Capitalism: The Bearer of Freedom
The following is part of the In Defense of Freedom essay series by Northwood University students.
“Government has no economic responsibility. Only people have responsibility, and the government is not a person” (Friedman, 2014). This idea seems to be slipping away in today’s day and age as it has been taken and twisted by the government to form the ever-growing presence of socialism and communism. In these forms of government, people are simply pawns as they are subject to do what the societal “elites” tell them to do based on their beliefs of what’s important. Take Russia, Germany, or China as an example, people in these countries do not have the ability to do what they are gifted at or what they enjoy. If the government says it doesn’t need any more of your specific skill set in the marketplace, you’re out of the profession to which you were best fit. They do not let the market or invisible hand determine any of these factors. You as an individual are not treated as an individual, you are merely a small part of a melting pot society where everyone is categorized.
This makes it nearly impossible for anyone to get ahead, as they are not allowed to work in industries that they would be best suited for.
While capitalism is not the only reason freedom abounds in America, these other economic forms reassure us that it is one of the main reasons. In America, capitalism enhances freedom through promotion of the free market, individuality for everyone, personal choice, and the ability to enjoy private ownership.
The idea of having a free-market society where the economy can run itself is one of the key underlying characteristics of capitalism. The free-market way of running an economy promotes freedom inside and out, where there is as little friction between the producer and the consumer and government as possible. According to Barnier (2020) “A free market is one where voluntary exchange and the laws of supply and demand provide the sole basis for the economic system, without government intervention.” Just based on the fact that this economic system promotes less government involvement means that your average person is going to have more freedom than other economic systems.
Whenever the government decides to step in to “fix” the economic condition, we see freedoms slowly retracted as people become trapped in an impoverished state. This is called the welfare system. The government will come out and talk about how they will save you by sending you money (welfare) to make your life better. However, the amounts are just enough for people to get by in life, which never really fixes the people’s situation who are in poverty. As Elkins (2019) states, “60% believe these programs (welfare) “simply provide for peoples’ basic needs while they are poor” rather than help them “climb out of poverty” (para. 3). People who are in this situation are never going to be truly free as long as they depend on the government to help them limp along in life. The free market discourages programs like this and promotes people getting ahead on their own and wanting more than the minimum in life.
If everyone is able to conceive and express their ideas leads to the second pillar of capitalism, individuality. Capitalism promotes and encourages individuals to express their own ideas by creating an economy with as little government intervention as possible. Like I stated earlier, in communism and socialism you as an individual have no say, the government has all the say. Individuality is something that is specific to each and every person on earth. According to Williams (2014) “The importance of this individuality in minds would be hard to exaggerate. Because of it, two
or more people agree with each other in spots, never totally”. If someone is not able to think for themselves and believe in their own ideas, are they really free? According to the quote, the answer is no. No matter how alike two people are or how many common ideas they share, no two people in this world will ever completely agree on anything. This is why it is so crucial to have individuality in society, you cannot lump people together as one and expect success. Without individuality society would never progress or improve, there would be no new ideas, and people would not be able to act and think like their true selves. With individuality now comes the freedom for people to make their own decisions about how they want to live and the choices that they want to make.
Choice is something that almost all of us take for granted, but when you sit down and think about it, it is a key factor in everything that goes on in not only in our daily lives but also in the markets and business world. Think if you woke up one day and did not have the ability to make choices about how you lived. In China’s case for instance, you cannot make the choice to have more than two children if you’re a parent, that is the limit
set by the government. Capitalism is the ultimate promoter of personal choice. If you want to become an entrepreneur you have the freedom to start a business, in other market forms you would not have the freedom or encouragement to start a business. In fact, this is what propels the United States economy and promotes growth. According to Longley (2021) “What really drives the U.S. economy? …. firms with fewer than 500 employees — that drives the U.S. economy by providing jobs for over half of the nation’s private workforce.” Small businesses driving a nation’s economy does not happen to be the case in most other countries because of the economic systems that are in place. When you have laws that redistribute your earnings, set prices for you, and do not let you own anything it makes it much harder for anyone to open a business. However, the producer is not the only person that has freedom of choice, the consumer also plays a large role. They decide how much they want and of what products which creates competition between companies. In the end, this competition is what drives companies to produce a better product or find a way to make that product cheaper for the customer.
Private ownership, something that seems like such a simple concept but very few ever get to experience the benefits of it outside of capitalist societies. Think about a communist or socialist society where everything is everyone’s, you as an individual do not have the ability to call anything yours. In this kind of society people quickly lose motivation to work and try to create things. There is really no point to work if once you get your paycheck it gets distributed out to the general public. Why work that much harder than everyone if you’re all just going to end up with the same amount at the end of the day? There is no reason to, and this is how lack of ownership promotes a society of laziness. Furthermore, when you are able to call something your own, that gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. “When the denial of the right of the individual is negated through the denial of ownership, the sense of personal pride, which distinguishes man from beast, must decay from disuse” (Chodorow, 1996). In this quote, we see just how freeing and important it is to have the ability to own private property. In a society where you’re stuck in the cycle of earning then those earnings being redistributed, it becomes depressing, and you feel as though you are just a machine in society making money for others to take. However, solely owning the property or whatever it is that you call yours is not the only freeing part. In a free-market society, you have the ability to do whatever you like with your things. If you’re a business owner you have the ability to refuse someone service, if you own a bunch of land, you can race dirt bikes or shoot off fireworks. Another benefit of private ownership and the choice that comes with it, is the contributions that small businesses make to society and charities. “Small businesses donate 250% more than larger businesses to local nonprofits and community causes” (“Infographic: Small Businesses Charitable Giving,” 2019).
There is no one that can tell you how to use your property or money, and ultimately this is the freeing part of private ownership.
Overall, I have talked about three different kinds of economies, the main one being capitalism, and how they relate to freedom. In countries that use communism and socialism, we see that there are not really any individual rights, and the entire society is grouped together as one. We also see that in turn these societies tend to do worse, and the people living there are less free. However, when looking at capitalism an entirely different story appears. The capitalist nations tend to perform better and the people living in them are much freer than these other societies. This is because capitalism enhances freedom by promoting everyone to be themselves, allowing people to call things their own, and permitting the idea of a hands-free economy.