Transaltion from my article originally posted in SFL Barcelona: ¿Quién es el enemigo?
The multitude of tragedies that Spaniards and the rest of the world, have suffered since the beginning of the crisis, inevitably leads us to question; Why? How did we get here?
The massive contraction of our welfare in recent years, has not been a result of any natural disaster; earthquakes, wars and so on. Thus,the only ones left to blame are ourselves, human beings, ultimately responsible for our present circumstances.
Following this line, general thought usually attributes most, if not all, blame to Capitalism. That is, the system of coexistence and interaction that humans have developed. It is understood that a greater or lesser extent, Western economies are “capitalist”. No need to look any further therefore. Capitalism has brought us to where we are. Or has it?
If we want to analyze the presence of Capitalism in our society, we must first define what Capitalism is.
Capitalism is a system of social interactions based on respect for freedom and private property.
By freedom, we mean that an individual is free to act in pursuit of their interests without any external force, individual or state, stopping them forcibly. Negative freedom, or negative right is understood as the absence of coercion.
Quoting the famous philosopher Hobbes:
Freedom means, properly, no opposition; by opposition, I mean external impediments of motion (…) A free man is he who, in those things he can do under his own strength and ingenuity, may not be hindered in carrying out what he desires.
The defense of private property is also an imperative because it allows us to trace the limits of freedom of each person. That is, you have no freedom to make use of the property of others, and in the same way, you have the freedom to use and enjoy your property.
Thus, liberty and property, are the pilars on which capitalism rests. The intention of this system is to minimize conflicts between individuals or groups, to maintain and promote peace above all. After all, we can all agree that it will be in a peaceful and secure world where we can reach the highest level of prosperity through full human collaboration.
Capitalism, in my opinion is nothing more than that.
However, you can not deny that the term capitalism, or capitalist, is used more often than not in a derogatory manner and with negative connotations.
It is understood that capitalism is the selfishness of humans. It is understood that in a free world where everyone acts on their own accord, we can expect the worst of human beings. Greed and the pursuit of power will leave the weakest unaided. The impoverishment of all at the expense of a few powerful.
When people criticize capitalism, they are really reproaching a trait of human nature.
Obviously, these people understand that men are evil by nature, and that an external force, limiting our freedom is necessary to promote actions which are “socially” desirable.
To give some examples: When a company has to cut his workforce; blame “Capitalism”. When salaries are “low”;blame “Capitalism”. When a local store is displaced by a multinational; blame “Capitalism”.
As I said, what is condemned is not the system itself, but certain specific actions that we consider “evil”. Obviously, all this is the fault of capitalism, ie, excessive freedom to act. Thus, we must inevatibly call upon the state to draw the sword of intervention and regulation, namely, replacing voluntary interaction with an imposed system under the threat of coercion.
But we must understand that this way of thinking, and acting, is both immoral and ineffective.
Immoral because its is censoring peoples actions. Because it limits our freedom in a way that is not permissible. Opposition or prohibition using the coercive power of the state against actions that do not harm third parties directly.
It is highly incongruous that so many people, especially the young, support a shift towards a world with more “social” freedoms, while allowing that “economic” freedoms get trampled on by governments. Today, it is well understood that a person should be free to decide who he/she gets married to, or that he/she should be free to intake whatever substances ho so wishes.
However, if we use the examples above, people have no problem with the state coercively prohibiting certain actions. For example, to prevent a firm from carrying out many layoffs. Or when establishing a minimum wage. No one stops to think that, regardless of its effectiveness, voluntary actions between people should not be interfered with. Offering a job to anyone for any salary, is not illegal. Few people seem to appreciate that the only thing that the employer is doing is offering a possibility to people. He is not forcing anyone to do anything, or depriving anyone of anything rightfully theirs, let alone a higher salary. He is simply aiming to create a mutually beneficial relationship. It is worth emphasizing this point. The decisions and actions we take in a state of freedom, ie, voluntarily, are by definition beneficial. Why allow the state to censure mutually beneficial relationships?
The employer who makes dismissals, is also in his own right. Again, we understand that the employer is offering a possibility, and therefore, you are not taking from the worker any more than what he has been given. The worker has no “right” to keep a job, beyond agreed in the contract that both parties have signed voluntarily. Forcing employers to maintain the relationship in case of dismissal, is equivalent to forcing the worker to engage in the relationship at the time of hiring. In essence, both are forms of slavery.
So, it should be absolutely out of the state’s domain to intervene in my business plan, as it is for the State to prevent same sex marriages
Therefore it is inconsistent to believe in “social” freedoms and not in “economic” ones. They can not be separated. Freedom is just that, freedom. The form it takes and how we categorize human action is irrelevant. Human action is always human action. The moral and legal burden of censorship is always the same.
And with that, I get to my second point. This thinking leads us inevitably to want to intervene in the affairs of people, which is both immoral and ineffective.
Ineffective in what sense? Well, when it comes to advancing the cause of humanity. When it comes to bringing about our true desires and intentions. All this is achieved by the free market, not intervention.
Precisely, referring to all the “vices” of capitalism, citizens justify government intervention. While accepting that capitalism means freedom and allowing each one to act on his own accord, it is understood that what occurs as a result of this voluntary interactions is not “socially” desirable. Again, I refer to the “paradox of socialism.” For some reason, the Socialists think that acting freely humans do not achieve “socially” desirable goals. They are not aware that precisely what is socially desirable is defined a posteriori, as the result of our actions, the manifestation of our desires. I condemn anyne who claims to know what the preferences of “society” are.
We believe that democratic rule is needed to control the market. We do not realize that the power to determine the market in all its dimensions has always been in our hands. It is not the ballot we throw in the polls, but the currency we carry in our pocket. As consumers we shape the market to our true preferences. It is precisely like this that we ensure that companies behave “correctly”. Through this proccess we coordinate our desires with our projects, and therefore, we achieve the needs and aims of society, that is, the consumer.
Returning again to the examples raised earlier; when a company fires someone, we can be sure that this is undesirable, for some, but this is far from saying that is socially undesirable. If layoffs are coming from a correct judgment, the manager will be acting in benefit of society. Do not think that the employer simply lays off people to increase profits, that’s just the result of the will of the market. What we have seen is that the market has changed its preferences. Maybe we do not want as much production of good A, and we want more of B. It is only natural that fewer people work in A, and mre in B. This transition can only be achieved by having a proper market and a price system.
The truth is that, contrary to what many people think, is not that companies will not”benefit” by laying off workers. On the contrary. Companies benefit and grow by hiring workers. If staff cuts are required it is due to a lack of demand, competitive pressures or a neccesity to reduce costs. But these actions are always in response to, and in benefit of consumers.
Likewise, we overlook that as consumers, we benefit from lower wages. In a competitive market, this will always mean lower prices. More affordable goods. It is also wrong to think that workers are being “exploited”. You cannot define voluntary decisions as exploitation. It is often argued that the worker does not act freely, because he is under pressure to earn a salary in order to subsist, making him weak. But this is a human condition that has existed since our origins. Our ancestors were also forced to work, hunting and so on, to survive, but noone would say they were being “exploited by nature.”
And on the subject of multinationals, it is clear that the voter is not the same as the consumer. Actions do speak louder than words. While people may say we should buy local products, as consumers, they show that this is not what they in fact value, since they have stopped shoping locally. Again, what should we understand by social preferences, what voters and politicians say or what they do with their money as consumers? For me the answer is clear.
But the problem is even more serious. Far from seeing government intervention as an implementation of what is “socially” desirable, we must understand that this is nothing but an indiscreet abuse of power by governments and powerful elites. Power corrupts, and it is inevitable that its accumulation in the hands of a few, will create corruption. While our benevolent conception of the role of government persists, we will be exposed to the instrumentalization of power. We can not prevent politicians from using their power for personal gain. We can not prevent businesses and governments from profiting at the expense of others. By limiting competition with regulation. Or by passing laws to the detriment of consumers. It is not corruption, but a systematic abuse of power. The institutions of lobbies are living proof of it. It is more than known that members of “regulatory” agencies are comprised of participants from the same industry. It is well known that parties receive “donations” from the largest companies, so that their interests, not those of “society”, will be represented and defended making use of state power.
If we put power for sale, what can we expect?
It will inevitably become a tool of the powerful. This is precisely how society is divided.
The problem is not capitalism, which distinguishes between rich and poor, but statism that distinguishes between those who act under the law, and those who control, and therefore are above it. This is how, as consumers, we lose our position os sovereigns of the market. The company stops livinng to serve consumer desires, and begins to mobilize its resources to defend its interests politically. This means acting outside the law, it means playing by other rules, it means bribery, favoritism, cronyism, it means profiting not for the benefit of others, but at their expense. It means, in short, a complete corruption of the free market nad the wealth generating process.
You might think that I will conclude this article by saying that the State is to blame for all this. That it is the actions of corrupt politicians and their coates, powerful companies, but no. To say this would be to err just as socialists err when blaming the entrepreneur who fires people. It would be to analyze the symptoms, but not the disease.
In this case, the real disease, is our own liberticidal thinking. For it is us, who empower governments. We are victims of our own fear, which makes us believe that without the protective arm of the State we will not be safe. It is us, who allow them to rob us of our freedoms and and trample on our rights.
Look no further, thhe real enemy, is ourselves.