Review of The Morality of Capitalism

Trying to find anyone who views capitalism in a good light is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Just today, I was listening to a scientific presentation where overweight and obesity were blamed on “hard capitalism” with the descriptor “high inequality” in parentheses. In the make-believe world of some scientists, “soft capitalism” countries (not Canada or the U.S.), otherwise known as “low inequality,” are much less toxic environments for overweight and obesity and are to be preferred in this age of the obesity epidemic. How tidy.

Also today, I was reading a blog post from a man in Arizona who came across a billboard sign that read, “We don’t have an immigration problem, we have a capitalism problem.”

And so examples of anti-capitalism rhetoric abound.

The Morality of Capitalism, edited by Mark Hendrickson and published in 1997, is a nice collection of older essays in defense of capitalism. Some of the authors were well known during their lives, including Ludwig von Mises, Hans Sennholz, and Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek. In addition to their belief in capitalism, what ties the authors together is their affiliation with the Foundation for Economic Education.

Some essays define capitalism (e.g., private ownership of the means of production) while others defend capitalism against the standard complaints of it being materialistic, founded on greed, and immoral. Some essays argue for capitalism from a Judeo-Christian perspective, others from a libertarian lens. In both cases, they argue for freedom against state involvement in the economy, which is viewed as an encroachment and detrimental to human action and liberty.

The essays offer a broad overview of capitalism and free-market economics while also critiquing socialism in its various forms. The defense of capitalism is mature and not a blind allegiance. The authors recognize that a free-market system of cooperation is not ipso facto moral. As Hayek explains, “When we defend the free enterprise system we must always remember that it deals only with means. What we make of our freedom is up to us.” (p. 73)

Perhaps the central issue that divides those who are for and against capitalism is social justice. To the authors of this book, justice is about freedom and equity, not equality. In their view, only a system of cooperation that preserves a person’s freedom to voluntarily produce what others freely want can be considered socially just. The “social justice” of socialism violates human liberty at every turn. And for all its effort, socialism doesn’t even end in equality.

So much more could be said about what is found in this book. It truly is a gold mine of intellectual ammunition in support of a system of cooperation that has brought about untold wealth and freedom in roughly 200 years for untold numbers of people and nations.

A good book for someone looking for general arguments in favor of capitalism. (This book is available for free in PDF format.)

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