The True Nature and Purpose of Capitalism
By David Holcberg (sent to the Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2007)
In "Overselling Capitalism" (April 4, 2007), Benjamin Barber betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of capitalism.
Mr. Barber believes that capitalism's "core virtue" is that it "marries altruism and self-interest." But that is wrong. Capitalism is based on a morality of egoism: on the principle that individuals have a moral right to pursue their self-interest. Altruism, in sharp contrast, holds that individuals have no such moral right, but have instead a moral duty to sacrifice themselves to satisfy the interests of others.
Mr. Barber also believes that the purpose of capitalism is to provide for the needs of billions in the underdeveloped world. But that, too, is wrong. The purpose of capitalism is to provide for the protection of individual rights, rights that enable individuals to peacefully produce, trade, and seek their own happiness free of their governments'--or their neighbors'--interference. Americans are not to blame--and are not responsible--for the poverty and destitution prevalent in "underdeveloped" countries; their poverty results not from a lack of altruism in America but from their own failure to embrace capitalism--and the morality of rational self-interest that underlies it.