Don’t get me wrong, I am an ardent capitalist, but even I must concede that socialism has an enduring popularity.
If you think as I do then you know that markets are just so damn great. There’s actually nothing that creates wealth, prosperity, and riches faster. There are only four things that create wealth: economic growth, family distribution, mutualistic societies, and charity. But the last three don’t even come close to the economic growth only markets can create. The free-er markets are — the better! Though even distorted markets still work (albeit not as well). Like cocaine, markets are irrepressible. It’s estimated that roughly 10–15% of the Soviet Union’s GDP was thanks to the black market. Markets are the single greatest force for poverty reduction the world has ever seen. And yet, defending markets on ideological grounds is not even remotely popular or common. Occasionally I’ll see markets defended in the mainstream media on pragmatic grounds, but even that’s rare.
This is not an article about capitalism or socialism. This is an article about the human condition.
Humans crave a system that rewards morality. What we have is a system that rewards aptitude. If tomorrow you were admitted to ER and needed surgery, would you prefer a moral surgeon or a competent surgeon? Let’s assume one precludes the other. The moral surgeon will botch the surgeon and kill you if he does it. The competent surgeon will save your life, but every night he goes home and beats his wife. Most people would choose the competent surgeon over the moral surgeon in these circumstances, even if they had knowledge of the former’s wife-beating tendancies. In reality the competent surgeon would get picked a hundred per cent of the time because we don’t know the morality of everyone we deal with in a professional context. I needed a minor surgery recently, and I met my surgeon before hand. Since I only engaged with my surgeon on a professional level, I was never in a position to judge my surgeon’s personal morality even if I had an objective test for a person’s morality. So the only things I could judge my surgeon on were his credentials, experience and aptitude of which he possessed a great deal of all three.
We want a system that rewards morality. We need a system that rewards and incentivises aptitude.
Markets are not inherently moral or immoral, rather they are morality blind. Markets create a world where a competent arms dealer and a world class surgeon can both be extremely wealthy. If morals are shades of grey, markets see only black and white. Humanity seems to want an impossible thing: a system that rewards morality, and somewhat perversely, they want it so badly that so many people will overlook all the inherent wickedness and coerciveness of socialist regimes because those systems began with the noble intention to build a world where everyone gets what they deserve. Socialists are generally perceived as having more empathy for the poor than capitalists regardless of the lot of the poor in socialist countries. Humanity then decries the evils of capitalism despite all the prosperity that capitalistic societies enjoy because markets incentivise individuals to become better at what they do to improve their own lives, but not to become better people. Exceptions to this rule are those who adhere to belief systems where material wealth is linked to human goodness, and out capitalists like myself.
This all amounts to an endearing, but ultimately deeply tragic statement on the human condition. I wholeheartedly understand the desire to live in a world where morality is rewarded, but I can offer no succour. If one’s morality is rewarded in this life (or the next), it is rewarded by something other than riches. At the end of the day, actions speak louder than intentions, and markets cater to needs before they cater to wants. In the end socialism caters to neither.