The Enemies of Capitalism Aren't Just Leftists

By Gord Gekko
web posted August 1996

There is a danger today that not many people see, and it comes from what is considered an unlikely source. The object of my fear are the continual assaults against capitalism, especially by those who should know better. The enemy is not communism, socialism, or some mixture of collectivist spirit killing philosophy. The worst enemies of capitalism are conservatives.

Conservatives, while always extolling the virtues of capitalism, have always seemed to be wary of the concept of laissez-faire capitalism. While I am not sure why this is so, I believe that it has something to do with the fact that they cannot control the forces of a truly free market place. Liberal economists like to believe that government intervention creates more choices for the public and I suppose that conservatives do not like to argue the point either way. Better to maintain some control so some conservatives can claim how free they are making everyone.

While the enemies of capitalism like to paint conservatives as rabid capitalism, what most conservatives are supporting is a mixed economy. One where some governmental control of the economy exists and social programs are used to make sure that people are artificially kept in a lifestyle that they may not be able to create for themselves.

This is a betrayal of conservatism. Socialists like to point out that capitalism is a failure without realizing that the closest the world has ever come to true capitalism ended in the late 1800’s in the United States. When anti-trust acts were passed in the United States (specifically the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 and the Sherman Act of 1890), real capitalism was effectively deceased. It is interesting to note that some businessmen, mostly those who were failing due to their own poor performance, pressed for this government intervention. A mixed economy, such as what we have in Canada, is not capitalism.

Why have conservatives betrayed the fundamental belief that a person should live by their abilities and not off the efforts of the producers? I think it starts with the attempt to justify capitalism to liberals and leftists. In their effort to show that they too care about people, capitalism’s defenders warp their beliefs to try to show that capitalism does do the most public good. They are not wrong. One of capitalism’s side benefits is that it does do plenty of good for society. What remains to be answered though, is what public? who’s good?

The moment that a conservative supports government intervention in the economy, they abdicate their belief in the individual. Stating it clearly, Ayn Rand wrote, "Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion." (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal). By supporting any government intervention, whether the fixing of interest rates, providing entitlements, buying or selling of currencies, or subsidizing businesses or entire industries, conservatives are actually supporting the aims of the enemies of capitalism. We lose the war before we have even begun to fight.

Conservatives must understand that capitalism is the only economic system that rewards individuals of intellect and action. Capitalism’s only raison d’être is to provide people with unfettered access to the marketplace. Capitalism is the free trade between individuals. Each has something that the other values. By allowing the government to interfere in that free trade, we destroy the very reason why capitalism is so beautiful. It is a pure system that gives individuals the freedom to be their best, if they choose to take the risk.

The choice is clear. Either you support freedom with laissez-faire capitalism, or you support a statist/collectivist ideology that believes in taking the production of a person and place it out of their control. Your choice is freedom or slowly encroaching slavery. If you think that I am exaggerating then I suggest that you open up a few history books and read up on the past.

That brings me to the current political situation. Here in Canada we are effectively stopped from rescuing capitalism because of a federal government that is run by a political party that would not hesitate to raise taxes if they thought they could get away with it. The harmonization plans for the GST are designed to expand the tax to cover more consumer goods bringing in a lot more revenue for Chretien to spend on idiotic schemes to create jobs and jump start the economy. The Progressive Conservatives are no different considering their recent past and the fact that leader Jean X is a known ‘red’ Tory.

The danger to the United States is just as great. Clinton has raised taxes and if elected will raise taxes again. He is a known quantity. What should worry conservatives is Bob Dole. If his tenure in the Senate is remembered for anything, it should be that Dole has shepherded a lot of tax increases. If elected president, Dole will increase taxes again. In the United States, as in Canada, there are no leaders of laissez-faire capitalism. Republicans looked at Phil Gramm and Steve Forbes and decided that mediocrity was better.

As conservatives, we must hold the leaders of the movement accountable. We have to make sure that they do not increase taxes, and to go one logical step further, that they start to dismantle the social systems that burden us and start to decrease taxation to give people back their freedom. We must also start educating the public that the capitalist system does not exist to give them something that they cannot earn, but that it is a purely free system that rewards the men and women of initiative, that it provides true freedom of action, and that it is freedom personified.

Frankly, I doubt this little essay will convince anyone who already believes that government intervention, to some degree, is not that harmful. While unfortunate, I would like you to at least do one thing. Sit down and think about the political system that you would like to have. If you are at least sane, you would want a free society, where individual liberties are respected. You would want a society that upholds the good. You would want a consistent society. When you are finished doing this, ask yourself why the economy does not do the same. Why you are not allowed to be totally free in economic terms, why decisions have already been made for you. Maybe it is time that you start thinking that freedom is not merely limited to being able to write a letter to the editor without fear of reprisal.

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