Capitalism and Individualism
by Tibor R. Machan

His main point is that we need more than economics to make the case for freedom. We need a philosophy of individual rights.
"Capitalism, in short, treats each mature individual as an adult moral agent, not as a ward or subject of the state." p. xii

He quotes Hayek and Friedman to show that they deny that the free market is just or unjust. To them, the question has no meaning. p. 5

"By this view [economic defense of capitalism], whether one purchases narcotics or vitamins one is necessarily enhancing one's self-interest. Even committing crimes is always a case of utility maximization. So even where the economic defense of capitalism makes the best sense, a different, objective conception of human values and interests from that provided by the neo-Hobbesian view must be smuggled in." p. 13

"... whether one values the institutions of the free society seems to be left by economists to private taste." p. 18

"Economic science, the main bulwark against statism in our time, does not show that we ought to defend our own liberties." p. 18

"For trade to make sense, something must be owned by someone, and ownership is a moral phenomenon. ... Accordingly, the moral dimension of life touches economics at a very basic level, in the definition of market exchange, of trade." p. 19

"It is this trivialization of moral and political matters, placing them on a par with the choice between vanilla and chocolate ice-cream or golf versus tennis, that undercuts the significance of public choice theory and other economic explanations of non-economic spheres of human affairs." p. 28

"The individualist conception of human virtue is the main bulwark against threats to the marketplace, to free trade." p. 52

"Virtually every attack on the freedom of the market I have read and heard in academic circles, from the right via Irving Kristol or from the left via Herbert Marcuse, give Milton Friedman or F. A. Hayek as their central adversaries and do intellectual battle against these advocates of the free society. And the main reason is that these adversaries are quite vulnerable through their unrealistic belief in moral skepticism as a bulwark against tyranny." p. 53

He misses the difference in epistemology between the Austrian school and other neoclassical schools. p. 58

He is too rough on the economists, especially the Austrian school, because he does not realize that they have already incorporated some of his points into their theory.

He advocates rationality as the standard for moral values. This confuses a tool with the goal. It is like saying the ultimate standard of good conduct is the brain. Does this say anything? Is it circular?

"Natural rights are the basic principles by which all members of society can respect the requirements of morality in the context of human community life. There is nothing mysterious about natural rights when so understood. They are the proper parameters of morally relevant conduct within the context of community life." p. 78

"What gives rise to these rights is the fact that everyone in society must have a sphere of personal jurisdiction or, to use Nozick's phrase, moral space. If the rights to life, liberty and property—the absence of other's coercion of or aggression upon us as natural living, self-determined beings—are not secured within society, it is to that extent unsuitable to human living; it is an unjust society." p. 78

"Not only is this system [capitalism] productive, though that is an obviously worthwhile aspect of it; not only does is allow us to gain knowledge so as to flourish, although that too is a very good thing; not only can science prosper in its midst more than in alternative systems, yet that too is a great benefit of the system. What counts most, what is centrally significant about this political economic system, is that it enables individuals to live a morally dignified life, to be in maximum command of their own existence in whatever conditions of existence they happen to be born into." p. 79

"What is morally required is not always to be legally mandated, and what is morally to be avoided may not always be legally forbidden. Most understand this when it comes to freedom of religion and the press but do not generalize it to other human activities." p. 80

"The liberal tradition, however, sees human freedom (from aggression by others) as objectively valuable because it is a constituent part of human moral goodness: without the freedom to choose one's conduct, one is not the agent of whatever good behavior one might engage in." p. 115

"The choice, then, may be between market exchange, which can involve some "exploitation," meaning the opportunity of some to take advantage of the circumstances of others, and totalitarian rule, which guarantees that exploitation will occur, as a permanent and unalterable feature of the system." p. 117

"The calculation problem argument assumes something that is very much in dispute between free market and socialist advocates: that there is merit, worth, moral or political superiority, in satisfying individual desires." p. 120

"If one can justify from a very deep philosophical level the taking seriously of the individual as an individual, then the calculation problem critique is telling indeed." p. 122

"It seems to me that one reason that Hayek and others are fond of the doctrine of unintended consequences is that it precludes any commitment to values. But in fact that is a myth. As critics of free market economics often point out, there is a value judgment implicit in the preference for the market mechanism, including this principle of the unintended consequences of human action. The value judgment is that there is something good per se about servicing or satisfying human desires. The market is efficient only if this is assumed." p. 125

"... it is meaningless even to talk of morally good human conduct without freedom. Persons who are fully or even only partially enslaved, dictated and forced to behave by others, simply cannot be given credit for morally good or evil conduct." p. 133—134

If you say, you don't care about this, you are saying that morality is not important. Consequently, you can have no moral justification for whatever social system you support and you cannot raise any moral objection to those who would destroy your favorite system. It all comes down then to who has the power to impose his system on others.
"Individual rights are the principles by reference to which a human community can be true both to every person's essential community with every other person and to every person's essential individuality as the source of his or her moral character." p. 157

"Just as the lynch mob seeks swift penalty at the expense of justice, so the regimented polity seeks its various benevolent objectives at the expense of the very basis of morality, namely human choice." p. 163

"Aside from utility, the market alternative to government regulation or planning also has serious moral implications. For one, it restores to individuals their moral dignity; that is, their autonomy as moral agents who have the responsibility and right to run their own lives, to form cooperative business or other ventures, to be free to make moral choices. ... A kind of moral tragedy of the commons is avoided, one where the responsibility for individual behavior is not ascribable to anyone, or whereby the consequences of that behavior are not linked clearly enough to individual moral agents." pp. 163—164

Year Read: 1996


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