Ayn Rand is a literary legend and a defender of individual liberty. Many know of her from one of her other books, Atlas Shrugged.
In Capitalism, she reminded me that capitalism as we know it is a new idea. Capitalism requires that you and I can own something. It means we can use our minds and our physical labor to produce something nobody can take away from us. If we own something, we can consume it, sell it or trade it for what we need to survive.
This is when man is free.
Oddly enough, there was a time not too long ago when we could not own anything and we have forgotten that.
If you think back to feudal times with Kings, Lords, Monarchs, Dynasties and Shoguns, peasants like us simply worked land owned by the King to produce crops or raise cattle that were owned by the King. The wheat and milk produced by our labors were also, owned by the King. The buckets the milk was carried in, the scythes the wheat was cut with, were owned by the King. The house we peasants lived in and the plates we ate off of, were all owned by the King.
There was no private property. You too, were owned by the King. In return, the King provided protection from invasion and he allowed you to consume a little of what you farmed to survive.
That was the deal. It was that way for thousands of years.
With the birth of the concept known as “private property” which we take for granted today, came the birth of capitalism. In order for a man to survive, he must be able to produce a product that he owns and that he is free to consume himself or trade or sell to another for what he needs, or wants.
The idea Ayn Rand wants us to understand is that capitalism is not an economic or political concept, it is a moral one. She believes, and I agree, that “moral capitalism” is what keeps men free. The ability to survive through one’s own mind and labor to produce something is what gives us complete freedom and control over our own lives.
When each of us is in complete control and ownership of all of that we produce, we are free to engage in transactions, or not, with each other. It is the purest form of freedom.
Her fear in Capitalism, is that we have lost our way. That this “moral capitalism” has been co-opted by our politicians into a “political capitalism” that has simply transferred the ownership of the production of our labor from a King to “Society.”
In other words, we are still not free as long as the product of our labor can be taken from us and redistributed by our politicians under the guise of being “for the public good” or for “the benefit of society.”
This is simply a way to make us slaves not to a King, but to Society as a whole, where Society has a claim, that we never agreed to, on our hard work where a King used to. Where what we produce is not ours, and that others decide what amount can be taken from us and who will receive it. This is not very different from when Kings owned everything and took what they wanted from us, “for the benefit of the realm.”
Why did we let this happen?
She cites the enemy of capitalism as altruism. Not in the individuals desire to be altruistic, but in the government’s demands on its citizens to require them to surrender a portion of their hard work over to the state, all under the premise of “altruism” for the benefit of society. The “realm” is now called “society.”
She is correct, and we have lost our way. She saw the path we were on even when this book was originally written in 1966.
Right now, we are not free. We serve now in a new form of feudal times, called by another name.
Please visit the Ayn Rand Institute for more information on this incredible author and patriot of freedom.