By Aakash Jain ’14
The Occupy Wall Street movement personifies the growing discontent of our nation with public policy.
Many of its adherents claim to be advocating against the widening gap between the rich and poor.
This certainly is a legitimate issue with hefty importance, and as Brophy “Men for Others,” it is our responsibility to seek justice and righteousness.
For the most part, the organization accurately denigrates the corrupt practices of businesses who seek to unfairly gain power through selective legislation and special government benefits.
However, most demonstrators dangerously confuse such political entrepreneurship with capitalism and incorrectly blame the free market as the cause of their concerns.
They forget that free-market capitaism does not condone, but actually vehemently opposes, federal bailouts and government-subsidized monopolies.
Somewhat paradoxically, members of this movement condemn the very system that fights for their own cause.
Instead of advocating for the reduction of government intervention in the economy, most protestors have in reality called for the exact opposite.
This fact is disappointing at the very least. In actuality, capitalism serves the protestors’ best interests, as it does for all hard-working individuals.
Simply stated, a capitalist society is one in which citizens are free to seek their own ends as they see fit, using any means feasible to the imagination, so long as property rights are respected.
There is no government regulation in the economy beyond the provision of public courts, which try and convict the initiation of involuntary transactions, such as murder or theft.
One popular argument against the free market is the idea that “the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.”
This notion derives from the fallacy that there is a fixed pie and that one man’s gain must result in another’s loss.This could not be further from the truth.
Capitalism is based on the idea that individuals willingly partake in transactions to improve their own lives in some way. Otherwise, why would they agree to the terms?
For this reason, all participating parties benefit in a voluntary transaction.
Therefore, the public wellbeing is maximized in capitalism because all voluntary transactions are legal.
Furthermore, as individuals seek their own benefit, which is their natural tendency, society as a whole is necessarily advanced.
Adam Smith famously explained this concept in “The Wealth of Nations” by writing, “Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, and he is, in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was not part of his intention.”
For example, businesses desire to maximize sales to increase profits. The only way to achieve this end is by satisfying the consumer—providing the best possible product or service at the lowest price.
The result is a system in which businesses, rewarded by consumers according to their value to society, have compelling incentives to work hard and develop innovations.
For these reasons, the general standard of living skyrockets and everyone benefits in a free economy.
Ayn Rand described the effects of the free market in “Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal” when she wrote, “America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages, and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance—and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.”
This is the authentic American dream.
A common deceptive argument against capitalism is the notion that in such a world, the sick and disabled are neglected or left behind.
To answer this question, we should ask: if not capitalism, which political system is best for the welfare of these people? Communism sure isn’t. Socialism and fascism are similarly incompetent.
Go down the list and examine each conceivable political system; capitalism is by far the most effective solution.
As previously mentioned, the free market continuously raises the general standard of living by maximizing the feasibility of any intellectual or technological advancement. For example, capitalism presents the ideal climate for innovations in prosthetics.
Any advancements in this field directly improve the lives of the handicapped and are most likely to occur in a free market, where competent service to the consumer is rewarded above any other attribute of a business.
Furthermore, such developments give the disabled the best fighting chance to gain employment.
However, sometimes even the highly productive possibilities that are unleashed in a free market are not sufficient.
In such a situation, voluntary charity is the best option to help the less fortunate. Decency and dignity are not absent in the natural state of humanity, but are rather an underlying feature.
The Occupy Wall Street movement must understand that government intervention is not the solution to all of its problems but their causing agent.
This truth alone, if utilized properly, will serve as a beacon of light to lead our nation back to a fair and prosperous society.