This is the last of a six-part essay.  Here are the six parts.

When Is Capitalism The Best Moral Choice?

The Definition of Capitalism

Consider the definition below.

n : an economic system based on private ownership of capital
[syn: capitalist economy] [ant: socialism]

Many regard capitalism as an economic system based on greed.  However, greed does not define capitalism.  What defines capitalism is the private ownership of capital.  Under capitalism, you, me, or anyone else can own property.  Capitalism is an economic system based on the right to own property and the fruits of our own labor. Where capitalism is implemented, government exists to prevent the greedy and powerful from taking everyone else’s property by the right of might.

Historically, capitalism is a relatively new and novel concept.  In times past when monarchs ruled, military might determined the ownership of property.  Hence, anyone who owned property either had military forces or relied on the protection of a patron with military power.

What is Government’s Role in Capitalism?

Because capitalists recognize the need to protect private property, capitalism is not a system that exists in direct opposition to government.   Not even those who support the laissez faire economic doctrine define themselves so extremely.  What capitalists insist upon is that government should protect the People’s right to own private property.  Capitalists insist upon their right to exercise legitimate control over the fruit of their labors.   Capitalists believe that when individuals pursue their own private interests without intruding upon the rights of others, everyone benefits more than they do when government runs everything.

Private property rights are fundamentally a religious issue.  Western Civilization exists as it does because of Christianity.  When the average citizen began to read and understand the Bible, people began to understand that God wanted them to love their neighbor.  The also realized that God defined everyone as everyone else’s neighbor.  At the same time we are each imbued with a moral law.  We know instinctively that it is wrong to steal from each other.  We understand that we each have the right to the rewards of our labors.

That realization reshaped the way our forebears regarded government.  Over time the People began to realize that the Bible does not support the divine right of Kings or the superiority of any class.  What God demands is that we treat each other justly.  Hence, the People began to assert control over their government and demand justice for their fellow citizens. 

What is the Advantage of Capitalism?

What we make of capitalism depends on each of us.  Yes, it is true that capitalism is an opportunity for the greedy and acquisitive to be the greedy and acquisitive.   Nonetheless, capitalism is also the best economic system for furthering the cause of freedom.

Good behavior generally has practical benefits.   When people engage in honest commerce, we have the opportunity to get what we pay for and then some.  When private citizens run business enterprises, their customers have a choice.  As a result of capitalism, those businesses that work hardest to satisfy their customers tend to be the most profitable.  That encourages innovation, productivity, and people who enjoy their work.

Capitalism is not just about business.  Because they are privately owned, nonprofits are also competitive capitalist enterprises.  Just like commercial enterprises, nonprofits allow those who donate to choose how to put their earnings to best use.

So When Is Capitalism The Best Moral Choice?

For the most part government should have relatively little to do (See the previous article here.).  In a society where ideas are allowed to compete freely and where people are allowed to suffer the consequences of bad choices, foolish choices tend to become self-evident.  Unfortunately, we do not have such a society. We have fouled up where it is most important to get it right.  We educate our children in government-run, socialist institutions.  That has wide-ranging implications and has to stop.

Socialist, government-run schools are by their very nature political institutions and arms of the state.  Because government-run educational institutions allow politicians the power to exercise control over what children and even adults learn, there must inevitably be politicians who will abuse that authority.

Unfortunately, with increasing state and federal government involvement, politicians have achieved ever more influence in our schools.  More and more each year, children learn the knowledge and teachings that politicians want to them to learn.   Instead of learning in competing institutions about the culture and the hard-earned wisdom our forebears left us, children learn the importance of conforming to shallow thoughts dictated by the dominant political party.

Instead of having schools where we are comfortable with competing ideas and beliefs, we have the facade of tolerance.   Instead of learning to forebear with real differences of opinion, we define hollow isms; such things secularism, multiculturalism, and scientism; as tolerance.   In each instance, our children learn we must have a single bland answer and that government decides.  What we end up with is an answer designed to satisfy everyone that satisfies no one.


Because capitalism best allows parents to pass their beliefs onto their children, all religious communities should unite in opposing government-run socialist educational institutions.

We send children to school to learn how to think.  School is the primary place outside the home where children learn what information is important and how to process it.  Because children spend hours every day in school, school is where they learn many of their values and how to implement those values.

How we each perceive and deal the world around us depends to a large degree upon how we are taught to perceive it and deal with it.  Because the public school system is a socialist institution, children taught in the public school system are ill prepared to survive in our capitalist system.  Socialism does not build up individuals in their religious faith; it teaches conformity to the world.  Hence education is the most important place that we begin to implement capitalism.

An Aside

Decades ago C. S. Lewis wrote the Screwtape Letters.   In this short book Lewis describes how devils might tempt each of us, even warping the character our society, without our ever knowing.   Though the story ends happily, because Lewis succeeds in making the devil he writes about seem so real, the reading is fascinating but grim.

Years latter, Lewis wrote a short sequel, Screwtape Proposes a Toast ( <- text available).  Imagine, if you will, a graduation ceremony for new tempters.  What would that eminent and hellish administrator, Screwtape, have to say to encourage fiends in their new endeavors?   Would it have anything to do with how we are preparing our children for the world and its temptations?

Other Views

Here we have a view of Capitalism as presented by some socialist “independent” Catholics.

Here we have an essay that focuses on the greed of capitalists.   Instead of focusing on the right to own property, this essayist focuses on our acquisitive nature.

Here and here we have discussions of the contribution of Christianity and the rise of the West and Capitalism.

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