Capitalism a social system based on the principle of individual rights.
A capitalist society is based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights. Under capitalism, all property is privately owned, and the state is separated from economics just as it is from religion. Economically, capitalism is a system of laissez-faire, or free markets, where the government plays no part whatsoever in economic decisions.
Capitalism is the only social system compatible with the requirements of man’s life
To pursue the values necessary for his life a society, man requires only one thing from others: freedom of action. Freedom means the ability to act however one pleases as long as one does not infringe on the same and equal freedom of others. In a political context, freedom means solely the freedom from the initiation of force by other men. Only by the initiation of force can man’s rights be violated. Whether it is by a theft, force, fraud, or government censorship, man’s rights can be violated only by the initiation of force. Because man’s life depends on the use of reason to achieve the values necessary for his life, the initiation of force renders his mind useless as a means of survival. To live, man must achieve the values necessary to sustain his live. To achieve values, man must be free to think and to act on his judgment. To live, man must be free to think. To be free to think, man must be free to act. In the words of Ayn Rand, “Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.”
Capitalism recognizes the inherent worth of the individual
In a human society – one that recognizes the independence of each man’s mind – each individual is an end in himself. He owns his life, and no one else’s. Other men are not his slaves, and he is not theirs. They have no claim on his life or on the values he creates to maintain his life, and he has no claim on theirs. In a free society, men can gain immense values from each other by voluntarily trading the values they create to mutual gain. However, they can only create values if they are free to use their minds to exercise their creativity. A man is better living off on his own than as a slave to his brothers. Capitalism recognizes each man as an independent, thinking being.
The individual is an end in himself
Just as no individual has the right to initiate force against anyone, neither does any group of men, in any private or public capacity. It is immoral to initiate force against any individual for any reason. This includes the initiation of force for “the public good.” The “public” is merely a collection of individuals, each possessing the same rights, and each being an end in himself. Any attempt to benefit the “public good” is an immoral attempt to provide a benefit to one group of individuals at the expense of another. In a free society, no individual benefits at the expense of another: men exchange the values they create in voluntary trade to mutual gain. The rule of law in a free society has just one purpose: to protect the rights of the individual.
Capitalism leads to freedom and prosperity
A free, capitalist economy has never existed anywhere in the world. The closest the world came to a free market was during the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and during the late 19th century in the United States. The Industrial Revolution was a period of unprecedented economic growth and unimaginable improvements in quality of life. In less than two hundred years, the life of most people in the Western world changed from a short life filled with poverty, plague, and near-constant war to a modern, comfortable existence that even the kings of medieval Europe couldn’t have imagined. Since 1820, the leading capitalist nations have increased their wealth sixteen fold, their populations more than four-fold, their productivity twenty-fold. Annual working hours went from 3,000 to less than 1,700 and life expectancy doubled from thirty to over seventy years. 1
Yet despite the undeniable material superiority of capitalist societies, its critics continue to attack it as inhuman and selfish. What the world lacks is not evidence of capitalism’s practical superiority, but a moral defense of a man’s right to his own life.
- Angus Maddison. Phases of Capitalist Development, p4 (1982)