How to be a Capitalist
How to be a capitalist—are you kidding? Nobody wants to be a capitalist. You want a target on your forehead that says “I’m a greedy bastard who will lie, cheat and steal to get the money”? Want all your friends and family to despise you? Why would you want to destroy the environment, eliminate jobs, hurt the poor, make inferior products and brainwash everyone into watching lowbrow sitcoms and beer commercials?
You say, “No, that’s not what I want. I want to be creative and productive and pursue my own happiness. I want to take care of those I love and be free to enjoy my life and all that it has to offer.”
I have news for you: you already are a capitalist—you were born one. In one sense, every individual in history was born a capitalist.
This is why capitalism, wherever it is tried and to whatever degree it is tried, succeeds. If you measure success in terms of creativity, innovation, productivity, genuine caring for others and in every possible measure of human happiness, capitalism succeeds because it is congruent with human nature. It’s only been in the last few hundred years that a political/economic system recognized this fact and began to protect your right to pursue these things. Of course, that political system was the constitutional republic of the United States.
Isn’t a capitalist someone who has actual capital, someone who invests money in a business for profits? Well, the word capital comes from the Latin capitalis or “of the head”. You see, the root of all money-making enterprises is really the ideas and will to act on them. The root of all financial and physical capital is intellectual and emotional capital. We are born as “wanters” or “valuers”. We are born wanting to stay alive and to live well; to learn and grow and experience. Wanting doesn’t make it so without thinking and acting and the desire to live is where it starts.
As a born capitalist, you are also an owner. You start out believing, correctly, that your life is yours and that you’re here for yourself. It’s not until everyone else tells you otherwise that you believe that you should sacrifice the things that are important to you.
We say capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of capital and we’re talking about the means of production and distribution—the land, factories, technology, transport systems, and financing that makes it all possible. But we forget that private ownership starts with you owning your own mind, your own body and the products of your efforts.
So the question should be, “How to be a better Capitalist”. Now this could mean: a) you understand that the demonization of capitalists is completely unjust and you feel no guilt about living your life and pursuing your values but you want to get rich(er)—you want more money or b) you want to be a better advocate for capitalism, for the freedom of all people to pursue their own happiness, and for the strengthening of the institutions that protect that freedom.
We could phrase this second meaning something like “How to be an Effective Defender of Capitalism” or even “How to Explain Capitalism to Liberals”. But that’s a whole other article…
In the meantime, let’s go back to the first: you want more money. Well, I say all progress starts with the truth. Being ok and guilt-free about wanting to earn more money is that start. You also get that everyone else wants more money; maybe not as much as you or maybe more, and maybe they won’t be as honest about it but they do. The key thing here is that they have the same right to keep and pursue their happiness and money as you do. And even more insightful: for anyone to give up their money to you, you must realize that it’s got to be a mutual trade—no force involve—and you have to create value.
This is what a capitalist does—creates surplus value and voluntary trade. If you want to create massively more value in the world, then you become an entrepreneur and take the risks necessary to see, sell and execute on a vision. If not, that’s ok. If you’re interested in creating some more value for yourself and your loved ones, you sell your ability to work—with your mind or hands or both—to an entrepreneur or investor.
Either way, you already are a capitalist—now start acting like one!
This article was originally published in and is reprinted here with permission from Liberty Ink Journal (www.libertyinkjournal.com).