It has been too long since I expressed my thoughts to more than a small group of friends so I have decided to revive this blog, even if only briefly. Lately, what has been on my mind is capitalism and Ayn Rand – neither of which are very popular topics and neither of which I really should be thinking about with so many other projects to work on right now.
Lately they have become unavoidable subjects, especially capitalism. Nearly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday one of my professors finds a reason to critique capitalism and point out evidences of its “failure”. Rather predictably, he praises socialism to some extent. Though he is a kind, well intentioned man, I am becoming more and more impatient with his tangential ramblings. The overly gentle tone of his critiques reminds me too much of the repulsive characters in Atlas Shrugged. More than that, I am tired of hearing anyone call the current global economic crisis the “failure of capitalism.”
The economic state of the world is not capitalism’s failure, but our failure for allowing ourselves to be selfish, greedy and above all irresponsible. For naively believing that any economic system gave us the right to exploit the resources of the world (exploit not use), produce poor quality products and spend well beyond our means. We are all collectively guilty. I am tired of the academic community scapegoating capitalism, claiming that it enabled us and caused this.
No economic system is perfect. All systems enable human depravity. The greatest fault of capitalism is that in exchange for providing the greatest freedom for human productivity and ingenuity, it requires the most vigilance. To function healthily it requires people to constantly be responsible and humane. Consumers have to hold manufacturers accountable and the government does occasionally have to intervene but it also only needs to do so intelligently. (Meaning it should intervene to stop companies from exploiting workers or being fraudulent but bailouts may be going too far.)
To clarify, my frustration is not that capitalism is being critiqued. My frustration is with critics whom I feel are refusing to accept our responsibility for the monster that laissez faire economics breed. I believe along with Dostoevsky “that each of us is guilty before everyone…and [for] everything. I do not know how to explain it to you, but I feel it so strongly that it pains me.” Furthermore, I fear that people are searching for some perfect system, naively believing that once we discover and adopt it that we will no longer need to be constantly responsible. Instead, we will be able to be irresponsible with no consequences. Of course, they would never articulate this but I hear it in the undertones of their thought and critiques. Possibly I exaggerate too much, maybe they would be satisfied with a system that simply requires less work and in exchange offers less freedom and leaves less room for ingenuity. Both ideas horrify me.
I am fundamentally opposed to cheap/weak systems, systems that require less from us and give less to us. Systems that leave no room for true greatness or heroism, that are easy but not best. This is why I find myself refreshed reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Her protagonists have such a great capacity for greatness. I must continue these thoughts later.