The Generalist

Beginner’s Guide to Capitalism and Natural Law

I recently met a man who told me that the state of Afghanistan was proof that a society would not spontaneously order itself towards capitalism.

Now, I don’t know where he got the idea that it would, but it seems likely to me that this is a common misconception. So I am going to address it.

Capitalism is an economic system (not a political one, though it does depend on a political one) that will naturally develop in a civilized society. Afghanistan is not a civilized society, rather it is a lawless state. There can be no civilization without law. But, what kind of law produces a civilized state?

Natural Law is not called natural because it will develop spontaneously. It is natural because if you want a civilized state you must obey the laws of nature. Man does not spontaneously fly either. He must obey the laws of physics. If he does, then he can fly. If he chooses to ignore them, he stays grounded or else falls to his death. In this sense, Natural Law and the Laws of Physics are not so different.

In a state of nature, any living creature, not just a human being, has a responsibility to support its own life. I discussed this previously when I explained why rights are inalienable. Responsibility here is not used to mean blame. These are two different concepts. You are responsible for your own life because it is YOU that experiences that life. Hence, whatever decisions are made, whether you make them or you allow someone else to make them, or you are forced to make them by a government, the result is YOU SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES. There’s no way around this. Every living creature has this problem.

This does not mean that we as humans don’t rely on each other, help each other, offer charity to each other, etc. It means that ultimately, whatever you choose to do, the result is either pain or happiness for you. But no one else is in a position to determine what will make you happy – just as no one else is in a position to determine what or when you will need to eat. You alone know when you’re hungry or thirsty. You must have that level of control or you cannot live an optimal life.

One of my pet peeves is in the song Imagine by John Lennon. The absurd implication that life would be somehow be great if nobody had any possessions is what in particular bothers me. There would be no life without possessions. The first and foremost possession that you have is your own self. Your BEING is a possession. It belongs to you; your consciousness. This is a fact of life. If you want to be alive, you can’t just give it up. It is inalienable. If you want to die, well, then there is nothing to discuss.

Assuming you want to live, your being (body and mind) is a possession and you have the responsibility for it. You must feed it when it’s hungry, etc. It is your consciousness that will suffer if you don’t. A proper government recognizes this fact. It recognizes that this responsibility is yours and yours alone. It does not say whether you will or will not ask the help of others or whether it is in your best interest to cooperate with others. It just recognizes that it is you that will have to determine this. This recognition results in THE RIGHT TO LIFE.

This is just a restatement of the above responsibility from the point of view of an outsider – a third party – a government.

When the right to life and all of its corollaries are recognized a state of civilization exists. It is from this state of civilization that a spontaneous economic system called capitalism develops.

So, as long as the people of Afghanistan do not recognize and adhere to this law and its corollaries they will never develop a civilized state and hence never develop capitalism. A state of war can never be a state of peace. Period.


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