Sixth in a series why socialism is the anti-agency.
Yes, capitalism has become a dirty word for too many people. Sizeable blame lies with those who parade under the free-market label but use government connections to wangle unfair competitive advantages.
But let’s push heated verbosity to the side and look at true capitalism’s power when agency is respected and people are given a chance to “magnify their [secular] callings.”
- Creativity begins with curiosity and an idea powered by dreams of success.
- Dreams of success are stimulated and enhanced by the track record of others. Entrepreneurs thrive amidst other entrepreneurs. Socialism is hardly noted for producing them.
- Success depends on freedom of action, the ability to make deals as independent agents. Such deals are difficult in centrally planned economies.
- Success also depends on investment capital to bring a dream to reality. When someone becomes confident others might invest in his idea, neurons and dendrites kick in, imagination expands, more applications are seen, and more opportunities arise for more people. The availability of investment capital gives people confidence to proceed with their ideas – another way capitalism contributes to creativity.
- Investment capital is created when people have more money than they need for daily living expenses. They begin to look for new ways to, yes, earn more money. But now, instead of earning money by trading hours and skills, one earns money by enabling others to achieve their dreams. It’s a beautiful ripple benefit of saving, pooling resources with others, and investing. There are no such incentives in socialism; you are penalized through taxation if you earn too much.
- Capital is applied to an idea if there is a reasonable expectation of a good return. Risk plays a necessary and helpful “opposition in all things” role. This is less like to happen with a centrally planned economy where there are fewer chances for entrepreneurs.
Note now key points of socialism in comparison:
- Socialism says people should only have enough money to satisfy their immediate needs so more money can be distributed to others, as if the wealth pie is finite. As people under socialism have less money to spend and invest, fewer will be the opportunities to risk, act, and produce something.
- This in turn harms motivation as people realize they will be paid the same whether they are creative or not, whether they put their capital (however much may remain) to work or not. Money is also more likely to be spent for short-term needs and less likely to be invested for long-term returns if wages and prices are controlled.
- Posing as humanitarians, socialists believe those who earn money beyond daily needs are greedy. Hardly a building block of entrepreneurial spirit or encouragement to go the extra mile. The profit motive is integral to the creative spirit; enterprise ceases when a system restricts us to our daily bread.
- Socialism’s tight controls are anathema to freedom and make it difficult to create new capital for investments. People shy from creating investment capital if the state controls the means of production, the prices and the profits.
- Socialists give little thought that capital is needed to form new ventures and conduct the research and development needed before new products can improve our way of life and drive prosperity.
- Available capital also dwindles as special interest groups pressure government for higher taxes on the rich.
- Excitement about engineering an idea into existence fades if investment capital is sparse, socialistic controls plentiful, and potential rewards few.
- As hopes for success fade, the mind loses curiosity and entertains fewer connections.
- Socialism thus stifles creativity and innovation, a great fruit of agency.
In short, socialism diminishes agency because it kills the human spirit, discourages creativity, distorts investments (such as they may be), and fails to reward productive risk. Ludwig von Mises observed:
“Socialism is not in the least what it pretends to be. It is not the pioneer of a better and finer world, but the spoiler of what thousands of years of civilization have created. It does not build; it destroys. For destruction is the essence of it. It produces nothing, it only consumes what the social order based on private ownership of the means of production has created.”
To achieve gain fairly is not greed. If fair and proper actions on earth are factors toward the ultimate gain – exaltation – why should that same principle be ignored when seeking other positive gains and goals?
Adapted from “The Magnificent Gift of Agency; To Act and Not Be Acted Upon” available in Deseret Book stores and at https://deseretbook.com/p/magnificent-gift-of-agency-to-act-and-not-be-acted-upon?variant_id=187364-hardcover