For many people, “capitalism” is a dirty word. It dredges up mental images of destruction and exploitation: crowded sweatshops, smoggy cities, cleared forests, and gluttonous businessmen. Some consider free market capitalism to be a struggle for the survival of the fittest, accepting it as the most efficient system, but certainly an ugly one that facilitates greed, egoism, and consumerism.
But whatever word you want to use, we at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth, Poverty, and Morality aim to show that economic freedom is more than a necessary–or unnecessary–evil. The essence of the free market is not mere conflict, but collaboration, creation, and ultimately beneficial competition. Rather than seeing a clash between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” we are witnessing the development of a global network of people–laborers, entrepreneurs, inventors, and consumers alike–that interact and respond to one another’s needs and wants. By building communities instead of bureaucracies, we affirm our connection with and responsibility to our fellow man. This isn’t exploitation; it’s relation.
Advocates of a free market recognize the incredible potential contained in human enterprise, creativity, and even genius. They also recognize man’s fallenness, and believe that a free market, by definition framed by the rule of law, is the best way to channel both man’s creativity and cooperation, as well as his fallenness. The free market, far better than the alternatives, allows man to flourish by the work of his hands and mind.
While the free market is the best known way to achieve widespread even if uneven prosperity, it does not promise a utopian end to economic hardship. Rather, it humbly acknowledges that no government, indeed, no human being, has the knowledge or ability to create a better economy than the one that emerges from humans acting in freedom within the rule of law.
But the details are complicated. That’s why we hope that you will bring any questions and objections to the table during a live Q&A session with Jay Richards. Our goal is to provide the opportunity for an open discussion that will be rewarding and constructive to everyone involved. To participate, log in to Twitter at 2pm PDT/5pm EDT on August 7, 2012 (this Tuesday!) and tweet your question along with the hashtag #AskACapitalist. Jay Richards will be reading your tweets and responding from his personal twitter handle, @FreemarketJay.
We look forward to hearing from you!