        1. The typical answer to poor governance is to decry the paltry sums of taxes allocated to it and to demand more and bigger staffs to spend it upon.

          “Oh when will my bureaucracy be justly staffed and resourced?”

  6. Sorry, but shady car dealers who want to defraud you are not on par with politicians. One only wants to unload a lemon for as much money as he can get and once he’s traded his rust bucket for your cash will be happy to never see you again. And if you tell him where to stick his deal, he can only shrug and let you walk away. The other also wants to part you from your cash, but then also wants to follow you everywhere for the rest of your life, micromanaging your every decision because he believes himself smarter and better than you, and that power over you is his birthright. If you try to refuse his deal, he can have you caged or even killed.

    It’s pretty clear which of these is the bigger threat.

    1. Yes, shady politicians are the bigger threat. Only they can hold a gun to your head and force you to do as they wish…

  7. “If I match the best-case scenario I can dream up for my system against the flawed reality of the existing system, I can clearly see that my system is better!”

  8. Maybe if people who are into “socialism” could clarify exactly what it is they’re into – why do they choose that particular word, when one might think that so many countries which call themselves “socialist” have ruined the brand?

    Why not call it “nice-ism” or “a New New Deal” or “more togetherness,” or some other term?

    1. Capitalism and Socialism are simply two divisive choices, like racist cable bundles, for people who won’t or can’t discern our objective here on this shared earth and conceptualize a plan to achieve it.

      Your opponent is always a two dimensional cardboard cutout you can set up and knock down.

      Fill your boots.

      1. Racist cable bundles? What on earth does that mean?

        1. https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/
          bundle-cables-white-cable-ties-24299647.jpg

          It means a happy multicolored cable bundle, brutally bound and oppressed by white cable ties

    2. That’s a good question. Why are they trying to rehabilitate this word that is rightly associated with some of the worst episodes in human history?

    3. Venezuela – and they are Maduro.

  9. an atomized collection of individual economic units pursuing self-interest.

    He sounds like the guy at the party who thinks a system wide failure is the reason no one is talking to him.

  10. As a Koch / Reason libertarian, I have favorable views toward democratic socialism not because of purely economic reasons like the minimum wage or Medicare for All. Rather, it’s their support for proposals like banning assault weapons and abolishing ICE.

    #LibertariansForBernie
    #LibertariansForAOC

    1. Both the minimum wage and Medicare for all fail on economic terms. At least for those of us who understand economic terms…

    2. I don’t understand why you call yourself any sort of libertarian. I’m not trying to insult whatever you actually are, but the purpose of language is clarity. You may have a few views in common with libertarians, but who doesn’t?

      What libertarian views do you actually hold that are inconsistent with being a progressive?

      How did you come to the conclusion that “libertarian” is the political philosophy that most accurately describes your world view?

      I’m really not accusing you of being disingenuous. I don’t see what you have to gain by it. But then again, I also don’t understand what people get out of trolling.

      Can you explain your thought process?

      1. His thought process is humor. OBL is a well run parody account.

  11. One of the deciding factors for me is that individualism is quite happy to let socialists sign contracts with each other to share and collectivize to their heart’s content; possibly stopping short of murder by the collective as contract punishment for contract violations.

    Collectivism of every type cannot abide individualism in any form except that meager portion not yet collectivized. Collectivism must expand into ever more corners or individualism as it uncovers them. Want the government to provide last-ditch health care for the indigent? It must then interfere in their lives to keep them from unhealthy habits, and that must expand to all aspects of everybody’s life, otherwise someone who drank too much and lost his job would now need government health care and be a drain on the good will of the public coffers.

    1. ^^^THIS^^^^

  12. “any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having.”

    “Any person subject to raging hormonal influences is not fit to be a mother.”

  13. But, …there exists a pool of folks who realize just what a bunch of cretins most of society are, and that it takes superior beings like themselves to tell you what the hell you should be doing…

  14. This is another misguided attempt to set up a fake binary. It’s not either free-markets or Socialism. Most people advocate for a mixed economy and most countries, for example, Venezuela, are mixed economies even though the media gets confused and throws around the Socialism label. And America is and has always been a mixed economy. Despite what the oligarchs tell you, even the libruls value free markets. The caveat is that they understand that free markets often fail. No one is a capitalist when having a heart attack and needs to figure out how to get care. And the economy is rife with negative externalities that the oligarchs are happy to hide because if they had to pay for them via a true free market they suddenly turn into Socialists (although they never call it).

    So stop falling for this false dichotomy. We all want a mixed economy and we all need to be vigilant against bad government, but just importantly, we need to be vigilant against crooked oligarchs who whisper “free market” in your ear but then cry about needing bailouts the next minute. And yes, this aptly describes the modern Republican party. Sadly, Reason.com thinks the GOP best matches their ideology. Trump has conned many people into thinking he somehow represents free markets but it is a sham.

    1. Some folks think free markets cannot exist and that government interventionism is just a fact of life.

      Kind of like the folks who used to tell women to “just lie back and think of England” while being raped…

    2. This is another misguided attempt to set up a fake binary

      Read the article again. He specifically states that there is a spectrum of socialist vs capitalist solutions. However, he is specifically calling out the people who claim that free markets, by their very nature, are a moral problem.

      And if you think that Reason’s preferred party is the GOP, then you live in bizzaro land.

    3. Heraclitus|3.22.19 @ 10:19AM|#
      “…Most people advocate for a mixed economy and most countries, for example, Venezuela, are mixed economies even though the media gets confused and throws around the Socialism label…”

      You are not to be taken seriously.

  15. Free markets do not create inequality, nor do they allow it to exist more than other systems. In fact, there is less inequality under a free market than under any other system.

    Leftists simply measure dishonestly.

    Collectivist systems concentrate vastly more power in the hands of fewer people, and are more removed from meritocracy to boot.

    1. Actually, free markets create quite a bit of inequality, but that’s a feature, not a bug. That inequality is a signal about where opportunities and hazards lie for future investment and employment.

      Those who would eliminate those signals out of a misguided sense of “justice” do so at everyone’s ultimate peril…

      1. A lot of inequality can be blamed on God/nature/movement-of-random-atoms.

        Whatever you call it, there are people born with severe illnesses or disabilities, into dysfunctional families, etc., and some who are born healthy in wealthy families, etc.

        There is no-one to blame unless you’re raging at God/nature/etc.

        What’s the government’s role, if any, in correcting these problems?

        Depending on how ragingly libertarian you are, a more or less limited-government type would say “nothing” or “provide a basic safety net.” In practice, many add education, albeit in the form of schools of choice/vouchers, rather than a govt-run monopoly. Plus sanitation (“and public ‘ealth and law and order”). So far, we’re still at what I would consider basic government functions (though government could screw anything up).

        But for some people, all this isn’t enough. You need those government-run schools to provide a common civic experience or whatever the buzzword is. You need punitive taxes to correct “income inequality.” Then regulations to protect people from themselves. Safety nets robust enough to be confused with hammocks. Then “regulation of business,” which is hard at times to distinguish from a mutual back-scratching scheme giving certain business quasi-monopolistic privileges in exchange for kicking back to the government (oops, I mean giving back).

        But I think I’m already approaching the word limit.

      2. Free markets do not create that inequality. They expose it.

        The Big Lie is that it can be erased with alternative systems. The reality is that alternative systems add corruption to the mix, which tends to exacerbate inequality.

  16. Every Christmas Eve three ghosts need to visit David Brooks and take turns kicking his ass, reminding him of what a fool he is. The last ghost should be Milton Friedman, who will kindly bitch slap him with a rhetorical glove like he did when Brooks was in college.

  17. Capitalism is moral because it is consistent with the nature of man. It is consistent with our need to reason for decision making and, thus, for survival. The exercise of reason stops at the point of a gun. Call it what you want – socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, a mixed economy, the rule of kings and queens; all are evil in that decisions are made through the threat of, or use of, violence. This topic was eloquently discussed in Ayn Rand’s Capitalism the Unknown Ideal.

    Reason online no longer defends capitalism philosophically. Most of the comments from its readers are what I might expect from an 8th grade verbal sparring contest. Unfortunately, the battle for freedom in this country has already been lost. The moral high ground has been ceded.

  18. Free Markets Are Moral, Not the ‘Lesser of Two Evils’

    Let’s not get carried away here. This is reality – where everything will die and the universe will end up cold and black and you have to constantly kill to survive. Every choice is a choice between two evils.

    1. Total philosophical nonsense!

    2. Every choice is a choice between two evils.

      Yeah, I know you. You’re the tiresome husband of the wife’s buddy, who takes 45 minutes to order in the restaurant.

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  20. As a consultant who often works offsite, I’ve said, “Anyone who thinks working from home is the greatest thing, hasn’t done it.” The same goes for preferences about how you organize your society, economy, and government: “Anyone who thinks socialism is the greatest thing, hasn’t lived in a socialist system.”

    It’s hard to believe, after what socialism brought to the twentieth century, that people would use that word in a positive light. Thanks for pointing out that the Nordic countries are not good examples. Talk about cherry picking cases that don’t fit.

    1. Anyone who has ever worked in the trenches of the federal government as I have for three decades, knows that getting anything positive done is more difficult than you can possibly imagine. It can take literally weeks to get a routine travel form signed and filed, between getting lost in in-boxes, the form changing, Sharepoint not saving, etc. Routine red tape nonsense, meetings and training takes up most of the time we have during the day.

      1. Why is this? Why the lack of efficiency? Nothing personal, as we all have our crosses to bear. To me, most government jobs are created as favors to one party or another. What possible purpose can your job have when even the simplest of tasks cannot be performed without jumping through an array of hoops? Where is the accountability of government for the system they have created that accomplishes so little with so much? It wouldn’t be hard to believe that your story is quite common on all levels of government. Heck, just visit your local DMV and you can see it in action.

    2. I work from home, and it’s the greatest thing.

  21. Use of the term “U.S. style capitalism” is evidence we do not have Capitalism in the U S. What we have, and have had since our beginning, is a mixed economy, and over the last 150 years, we’ve moved further and further away from Capitalism (Capital C). Capitalism (Capital C) means that individual rights (including private property rights) are protected by government, its only valid function. Capitalism has never existed in the U S and therefore could not have “failed.” “Anarcho-capitalism” is not Capitalism – it includes no over-arching government protection – only competing gangs where the toughest gang wins; “crony-capitalism” is not Capitalism – there is no place for cronyism since government can’t dole out money or favors; “socially responsible capitalism” is not Capitalism – no government agent mandating “socially responsible” decisions; “state capitalism” is not Capitalism – ye gods, turns the concept on its head. And I agree, it is moral issue. Laissez Faire Capitalism is the only moral system (if human flourishing is the goal), and the only place it came close was here.

  22. Some of these problems with socialism rising seem to be the obnoxious democrat hollywood or billionaire climate activists. Even those that do not get involved with politics or economics understand “you will be rationed in the form of taxes, fees and the really expensive food (gas taxes, carbon taxes)’. It is the classic,Michael Bloomberg, Do as I say, not as I do (my private jet still rocks and lets eliminate the inheritance tax). Its so entirely hypocritcal that it is laughable (looks at Yellow Vests and the Paris Climate Accord). Holy fucking shit, there must be so much tax money that will be flowing to ‘Green Firms’ (Soylandra anyone?). The American and Euro Taxpayer/Ratepayer will pay for the technology to save the entire world from climate change or global warming or whatever the new word is. Taxpayers/ratepayers are smart enough to know when they are being fucked, thus anger socialism.

  23. In capitalism man exploits man.

    Socialism is the opposite. With a lower standard of living.

    1. I see the lefts new word-change is turning the freedom to trade and assist each other into “exploiting”.

  24. Whats the difference between a bailout and debt restructuring. Ask Puerto Rico Senior bondholders. The legal system is broken.

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  27. More pseudo-capitalist gibberish.

    The U.S. is nowhere close to a free-market capitalist economy.

    I ask, what’s the difference between a “socialist” economy, wherein a government or bureaucracy controls the central planning of an economy, versus a “capitalist” economy, wherein a few corporate elite control the central planning of an economy (controlling the government and bureaucracy in the process)?

    The U.S. is a wholly Planned Market Economy (that is, “capitalism” for only the wealthy-elite).
    It is state-capitalism, aka crony-capitalism.

    Take a look at the true underlying ownership of Google (Alphabet), Apple, Microsoft, LG, Samsung, IBM, HP, etc. You will find the same largest institutional owners.

    The planning & production of most all your electronic devices are therefore controlled by the same elite.
    There are no true FREE MARKET choices, nor true competition (thus no true innovation).

    The planning & production of your OS are controlled by the same elite.
    There are no true FREE MARKET choices, nor true competition (thus no true innovation).

    Funny that the Reason Foundation is largely supported by the Koch’s and their Koch Industries, which hold several dozen protectionist patents and trademarks on products.
    THAT’S NOT FREE MARKET CAPITALISM.

    1. Think Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are competitors?
      Think again.
      They are largely owned by the same largest institutional shareholders (whom also serve as the largest investors of each other).

      Even the “uncola”, 7-Up is owned by the same groups (via Keurig Dr Pepper).

      Think AT&T & Verizon are competitors?
      Think again.

      Even the “uncarrier” T-Mobile is largely owned by the same groups.

      THE U.S. IS A FULL-FLEDGED CENTRALLY-PLANNED ECONOMY.

      A FEW LIMITED PRE-DETERMINED “CHOICES” OF PRODUCTS/SERVICES OFFERED BY THE SAME ELITE IS NOT A FREE MARKET.

      THE TRUE INVISIBLE HAND IS NOT ATTACHED TO THE ARMS OF CORPORATE LORDS.

      Interestingly, some of the major problems with “capitalism” are similar to the major problems with “socialism”.
      There are always a few at the top of the hierarchy whom are truly in control.

      They manipulate and control the systems solely for their benefit.

      MONEY IS POWER.
      LIBERTY (libertarianism) IS FREEDOM.
      YET THERE CAN BE NO TRUE LIBERTY OF PERSON/BODY/SPIRIT WHERE THERE IS NO TRUE LIBERTY OF MONEY/CAPITAL/WEALTH.

      WEALTH IS MORE HIGHLY-CONCENTRATED IN THE U.S. TODAY THAN AT ANY TIME IN THE HISTORY OF THE NATION.

      1. VALUE = WEALTH

        If anyone “believes” that Pepsi or Coca-Cola aren’t offering the best products at the best price to society; in a free-market they are ENTIRELY FREE to make XYZ-Soft Drink.

        The only UN-Just monopolizing going on has to occur by limiting choices (i.e. Gov Guns).
        Its CRONY SOCIALISM. The term “crony capitalism” is a contradiction of terms; there is no such thing.

  28. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that plenty of conservatives don’t like free markets.

    Inequality of sexual attractiveness is far more important than economic poverty, to the “poor” in each distribution, and it is overwhelmingly conservatives who support equalising outcomes in the mating game – aka “enforced monogamy.”

  29. As a capitalist pig who would be VERY happy to see taxes, regulations, and social spending cut… I still think it’s stupid to argue that we don’t have problems in the way “capitalism” is playing out in our country.

    Personally, I DO think some very small level of morality/fair play should enter into the equation when one is running a business. I run my business that way.

    Crony capitalism needs to GO for sure too.

    One can make many criticisms of how the US economy runs nowadays, and not all of them are incorrect per se. That doesn’t mean socialist nonsense is the answer, but minor tweaks to how things are playing out IRL could do a lot of good for making the economy more productive AND fixing some of the PR issues capitalism has been having in recent years.

    1. Criminal Law ( POWER = JUSTICE ).

      There is no such thing as “crony capitalism” its always been “crony socialism” at play.

  30. “Capitalism” and “free market” are not synonyms.

  31. here is a free market. you tell me if it is moral. folks in the county north of Austin use all the ground water(well water) they want. they pay for it. meanwhile folks in the next county over are losing their groundwater because its one great big aquifer.

    the winner, a suburban county with lots of housing paying next to nothing for water. the loser, a rural county whose farms and ranches had no idea they were being sucked dry until it was too late.

    1. If there’s not enough water for both – one is going to have to suffer and/or relocate (The earth is after all 71% water). That’s not a market problem that’s a location specific natural resource problem.

      A free market will however choose the rightful winner (which party add more VALUE to society) for the limited resource at specific location target.

      It’s no different than businesses that fail because someone else offered the same BUT BETTER business services.

      1. *Unless of course there is a titled ownership of the water resources (i.e. Water Rights).

    2. If it’s running out of water in general, that means Austin won’t have enough for their uses either… Which means they’ll both have to pay to bring in more water somehow, won’t they? If that’s expensive, people will probably start to waste less water as the cost goes up, and it will all come to some equilibrium. It sucks during the period between when the problem is noticed and when it is solved, but it is what it is.

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