It should be very clear by now that I am some form of Laissez Faire capitalist. It’s true, I’m inconsistent. I have watched the ever increasing puddle of vitriol (my beloved wife even used that word this morning, so it must be apropos!) overtaking American politics. I have watched the “Occupiers” versus the “Tea Partiers” and see both as even less consistent than am I. And, I have experienced personally, how a minuscule percentage of people who serve in the roles of overpaid and under-qualified executives can destroy the lives of tens, hundreds, and even tens of thousands of people. So, I can no longer, in good conscience, say I believe in pure laissez faire.
After all, it only takes one unethical Madoff, to ruin hundreds of ethical human beings lives. It takes but a single Enron to ruin the general reputation of all corporate entities. And if Ron Paul were President during WWII every single Jew in Europe would have been killed because an American President would have fought American intervention. So I fully stand behind my belief that the free market works just fine without the government screwing with it. But I no longer believe that government should do nothing but let that market run. Mostly – yes. Theoretically – absolutely. But pragmatically – I’m down to “almost”.
If you ask me to side with either Hayek or Keynes, I am and will always be against Keynesianism. I will always be a son of Hayek. I won’t change my theoretical premises. But when a tiny fraction of 1% of the major actors in that market can do damage to hundreds of millions of people, I can’t (any longer) say “just let it run and it will correct”. The system will do that but it’s people, not theory, that I care about now. Does this mean that I have become a bad Libertarian? You bet. I wish I wasn’t. But I’ve been hurt and seen too many others hurt just by virtue of being “only” middle class. I now believe that there needs to be a balance. If I have just proved myself to be as intellectually incongruous as most of the people I can’t stand, well…. shit happens.
The other day I became aware of a French environmental and social activism group that is running a campaign called “Tous Candidats 2012”. To join, you make a pledge for change and create a poster with a slogan. Now, even French capitalists are “socialists” by my standards. So, you’d expect me to view this group with distaste. I’m sure that I view many of their supporters that way. But I decided that signing up would be a way to make my “pro-capitalist” position known among people who are no doubt hard core anti-capitalists. So I did. My “official” slogan is: “Le Capitalisme Avec La Compassion et L’Integrite Inconditionnelle, Toujours!” or, basically, “Capitalism with Compassion and Unconditional Integrity, Forever!”. It’s no doubt the wrong forum to make my statement. But here is what it means.
David Kelley and Nathaniel Branden both have come up with powerful teachings about the importance of benevolence and integrity in a rational society. Both of them will tell me that I’m inconsistent in my belief and that I’m not much help to the rationalist / capitalist cause. But that’s okay with me. I still think I can learn from them. So, I can dig them even if it’s not going to be reciprocated. And, to me, they have the most important teachings about both capitalism and about living in a capitalist society. Capitalism works best (perhaps it only works) when capitalist leaders have a very high level of integrity and when it’s philosophically acceptable to help others even in an individualistic system. My interpretation of that is simple. It means that capitalists need to have unconditional integrity and need take responsibility for their actions. If they don’t do that, they can’t be trusted.
Of course, where I differ from many others is my belief that the vast majority of people at least strive to do those things. The problem is that the very few who don’t can topple the whole world. So, in my world, responsibility and unconditional integrity are king. Until everyone believes that, I now have to, at least, consider the possibility that even my beloved capitalism needs work. Oh well… I’d prefer perfection. But from what I can tell, it just takes a couple assholes to ruin everything. Therefore, my message to the world is this: “take responsibility, have complete integrity, and if you don’t, if you blame others, if you lie, YOU are the problem.