Capitalism’s Persuasion Problem

Fact: in politics, rhetoric is more persuasive than truth. I know you know this already.

This fact is especially troubling for Libertarians and other political groups that favor free market Capitalism because understanding the benefits of the free market takes time and effort.

Capitalism is often counterintuitive, it requires blind faith in the capabilities of mankind, it goes against desirable and emotionally satisfying worldviews, and it admits tough and sometimes undesirable realities.

Convincing people to vote for laissez faire policies and politicians is an uphill climb. To demonstrate, here is a list of premises one must probably concur with to view Capitalism in a positive light. I will present each premise somewhat cynically in order to demonstrate how negatively they are subject to being perceived.

  1. Invisible Hand/Spontaneous Order-There is no plan. You just have to wait. Things will work themselves out.
  2. Innovation-There is no need to commission an agency as a public good to solve problems. People will just do it. Don’t let your lack of imagination hinder the imaginations of others.
  3. Market Forces– There is no need to dictate which businesses should survive and which should fail. The best ones will survive, and the worst ones will fail. It’ll just happen eventually.
  4. Winners and Losers– Some people will succeed, and others will fail. It’s a competition like any other.
  5. Equality is Useless– We’re not going to be equal. Stop looking in your neighbor’s bowl, and start filling yours.
  6. Competition is Good– We shouldn’t play nice. We should battle each other for customers and resources.
  7. You Might Lose Your Job– The economy will shift from time to time. That means you might have to shift too. Keeping you permanently employed holds everyone back.
  8. Risk is Good– You are not safe, and you should never feel comfortable. It is vital that you are at risk to become impoverished or die.
  9. No Free Lunches- If you received something at no cost to yourself, and it was not given to you directly and voluntarily, you are complicit in thievery. You either earn or steal.
  10. Your Help Hurts-Whenever you try to create a system to take care of people, you wind up weakening them. Your systems cause immaturity, idiocy, and perversion.
  11. Greed is Good- Individuals wanting more for themselves and being allowed to pursue their desires is the only way to create wealth sustainably. The desire for material goods and security drives improvements in the populace’s quality of life, not compassion.
  12. Rich People Should Keep Their Money- Being mean to rich people hurts poor people. Being nice to them makes everyone richer.
  13. The Rich Contribute the Most- The reason rich people have money is because they add the most value to the most people’s lives. If you wind up with a lot, you’ve brought about a lot of satisfaction. If you wind up with nothing, you haven’t satisfied anyone.
  14. Sentimental Value Doesn’t Pay the Bills-It doesn’t matter how much you care about something. If it’s only value is sentiment, it will only provide you with a wealth of emotion. You need to add monetary value to incur money.
  15. Sharing is Bad- We shouldn’t share public goods or property. Private ownership is the only way.
  16. We Should Change the Environment- The environment is a violent and murderous villain. We have to alter and rearrange it to better suite ourselves.
  17. There is No Social Justice-Populations will never mirror each other. There is no reason for racial, gender, or random groups to be represented equally or to share equal outcomes.
  18. It’s Your Fault-You are going to make mistakes and miss opportunities. There is no one to blame for this but you. Find a mirror.
  19. Not Everyone Agrees with You-Unless other people like your ideas, they are not going to work out. You have to satisfy or create demand, not dictate it.
  20. The World is an Imperfect Place-Some people will work really hard, play by all the rules, and fail. And that’s that.

Juxtapose this to a Socialist like Bernie Sanders saying we can have free healthcare, education, and social security paid for by greedy, evil rich people. Who is generally going to win the crowd’s favor in that debate?

The irony is that the honesty free marketers value so highly is the very thing that holds us back. If we were comfortable lying like Socialists, we’d be violating our principles. Maintaining the principle of honesty and persuading the masses are generally mutually exclusive.

In my next post, I will try to explain these premises in a more convincing and lighthearted manner while also being perfectly honest. I believe this is necessary if we ever want our movement to grow and appeal to a larger audience.

Capitalism’s Persuasion Problem

3 thoughts on “Capitalism’s Persuasion Problem

  1. James says:

    Hi Glen,

    Nice post and I agree with many of the premises you outlined. I especially like your comment on how many of these premises go against an “emotionally satisfying worldview”. Many people will cringe at the idea that ‘greed is good’ because that concept doesn’t feel good and is quite unpopular.

    However, I do think two of the premises are problematic. The first one – invisible hand – things will work themselves out, though not necessarily in a manner that is beneficial the the majority of humanity. It could work themselves out in a manner such that more and more wealth is accumulated in the hands of a few at the expense of the majority. This is where a government ideally could attempt to steer things in a direction that is beneficial for a greater swath of the population.

    And second, the idea that the environment needs to be changed will not go over well with a lot of people. Yes, I understand man has been able to shape the natural world in ways that have been incredibly beneficial. But the National and State Parks, Forests, preserves, etc., are areas where nature is largely unchanged. These areas are incredibly valuable and cherished and would not exist under a laissez-faire system. The preserves that exist around the world were created by governments, bring in incredible amounts of revenue from on tourism, and are ‘bucket list’ places to visit for many people. Think Great Barrier Reef, animal parks in southern and Eastern Africa, and all the parks in North America.


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