The Anti-Capitalist Mentality

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As the conditions prevailing in the Western countries do not yet permit the liquidation of such offenders in the Russian way, they insult them and vilify them, cast suspicion upon their motives and boycott them.

Conservatives know psychologizing. Well, we might not actually "know" it in the academic sense, but we certainly recognize it in practice due to our foes psychologizing as an auto-response to whatever arguments we make. Sadly, in the present politically correct era, merely questioning the necessity of affirmative action or the effectiveness of public housing can cause an otherwise high-functioning person to be accused of racism by those who purportedly possess liberal sensibilities.

The same is true when one illuminates the counter-intuitiveness inherent to government taking over the healthcare business. Identifying the waste, coercion, and deleterious impact upon public health that nationalization would bring will be of no avail due to our opposition knowing our psyches better than we do. To them questioning the efficacy of federal interventions evidences an unmistakable need to oppress others along with a desire to trample upon the backs of the poor (those same benighted citizens who, it must be pointed out, receive "free" healthcare from the government under the status quo).

Psychologizing is rarely initiated by those on the right, however. Conservatives generally hold politics to be an objective, rather than subjective, endeavor so they are reluctant to descend into the muck of personalization as a means to advance their cause. This is highly admirable but ultimately a pity as, without counter-attacks, irrationality seems to thrive and multiply within the confines of our sound-bite culture.

Occasionally though, the empire strikes back, or emperor, in the case of Ludwig von Mises. Over fifty years ago, the famous economist whose career "showed that government intervention is always destructive," penned The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality. This short book marked his official venture into psychology. We should be grateful today for its insight. His deconstruction of those opposed to free markets indicates that he had a far better understanding of humanity than do the majority of psychologists.

What impresses most about The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality is just how prescient a work it is. The failures of socialism were evident in the 1950s but not as glaring as they are in 2008. Yet this truth does not prevent our politicians from continuing to push for more and more government expansion. The concomitant disruption and diminution of the private sector is discounted entirely. The experiences of Soviet Russia, the Warsaw Pact countries, and the vivid and ongoing failures of communist starvation zones like Cuba and North Korea are pooh-poohed by those desirous of further empowering the Leviathan. In light of what America has become, von Mises' elucidation of the enemies of capitalism is more pertinent than ever.

Alienation regarding capitalism remains popular among politicians all over the political spectrum. Recall Mr. Bush's cacophonous assumption "that when somebody hurts, government has got to move" and his ardent belief that fiscal expansion in some way correlates with "compassion." Such stances are reflective of the view that the people cannot be trusted to fend for themselves. This condescension was highlighted by von Mises who summed up the presupposition with, "…the masses are too stupid and ignorant to know what would serve best their u2018true' needs and interests and badly need a guardian, the government, lest they hurt themselves." How reminiscent these words are of those who forever express bewilderment should minorities decline to "vote for their interests" – which they inevitably define as supporting and enhancing statism.

Elitists of all stripes disdain capitalism for its leading to the success of people whom our ambrosia-drinkers deem unworthy. Von Mises saw this as being particularly reflective of western intellectuals such as university professors who sneer at rich alumni along with those who propel themselves into affluence by plebian, and non-esoteric, means. The achievements of those they dismiss as their inferiors brings about feelings of inadequacy. As well it should. Indeed, "The truth is that the entrepreneurs and promoters display more intellectual faculties and intuition than the average writer and painter."

Academics condemn divergence of outcomes more than anything else and assess correctly that disparities are endemic to free markets. The unfairness [read: fairness] of it all causes them much consternation. Yet inequality of outcome is intrinsic to having equality of opportunity; a state of affairs which is only possible within a capitalist system.

Von Mises' advice, should intellectuals ever encounter it, would undoubtedly infuriate them. He recommended that those who pine for opulence should resolve to listen to the public in the hopes of finding out what they like. Social strivers should then find a way to sell those cherished goods at a cheaper rate or create superior goods to sell. Sensible words and a prescription for ambition realization condensed as if it were a basket trade. Yet, by definition, intellectuals cannot and will not heed his counsel. Listening to the masses is something they simply cannot do. It would be beneath them. Treating barbarians as equals is as unpalatable as sitting though a football or hockey game.

The endemic transparency of capitalism is another cause for concern. In a society rooted in economic freedom, when a person fails to flourish the explanations for his floundering are generally evident. When his acquaintances and relations surpass him it never fails to rankle and there are few excuses which can be concocted. An entirely different fate awaits those trapped within a socialist system, however. The state's domination of the economy produces no similar anxieties. The government's eradication of opportunity yields equality as it results in poverty for everyone.

It is the common man who benefits most from capitalism. He profits from those who save, who invest, and who engage in entrepreneurial activities. These individuals expand the economy, elevate wages, and employ him directly. More importantly, there are no structural barriers which prevent him from joining the ranks of such persons. The free market automatically eradicates caste. Not everyone can rise from their birth station in America but plenty of people do, and some even manage to become fabulously rich.

What traits are intrinsic to the anti-capitalist mindset? Envy and ignorance are two of the more flagrant ones. The latter causes leftists to draw distinctions between communism and socialism even though no such dichotomies exist. The same can be said of central planning and the welfare state as both are directed by government bureaucrats and fueled by citizen-confiscated capital.

Those who understand economics to be a "what I make must be stolen from someone else" phenomenon will never appreciate the free market nor comprehend the nature of economic growth. Yet one of the few things these folks are able to do is to get elected to public office. Regrettably, the fomenting of jealousy and the perpetuation of a cult of blameology remain saleable characteristics in 2008. The law of unintended consequences may well be the only law that these opportunists do not wish to enforce.

The deleterious effect on art and literature is often cited by critics of capitalism. Granted, our culture is awash with voluminous amounts of low-grade materials. This would not be the case if the availability of artistic creations and publications were culled by Leviathan censors, but von Mises argues convincingly that the ubiquitousness of low-brow works does not preclude the creation of high-brow ones. The sea of schlock may confuse us but it is far preferable to the imposition of state-sponsored criteria such as "socialist realism" as a determinant of what the public should be allowed to appreciate.

In the final analysis, to hate capitalism is to hate liberty, as only within the framework of personal choice can one choose an education, a vocation, and course of life that suits them. The laissez-faire philosophy is what put an end to slavery and serfdom. Nobody born poor in a free society is destined to poverty. How ironic it is that so many anti-capitalists describe themselves as being "liberal" when there is nothing liberal about stealing the dreams and futures of those you regard as nothing more than wards or mascots.

Psychologizing proved a very elementary feat for Ludwig von Mises. His deconstruction and refutation of the anti-capitalist outlook was a noble undertaking. He flamboyantly paraded its irrationality for all to see over fifty years ago, but it is now up to us to popularize his forgotten, but exquisite, argumentation.

January 7, 2008

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