TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Video Short Shows Dismal Reality of Life Without Capitalism

The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) is asking those who think life would be better without capitalism to think again. Their newly released short, “It’s A Wonderful Life! (with Capitalism),” features an anti-capitalist protester who, after excitedly uttering the words “Life would be so great without capitalism,” is knocked unconscious by an overzealous, sign-wielding companion and catapulted into a Soviet-style alternate reality.

There, guided by a capitalist pixie (or perhaps “pig”sie?), he sees first-hand that all of the values he cherishes in capitalist America, from his hair gel to his coffee to his Microsoft Xbox, are conspicuously absent in the dismal socialist world. He also sees first-hand the force that’s required to maintain a statist regime—when he tries to protest his condition, he is met with a baton-brandishing police officer who sends him back to the real world, where he happily tears his sign and starts cheering for capitalism.

The short is, of course, a play on the Christmas Eve classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, in which James Stewart’s character, George Bailey, wishes he had never been born and, briefly, gets his wish. The TFAS short departs from the film in this regard: By depicting a world that still has some left-over trappings of capitalism (e.g., refrigerators, indoor plumbing), it neglects to show how bad things would be in a world into which capitalism had never been born.

In less than seven minutes, “It’s A Wonderful Life! (with Capitalism)” does a brilliant job of concretizing the evils of statism. A short video, of course, is limited in what it can accomplish, and this one does not offer a moral defense of capitalism. Those who are seeking more can do no better than to read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which, in the course of a riveting mystery, presents a full moral defense of capitalism while showing a world in which capitalism is crumbling.

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Image: The Fund for American Studies

Posted in: Individual Rights and Law

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Martin Lundqvist

    That’s a good short! Thanks for making us aware of it!

  • Gyro

    There are three things that this video gives capitalism credit for, science, human rights, and abundance of goods. However since capitalism predates these things by such a long period, the question comes ‘if these things are such natural extensions of capitalism, why did it take literally millennia before anyone thought of these other two things?’

    First this video gives capitalism credit for human rights. If this were true, human rights would have been accredited to 11th century Italian bankers, or first century Roman tradesmen, or perhaps to Summerian merchants. Capitalism goes back just that far.

    If human rights were such a natural extension of capitalism the question comes “Why did it take humanity THOUSANDS OF YEARS” to make that connection? The obvious answer is that human rights came from somewhere else or from such a long sequence of events that pointing to capitalism as the primary source is silly (One may as well argue The invention of pottery as the source of these ideas). The other historical problem is that capitalism can, and has for centuries existed perfectly happily in societies absent of human rights. Slavery, it wasn’t just an atrocity, it was also a business.

    Clay pots have similarly thrived in societies absent of human rights. I do not deny the invention of clay pottery to be an advance of human society (an incredibly important one), however I do not give the inventors of the things credit for human rights, the line of causation is too long.

    Secondly, and more problematically, it also gives capitalism credit for scientific progress. I enjoy how his world without capitalism technologically jumps backward to the arbitrary level of the 1960’s. It would straw-man the maker of the video to demand why he thinks the trains could have been developed without capitalism but not computers, I sincerely don’t think the maker thought that much about it, which is the issue. This has the same problem as above, “Science” as we know it has only existed for about three centuries, but capitalism has existed for millennia. Capitalism was not invented in the 1960’s as a direct opposition to the evils of communism as this video implies with its view of technological progress.

    Same question as above, if capitalism breeds scientific progress, why was science such a late comer to civilization if capitalism is literally as old as money?

    Our current abundance is also very recent, again while capitalism is amazingly old. Same question, why did it take 4000 years for capitalism to bring us abundance? Could it have to do with abundance having other more immediate causes?

    I imagine what advice the video maker would give to a society that doesn’t use money. It seems strange to look at this society and say “take our words for it, once you get this capitalism thing, in a few thousand years things will work out just dandy!”.

  • Doug

    Your entire argument is based on the false notion that capitalism is synonymous with monetized trade. But capitalism is a socio-economic system based on private property and the separation of government and economy, so is a relatively new phenomenon in human history (on a broad scale).

    I haven’t seen the video, but it seems odd that it would credit capitalism with “creating” “human rights” and science as such. Capitalism requires the recognition of individual rights in order to function, so it obviously did not “create” rights.

    Capitalism makes the widespread application of scientific ideas possible, but this also presupposes the existence of scientific discovery. The common denominator is that both capitalism and science require freedom of thought, but that does not mean capitalism “created” science. You could say it allowed it to thrive.