TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

The Fruits of Capitalism Are All Around Us

These are shocking statistics: Among Americans ages 18–29, people tend to have a negative view of capitalism and a positive view of socialism.

As Pew reported in 2011, people in this age group saw capitalism negatively by a margin of 47 to 46 percent, and they saw socialism positively by a margin of 49 to 43 percent. This is despite the fact that, to the degree governments have allowed it to exist, capitalism has brought the people of the civilized world vastly more wealth and vastly better and longer life—and despite the fact that socialist governments have slaughtered scores of millions of people.

Overall, people saw capitalism positively only by a margin of 50 to 40 percent. Why does the greatest force for human advancement in the history of the world get such mixed marks among its beneficiaries?

Today many people confuse capitalism with the cronyism of bank bailouts, corporate welfare, and special government privileges forcibly limiting competition. But such schemes are utterly contrary to capitalism, and it is illogical and unjust to blame capitalism for programs it explicitly opposes. Capitalism is the political-economic system of individual rights and free markets. Under capitalism, government protects individuals’ rights to control their own property and interact with others voluntarily. Capitalism forbids fraud, theft, government bailouts, and force of every kind.

When people think of capitalism, they should not think of bank bailouts or the like; rather, they should think of the relatively free aspects of our society and markets, such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the relative freedom of the computer industry that has brought us such wonders as remarkably inexpensive yet high-quality laptops, Androids, and iPhones.

Another illustrative example is the modern grocery store. Although the government interferes with the operation of such stores in myriad ways ranging from wage controls to taxation to antitrust actions to food subsidies, in large part grocery stores operate freely, in accordance with the best judgment of their owners and managers. The result is that anyone in the civilized world can quickly and easily purchase goods—including myriad varieties of fresh produce—imported from around the world.

My grandmother, who early in life did not have electricity or even indoor plumbing, spoke of getting an orange for Christmas, and of that being such a delightful treat. Fresh oranges were so rare in those days that they were once-a-year splurges for many families. Today most people take for granted our ability to purchase once-exotic foods from around the world as well as from nearby farms—not only oranges but kiwis, pineapples, pomegranates, coffee and tea in endless varieties, leafy greens, various grains and seeds including quinoa and buckwheat, many types of peppers, many types of meats, various cheeses, and on and on.

The American grocery store even helped bring down Soviet Communism, as Chris Anderson relates in his book The Long Tail. While visiting the United States, some 50,000 Soviet citizens witnessed, firsthand, American abundance. After visiting a Houston supermarket, Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia, said:

When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons, and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people. That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it.

It is also terrible to think of an America following the same socialist path to ruin.

To damn capitalism is to damn prosperity, abundance, and, ultimately, life itself. If you want to know what capitalism has done for you lately, take a walk to the nearest grocery store, and open your eyes.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Individual Rights and Law

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • John Shepard


  • Joseph Kellard

    When I was a teen or 20-something working at a supermarket on Long Island, before the Berlin Wall came down, there was an older woman that shopped there regularly who had left her native Yugoslavia, which was still under communists/Soviet rule. She once said to me (I’m paraphrasing): “In my country, you are lucky if you can find a small shop with some food; here in America you have supermarkets for toys.” She said this, not as a criticism, but with praise. Her comment always stuck with me, and helped me recognize how fortunate I’d felt to be born in America.

  • Anonymous

    If the abundance of capitalism is known to people, as stated in this posting, why don’t they more clearly approve of the corrupt mixed economy which they think is responsible for it, over more purely statist regimes where such abundance doesn’t exist? Then, when they come to see that this corrupt system is actually retarding the abundance of capitalism which would come out full bloom without the corruption, they’d fully and clearly approve of capitalism, unless they let altruism keep them from approving of it. Mike Kevitt

  • David Blankenau

    You pretty much answered your own question when you mentioned the word ALTRUISM. Everybody knows the economic benefits, but most people STILL feel that something is wrong with Capitalism. Their inverted morality tells them that it is immoral to be self-interested, whenever there is even ONE other person “in need”. So they must sacrifice their values to help the “needy”. If they don’t, then guilt sets in and they denounce self-interest even more. Can you envision capitalism surviving in this environment? It’s no surprise we’re in such a mess, both economically AND morally.

  • Anonymous

    No. I can’t envision capitalism surviving in this environment. We’ve all only seen it keep getting more obliterated, instead. It’s no surprise we’re in such a mess, both economically and morally. I WAS answering my own question when I mentioned altruism. Altruism is the reason why, and I was just supposing the obvious, that altruism IS the reason. Mike Kevitt