WHAT WE BELIEVE IN

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I am a capitalist.

If you are a liberated person, you are a capitalist. If your nation is liberated, it is a capitalist nation. If you are fighting for individual freedom, in any corner of this globe, you are by extension also fighting for capitalism, because there cannot be freedom without capitalism. Individual freedom has illuminated our human existence. There has never been a force for good in this world as powerful, or as important. Consider the painting that moved you to tears, the composition that catalyzed your philosophical awakening, the computer — lightning in a bottle! Behind every work of genius is a free mind, a single man or woman who laid their hands to the world and shaped it into something new. But today capitalism is at risk, and with it the progressive potential of the human race.

Since the Industrial Revolution proponents of capitalism have ceded intellectual ground to ideological cancers ranging from the confused to the nihilistic. The nature of capitalism has been challenged. The fruits of capitalism have been challenged. Today even the definition of the word — capitalism — is challenged. The failure of the capitalist to defend his position has been so complete as to corrode even the thinking of our own. Many who defend capitalism today now freely accept, and even drive forward, the utterly absurd, demonstrably false notion that the free nations of Europe are no longer capitalist. Many argue similarly ignorant positions concerning the injection of some additional “empathy” into capitalism, as if it were a way of life, and “new kinds of capitalism,” as if man’s right to freedom came in numerous varieties as apples at the grocer. The future of our free people has never been so precarious, but our contemporary tragedy is this: we are not staring at liberty’s collapse in popularity because slavery is a new and compelling idea. Every philosophical threat the free world faces can be ascribed to a failure on the part of capitalists to make their case for freedom — a failure to fight. I believe freedom is worth fighting for, and that we must.

Language is our first and most important front. The capitalist has truth in his favor. The arguments for freedom are strong, persuasive, and, when left to choose, the great majority choose liberty. To counter this basic human impulse — with well-meaning intentions or not, it is difficult to know — many now work to redefine the words we use to learn about the world and how it functions. The effect of such labor has made it almost impossible to truthfully navigate political philosophy at scale. Ceding terms, to any degree, must no longer be tolerated.

The definition of capitalism is, and has been from its inception some close version of, “an economic system in which trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit.” On top of this system, Americans, and many others, have created different kinds of governments. But capitalism is not itself a kind of government. Capitalism is neither concerned with class nor economic outcome. It is not an argument on behalf of the wealthy. It is not an argument for some manner in which we may or should compete, and it is not an argument for moral goodness of material acquisition. Capitalism is not an indictment of the poor, or the state, or God. Capitalism is agnostic on everything but this single point: what the individual produces, the individual owns. In this way, capitalism does not merely acknowledge a human right, but is itself the acknowledgment of the human right to own property. This right to property acknowledged is the system. Where property is owned, property can be traded. This is most commonly observed in the case of labor, the fruits of which can be, and often are, traded for money. The rights to our time, to the product of our labor, and to association — our freedom to trade with whomever we want, on whatever grounds we choose — we call liberty. One can argue against capitalism, and there are rational arguments against it, however so immoral. But one cannot deny the definition of capitalism, one cannot deny its explicit agency in human freedom, and one must never entertain the twisting of such definitions.

With the link between capitalism and freedom here re-established, let us consider freedom. Too often it has been assumed the nature of freedom obvious. For this, I hope, the American may be excused, as our founding fathers did instruct us in the folly from the start: “we hold these truths to be self-evident.” It unfortunately appears they were not. Despite the genius of our government at founding, the architects of America left us vulnerable, and not to despotic kings abroad. We are vulnerable to our own wandering minds, and to the few among us who would take advantage of this lapse in self-regard. It is absolutely essential we recover this philosophical ground: man’s right to freedom is inalienable because it is innate. Freedom is natural.

Freedom exists in a vacuum. There are no material or productive requirements for freedom, and while it is possible for elections to exist in a free state, elections do not create freedom. To a free people some form of government is advisable, as government has proven our most effective defense of liberty. But liberty absolutely precedes government. Freedom emerges immediately, from humanity’s first principle: the individual. A man alone in a forest is free. He can speak and move and work, and what he creates he controls. He may be lonely, but it cannot be denied the decisions he makes, for better outcome or for worse, are his own. Freedom may then thrive in a pair where both parties acknowledge such freedom exists, and here again with no property, maintenance, nor outside force required to sustain it. Freedom may exist in a small group, in a large group, on an island, on a continent. The free man’s life may be threatened, and in fact all of our lives are threatened — always — by nature. But his freedom is not applied. His freedom may be subverted, suppressed, or forgotten, but it is a part of him as his own mind. Freedom is in fact the philosophical incarnation of the mind — an abstract mirror of that thing called self with which we are most intimately acquainted. A state of freedom is, as breathing oxygen, the natural condition of the human being.

As freedom is natural, the burden of proof for arguments pertaining to its necessary restriction belongs to those who would restrict it, and there are indeed questions pertaining to the nature of freedom that are made in good faith: does total human freedom lead to chaos? If so, would such chaos make irrelevant the individual’s freedom? What possible good could be liberty, after all, were one a citizen of hell? From such questions have emerged a theory of protecting liberty grounded in a social contract principally concerning force. As the free man must also acknowledge the freedom of others in order for a free world to function, and as there have always, and will likely always be, some men who would violently subvert such freedom for any number of immoral reasons, the institution of a liberal government was established. The purpose of a liberal government is the monopolization of force, and the application of that force in the service of protecting individual liberty. The force our government is permitted to apply in the service of protecting individual liberty is determined by law, and in the United States of America this law is designed in the freest manner our founders could imagine: democratically, with a vital check. No law shall be passed that subverts the natural law — individual freedom. There are several examples of such delicate machinations in service of liberty, in my opinion none so elegant, so historically significant, as the U.S. Constitution.

But long before the first European settlers of the American continents had even dreamt so bold a thing as the historic journey across the Atlantic Ocean, the effects of freedom could be felt by humanity. Indeed, such liberty enabled exploration. As long as there have been governments there have been restrictions on freedom to varying degree, but in Europe the right to freedom was first named, and first protected. So it was in Europe that humanity came of age. From Europe, the seeds of America, and the western world began its rapid transformation from an agrarian race to a spacefaring civilization. Today, every nation in the western world is a capitalist nation. In each, rights to property and exchange of property are acknowledged, and personal property is protected. The liberal tradition of European government precipitated the greatest boon to creative output in history, and a centuries-long, exponentially-accelerating prosperity — measured empirically in GDP per capita, and in the literal, mathematical sense of the word “exponential.” From the Renaissance to the Reformation to the Enlightenment, free people designed the engine of human civilization, and we are moving towards something spectacular.

Spanning the cultural gamut from Christ’s prayer for heaven on Earth to the utopian lore of San Francisco transhumanists, and the technological quest for a world post-scarcity, the common goal of free people has been clear for thousands of years: we are here to perfect this world, and through this work ourselves. Push further: we are here to build a high-energy civilization, to master the mechanics of our reality and to prevent the expiration of our universe. Free people will complete our centuries-long march toward the eradication of hunger, disease, and poverty. We will eliminate the material preconditions of creativity, and we will build a world where that which you can build is limited only by the bounds of your imagination. There will be knowledge for every man who seeks it, and the ability to become whatever we want. The mind of the human being is a miracle, and from it our dreams have ever preceded our destiny. But the material realization of our dreams cannot be accomplished without our freedom to material, nor our freedom to shape material.

With freedom, and from the freest nations in history, every step of this world’s technological, scientific, and cultural advance has been taken. Such steps have been taken for many reasons, profit, idealism, and self-preservation among them. The contributions here of private industry are obvious, and woven into almost every aspect of the modern world: the computer I’m writing from, on top of the desk I’m sitting at, beside stacks of books edited and bound by New York City publishers, beneath Edison’s electric light, while clothed, bathed, and nourished by medicines and products invented first and then delivered all for profit. These contributions of private industry are impossible to deny but by the most ideologically corrupt. However, many honest people continue to lose themselves in an argument concerning government’s role in materially improving the world. The answer here is obvious. The ability of any government of course depends on its kind. There are many. Who could deny the profound importance of the American moon landing, or splitting the atom? These are accomplishments of free people in a free nation of property, association, and trade. And the context in which these noble projects, these absolutely historical achievements, were managed? America, a free nation, was fighting for its life — for freedom.

There are many false motivations ascribed to the champion of capitalism in bad faith, and it is important one not spend his life combatting dishonesty. There are too many good people with real questions with whom we must engage. So let us state plainly here our true motivation in defending so great a revelation as the goodness of property and rights, that we may point to it forever:

I am a capitalist because capitalism is essential to freedom. I am a free man, I intend to remain a free man, and for his freedom there must never be equivocation — the free man fights.

-SOLANA


WHAT WE BELIEVE IN was originally published in The Mission on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Author: Michael Solana