Why Not Capitalism by Jason Brennan – My Christmas Gift for a Friend

why not capitalism

21 Dec Why Not Capitalism by Jason Brennan – My Christmas Gift for a Friend

In his recent book Why Not Capitalism, philosophy Professor Jason Brennan makes a compelling case for Capitalism as the ideal state for any society. To do so, he takes apart the argument for Socialism from both moral and practical perspectives and argues that capitalism remains the ideal system.

Brennan understands that a major criticism of Capitalism is how it glorifies the selfishness of human nature. Capitalism is bad, we must do good, hence we must remove all capitalistic elements from our society, as many socialist would have us believe.

Yet another criticism is that Capitalism makes a few better off at the expenses of many. Brennan resists this. He shares with us a elegant experiment he does with his undergraduate class.

As students file into the classroom, he would give each of them a different candy bar. He would then ask them to rate the candy bar they have received, with a rating of 10 being that they love the candy bar and 1 being they absolutely hate it. All scores are tallied.

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When everyone has received his or her candy bar, the entire class would be told that they can trade their candy bar with any willing partner. Most students make a trade. After they are done, they were asked to rate the satisfaction with the candy bar they now possess.

Logically, anyone who trades would end up with a higher level of satisfaction, otherwise they would just sit tight on their initially allocated candy bar. As a whole, the general satisfaction level of the class goes up by 30 to 50% after they were given the chance to trade.

As Brennan has shown, Capitalism is not a zero sum game. Built on the principles of free markets and trade, everyone in class is better off individually. As a result, the entire class (society) is better off.

Stephan Covey and the Seven Habits. 

Reading Brennan made me relate to something I came across many years ago. In his classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote about the Scarcity Mindset.

Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mindset. They see life as having only so much, as though there is only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everyone else.
The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.

Contrast this with the Abundance Mindset.

The Abundance Mindset dictates that that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everyone. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity.

What does all this mean? 

Beyond all the preamble, I wish to make two points.

Point #1. After seeing how badly countries that experimented with Socialism (Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, etc) are languishing, there is little chance we will go back to a socialist state. At least not within our life times. We can safely dismiss the thoughts of Socialism. Capitalism is here to stay.

And the language of any capitalist society is the language of money. To survive and to do well in a Capitalistic society, we need to learn how to speak the language of money. Imagine going to China and not knowing Mandarin, or traveling to Paris and not knowing French. You would feel handicapped and lost.

The converse is true. Being able to read road signs and menus will enable us to get so much more out of the place we have travelled to. Being able to converse with locals in their native language will be so much more fun as we journey on.

Only when we can understand the language will we be able to better appreciate the culture and the nuances of the society. Being able to speak the local language can also get us out of dangerous and sticky situations.

Think of BigFatPurse as a language school. We are committed to help you master the language. Not only that, we will converse with you in that language constantly to help you maintain your proficiency. We are here to help you master the game of capitalism.

Point #2. As Jason Brennan has demonstrated and Stephen Covey has elaborated, being a capitalist is not about depriving others. On the contrary, it is about helping everyone become better.

The language of money is not one that is evil. Doing well for yourself in this capitalistic society is not evil. If for any moment you think it is, revisit Covey and think about what mindset are you propagating.

My Christmas Gift

I write this for a dear friend of mine. Someone whom I feel has the ability to do very well for himself but yet is bogged down by his own self-defeating mindset towards money and success and life; someone who is skeptical about what BigFatPurse can do to help the society at large. I use Brennan and Covey as proxies, and I sincerely hope it sparks off awareness and reflection.

Happy Holidays!


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