When I have a rare, stolen moment (say on a plane, for example, with no internet access :), I read. And I am always drawn back to Ayn Rand. I read Rand to refresh, renourish my soul. She fortifies me, my epistemology. I have been reading "The Voice of Reason" while vaca-ing with the Atlas kinderlach. One of her essays resonated so strongly during this statist seizure of America under the Communist Obamao - I thought I would share it with you.
A full, perfect system of capitalism has never yet existed in history. Various degrees of government intervention and control remained in all the mixed, semi-free economies of the nineteenth century, undercutting, hampering, distorting, and ultimately destroying the operations of a free market. But during the nineteenth century, mankind came close to economic freedom, for the first and only time in history. Observe the results, ernment control was the degree of its progress. American was the freest and achieved the most,
When two opposite principles are operating in any issue, the scientific approach to their evaluation is to study their respective performances, trace their consequences in full, precise detail, and then pronounce judgment on their respective merits. In the case of a mixed economy, the first duty of any thinker or scholar is to study the historical record and to discover which developments were caused by the free enterprise of private individuals, by free production and trade in a free market-and which developments were caused by government intervention into the economy. It might shock you to hear that no such study has ever been made. To my knowledge, no book dealing with this issue is available. If one wants to study this question, one has to gather information from random passages and references in books on other subjects, or from the unstated implications of known but unanalyzed facts.
Those who undertake such a study will discover that all the economic evils popularly ascribed to capitalism were caused, necessitated, and made possible not by private enterprise, not by free trade on a free market, but by government intervention into the economy, by government controls, favors, subsidies, franchises, and special privileges.
The villains were not the private businessmen who made fortunes by productive ability and free trade, but the bureaucrats and their friends, the men who made fortunes by political pull and government favor. Yet it is the private businessmen, the victims, who took the blame, while the bureaucrats and their intellectual spokesmen used their own guilt as an argument for the extension of their power. Those of you who have read Atlas Shrugged will recognize the difference between a businessman such as Hank Rearden, the representative of capitalism, and a businessman such as Orren Boyle, the typical product of a mixed economy. If you want an historical example, consider the career of James Jerome Hill, who built the Great Northern Railroad without a penny of federal help, who was responsible, practically single-handedly, for the development of the entire American Northwest, and who was persecuted by the government all his life, under the Sherman Act, for allegedly being a monopolist. Consider it, then compare it to the career of the famous California businessmen known as “The Big Four,” who built the Central Pacific Railroad on federal subsidies, causing disastrous consequences and dislocations in the country’s economy, and who held a thirty-year monopoly on railroad transportation in California, by means of special privileges granted by the state legislature which made it legally impossible for any competing railroad to exist in the state.
The difference between these two types of business career has never been identified in the generally accepted view of capitalism. By imperceptible degrees - first, through the default of capitalism’s alleged defenders, then through the deliberate misrepresentations and falsifications of its enemies-the gradual rewriting of our economic history has brought us to the stage where people believe that all the economic evils of the last two centuries were caused by the free-enterprise element, the so-called “private sector,” of our mixed economy, while the economic progress of these two centuries was the result of government’s actions and interventions. People are now told that America’s spectacular industrial achievements, unmatched in any period of history of in any part of the globe, were due not to the productive genius of free men, but to the special privileges handed to them by a paternalistic government. The fact that much more autocratic governments, with much wider privilege-dispensing powers and policies, did not achieve the same results anywhere else on earth is blanked out by the proponents of this theory.
The only counterpart of the theory’s grotesque inversion and monstrous injustice is the mystics’ doctrine that man must give credit to God for all his virtues, but must place the blame for all his sins upon himself. Incidentally, the philosophical motive and purpose in both these instances is the same.
If you want a contemporary demonstration of the respective merits and performances of a free economy and of a controlled economy – a demonstration that comes as close to an historical laboratory experiment as one could hope to see – take a look at the condition of West Germany and of East Germany.
No politico-economic system in history had proved its value so eloquently or had benefited mankind so greatly as capitalism – and none has ever been attacked so savagely and blindly. Why did the majority of the intellectuals turn against capitalism from the start? Why did their victims, the businessmen, bear their attacks in silence? The cause of it is that primordial evil which, to this day, men are afraid to challenge: the morality of altruism.
Altruism has been men’s ruling moral code through most of mankind’s history. It has had many forms and variations but its essence has always remained the same: altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value.
The philosophical conflict which, since the Renaissance, has been tearing Western civilization and which has reached its ultimate climax in our age is the conflict between capitalism and altruist morality. Capitalism and altruism are philosophical opposites; they cannot coexist in the same man or in the same society.
The formal code which is implicit in capitalism had never been formulated explicitly. The basic premise of that code is that man – every man – is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others, that man must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself, and that men must deal with one another as traders, by voluntary choice to mutual benefit. This, in essence, is the moral premise on which the United States of America was based: the principle of man’s right to his own life, to his own liberty, to the pursuit of his own happiness.