5 Myths Used to Make Capitalism Seem Uncool

by Priscila Guinovart I was reading Gary Kittilsen’s “5 Ways […]


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by Priscila Guinovart

I was reading Gary Kittilsen’s “5 Ways the US is a Little Too Communist” when it hit me: Communism might have won already – and its victory is global.

Capitalism works. Humanity as a whole had never been as rich as we are now. Of course there is still poverty on Earth, and there much is yet to be done and accomplished…

But we are all living a life that was unthinkable and unreachable for our grandparents – let alone further ancestors in our family tree. Yet, it is quite difficult to see people giving some credits to capitalism.

Capitalism and liberty are concepts that cannot be untangled. Capitalism (understood, very vaguely, as the commercial interaction of two or more consenting adults and as a social system based on individual rights) needs liberty in order to function the way it is intended to. 

Despite its many, visible and obvious benefits to humanity, it is somehow uncool to describe oneself as a capitalism advocate – a clear reflection of communism’s victory in the most remarkable ideological war of the past two centuries.

 But if it works, what is the problem? Well, it’s problems plural, and here’s my attempt to spot them:

1. We have been (mis)led to think capitalism equals imperialism.

According to the dictionary, imperialism is “the policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force.” Capitalism is defined as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.” Although the two concepts are clearly not related in any way, capitalism is often depicted as if it was a deliberate consequence of imperialism – a huge misconception if we remember what the Soviet Empire was to the world and the damage it caused.

Sadly, many intellectuals, politicians and rulers (such as the Castro brothers, Chávez and Maduro) have reinforced this monumental mistake – willingly, of course- and if you happen to wear some Nike snickers, you are “feeding the empire”; and you are, therefore, on the enemy’s side – trust me, I have lived in two Latin American countries, this is the real sentiment.

2. The whole “poor is cool” trend

A growing, dreadful trend has been spreading globally for decades: owning things is bad. If you wish to own, you are selfish, greedy and weak of spirit. 

Uruguay’s former president, José Mujica, was praised all over the world for being poor. “The world’s poorest president” was indeed the envy of many. It is a worrying fact to take poverty as a virtue. There is no virtue in poverty in the same way that there is no virtue in wealth: they are simple features, just as being tall or short, white, black or Asian. Poverty is not a synonym for goodness, and, most importantly, it’s not a guarantee of anything in particular. 

It is precisely because of this trend that celebrities wear their Che Guevara shirts, ignoring the truth behind the myth. They are eager to sympathize with the poor – they are thought to be cool by doing this – and the best way to do show their sympathy is, evidently, wearing a shirt with the image of a homophobic, racist mass-murderer who fought inequality and criticized private property while wearing a Rolex.

3. Crony-capitalism

Crony-capitalism is, according to the dictionary, “a term describing an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, or other forms of state interventionism.” Needless to say, real capitalists condemn such a vile maneuver. 

In capitalism, interventionism and protection are emphatically rejected. It is the very core of the laissez – faire: don’t intervene our business, don’t protect our business, don’t regulate our business: give us liberties and let us do. 

Unfortunately, due to some cronies, the whole system (a system of innovation and creation of wealth) has to bear with a fearsome reputation.

4. Fear of a real free market

Many are those who fail to see the several benefits of free market. The common fear is that if markets are not regulated by an all-mighty entity, prices will rise, small, local companies will fall, and as a consequence, the rich will get richer and the poor, poorer.

Nothing is further from truth. Without intervention, prices of both, goods and services, are set freely between sellers and consumers, that is, supply and demand really do their part.

Marxists and Keynesians advocate for state regulations and stimulus from the government. In other words, Markets and Keynesians advocate for less freedom – another clear example of how inseparable the concepts of capitalism and liberty are.

5. The “I’m poor because you’re rich” myth

Communism seems to see wealth as some kind of fixed thing that cannot grow or be created, thus, if some have too much, others will always have too little. The concept of wealth redistribution is based on this erroneous vision. 

This is a very dangerous position since it generates hatred, envy and resentment among men and women. “Look, you have nothing, and he has too much, so he is to blame for your misery.” 

Wealth can be created, we have been doing so for the last two centuries. We are more people on the planet and despite that fact, I repeat, we are richer than ever. 

Capitalism took millions and millions out of extreme poverty. Communism, on the other hand, wants us all to be equally poor. 

It is time for us to recognize what capitalism really is. It is time for us to know that, as long as we are honest, there is nothing wrong in self-interest or profit-making. Capitalism works and we have to see it before we are all a little bit too communist – and less free.

Source: VoicesofLiberty


The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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