Capitalism’s Persuasion Problem

Glenn Verasco | @GlennVerasco

Fact: in politics, rhetoric is more persuasive than truth. I’m sure you know this already.

This fact is especially troubling for Libertarians and other political groups that favor free market Capitalism because understanding the benefits of the free market takes time and effort.

Capitalism is often counterintuitive, it requires blind faith in the capabilities of mankind, it goes against many emotionally satisfying worldviews, and it admits tough and sometimes undesirable realities.

Convincing people to vote for laissez faire policies and politicians is an uphill climb. To demonstrate, here is a list of premises one must probably concur with in order to view Capitalism in a positive light. I will present each premise somewhat cynically in order to demonstrate how negatively they are subject to being perceived.

  1. Invisible Hand/Spontaneous Order-There is no plan. You just have to wait. Things will work themselves out.
  2. Innovation-There is no need to commission an agency as a public good to solve problems. People will just do it. Don’t let your lack of imagination hinder the imaginations of others.
  3. Market Forces– There is no need to dictate which businesses should survive and which should fail. The best ones will survive, and the worst ones will fail. It’ll just happen eventually.
  4. Winners and Losers– Some people will succeed, and others will fail. It’s a competition like any other.
  5. Competition is Good– We shouldn’t play nice. We should battle each other for customers and resources.
  6. Equality is Futile– We’re not going to be equal. Stop looking in your neighbor’s bowl, and start filling yours.
  7. You Might Lose Your Job– The economy will shift from time to time. That means you might have to shift too. Keeping you permanently employed holds everyone back.
  8. Risk is Good– You are not safe, and you should never feel too comfortable. It is vital that you are at risk to become unemployed, impoverished, or even die.
  9. No Free Lunches- If you received something at no cost to yourself, and it was not given to you by its original owner voluntarily, you are complicit in thievery. You either earn, get lucky, or steal.
  10. Your Help Hurts-Whenever you try to create a system to take care of people, you wind up weakening them. Your systems cause immaturity, idiocy, and perversion.
  11. Greed is Good- Individuals wanting more for themselves and being allowed to pursue their desires is the only way to create wealth in a sustainable manner. The desire for material goods and security drives improvements in the populace’s quality of life. Compassion does not.
  12. Rich People Should Keep Their Money- Being mean to rich people hurts poor people. Being nice to them makes everyone richer.
  13. The Rich Contribute the Most- In a free market, the reason rich people have money is because they add the most value to the most people’s lives. If you wind up with a lot, you’ve brought about a lot of satisfaction. If you wind up with nothing, you have been unsatisfactory.
  14. Sentimental Value Doesn’t Pay the Bills-It doesn’t matter how much you care about something. If it’s only value is sentiment, it will only provide you with a wealth of emotion. You need to add monetary value to incur money.
  15. Sharing is Bad- We shouldn’t share public goods or property. If we do, no one will take responsibility for anything. Private ownership puts skin in the game.
  16. We Should Change the Environment- The environment is a violent and murderous villain. We have to alter and rearrange it to better suite ourselves.
  17. There is No Social Justice-Populations will never mirror each other. There is no reason for racial, gender, or random groups to be represented equally or to share equal outcomes. They never will.
  18. It’s Your Fault-You are going to make mistakes and miss opportunities. There is no one to blame for this but you. Find a mirror.
  19. Not Everyone Agrees with You-Unless other people like your ideas, they are not going to work out in the market. You have to satisfy or create demand, not dictate it.
  20. The World is an Imperfect Place-Some people will work really hard, play by all the rules, and fail. And that’s that.

Juxtapose these truths to a Socialist like Bernie Sanders saying we can have free healthcare, education, and social security paid for by the greedy, evil rich people who got their money by stealing it from you. Who is generally going to win the crowd’s favor in that debate?

The irony is that the honesty free marketers value so highly is the very thing that holds us back. If we were comfortable lying like Socialists, we’d be violating our principles. Maintaining the principle of honesty and persuading the masses are generally mutually exclusive.

If you are on the side of liberty and want free markets to reign, you must be able to persuade dissenters to your point of view. If you don’t come to terms with how far-fetched laissez-faire economics can be to most people, you’ll never be able to get them on your side. Finding the best ways to explain and illustrate the advantages of free market Capitalism is the burden of all lovers of liberty in a Democratic state.

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