Who ever imagined that in the year 2009, the President of the United States and the protesters who sought to disrupt the G-20 Summit would actually agree on something?
“Capitalism is immoral” was one of the phrases scrawled on several of the banners carried outside the summit meetings this past week. And although he has never said this in so many words, indeed President Obama would seem to be in lock-step with that assertion, or at least with the sentiment that the assertion entails.
But whether you’re a protester or the President, to assert (or even to simply “imply,” as Mr. Obama does) that “capitalism is immoral” is to invite a slew of crucial questions. And the first and most obvious question that this raises is, “what does this assertion mean?”
Presumably, protesters - - and those who think and believe like them - - intend to convey with their “capitalism is immoral” statement that the mechanisms of the free market have failed to produce “moral” economic outcomes. Executives earn too much money, non-executives earn too little. Business owners exploit their employees, and as a result the employees can never “get ahead” and gain new ground with their personal finances.
And it’s not just protesters outside the G20 Summit who believe these things. I suspect that a great many Americans think and believe that the free market has produced “immoral” outcomes, as well. But it is not sufficient to simply say “the free market is immoral.” If one really believes this, then one must ask themselves “what system would make for a better alternative?” Yet without formally asking this question about “alternatives,” most people who believe that the free market is immoral presume, almost instinctively, that an economic system with more government controls and mandates can produce a more “moral” outcome.
So let’s assume for a moment that this is true, that more government controls and mandates on business can produce a more “moral” outcome for the economy, and for the broader society. If this is so, then one must also answer this question: who is the individual person that is so wise, so all-knowing, so just and so good, that they can make all the decisions necessary to produce this “more moral” economy?
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.