This will be the concluding post in addressing the question raised by Ira last week:
Is it inherent in the nature of free market capitalism for the most wealthy individuals and/or corporations to capture government power?
My first two posts can be found here and here, and if you have not read these, then this current post will make little sense (and it may also be the case even if you have read these). I am at the point of addressing Ira’s final request:
My challenge to the LRC community is to refute this charge against capitalism addressing the historical context, the current dilemma, and future directions.
In the first of the two earlier posts, I answered the initial question – will free market capitalism always devolve to crony capitalism? Yes, it will. Just as almost any value held in common will devolve into a system controlled by those who most excel at demonstrating that value, who then sit at the top of the hierarchy.
In the second of the two earlier posts, I addressed the historical context and the current dilemma. In this post, I will comment on future directions – the way out of our current dilemma and the way to a functional society, that – oh, by the way – will also respect private property, free markets, and libertarianism…at least better than any other system available to human beings.
The only way out of this dilemma of devolution – whether regarding free market capitalism, libertarianism, or any other value that is placed as the highest common value in a community – is to identify and point toward a value that, when those who excel at it are seen as the top of the hierarchy, inherently cannot so devolve due to the nature of the value.
Let me try this another way. Perhaps an easy way is in sports competitions – sports with objective measures. It will not be a perfect analogy, as analogies can never be perfect, but here goes. In basketball, those who best exemplify the characteristics associated with a good player – scoring, rebounding, defending, facilitating a teammate – will rise to the top of the basketball hierarchy. The system does not corrupt, as it is in the interests of those associated with the game to continue to win.
But such a system does not correspond to the life people live. Excelling in basketball is a desired intermediate end for some; in any case, such an objective system cannot translate into the subjective lives we live every day. But hopefully the example serves to clarify the point: what is the value that, when placed as the highest commonly-held value in society, inherently cannot be corrupted?
At the risk of losing many of you, I offer the answer first and some explanation after. For those in doubt, perhaps just try to stomach your way through this.
Matthew 22: 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
What is the value of loving God? There are many things that can be discussed on this point, but I will stick to those relevant to this particular discussion. Loving God puts us in a position to recognize that there is something (an entity, being, idea, whatever – we don’t really have a word for this…besides “God”) above and outside of the control of man – something that man’s laws cannot touch, something that man cannot veto.
Many will suggest that this might be a fickle God, dangerous for us to love. Perhaps. But is He any more dangerous to you today than those who live and legislate as if He does not exist, or as if His law can be freely violated, or as if love is irrelevant to a functioning society? What has your faith in men brought you?
What of loving your neighbor? It is interesting that Jesus a) gave two commandments when only one was asked for, and b) that the second is “like unto” the first. In other words, the second is just as the first, or in equal standing, or maybe it is the way through which we demonstrate the first in our lives. Whatever Jesus’s purpose in giving two commandments, love is, inherently, the greatest commandment.
Some might stumble over this word “love.” As if it is a word requiring us to accept all behavior, forgive all trespasses. Well, yes, and no. forgive me for citing my own previous comments…
The West is in such chaos because different of us are grappling with different aspects of the story, and very few are looking to the whole. We demand love, but ignore truth; we demand respect, yet ignore humility; we demand liberty, yet ignore responsibility; we demand repentance, yet ignore forgiveness. The Christian story demanded each of these. Today’s chaos is driven by a society that chooses only one side without being held responsible for the other.
Love demands charity, respect, liberty and repentance toward and from another. It also demands truth, humility, responsibility, and forgiveness toward and from another. We live in a society that focusses on only one side of this while ignoring the other: charity without truth, respect without humility, liberty without responsibility, repentance without forgiveness.
Love requires action. It is not a feeling, as if we are all teenagers just coming into puberty. Love is a verb, it is something we do, not something we feel.
What does all this have to do with private property, free market capitalism and libertarianism? I am getting to that, give me time….
The best ethical philosophy that I have found that a) places God at the top of the hierarchy and therefore gets man out of the law-invention business, b) identifies love as the highest value from which a hierarchy will then be determined, and c) is supportive of private property, is natural law. I can only summarize here, but will thereafter offer many links for those interested in understanding this further.