What motivates haters of capitalism?

First Published: 2015-09-20

The intellectual leaders of the Canadian Left, such as Naomi Klein and David Suzuki, and their celebrity fellow travelers, including Neil Young, Donald Sutherland and Ellen Page, called for the end of capitalism (again) in their “Leap Manifesto” earlier this week. It was launched at the Toronto International Film Festival, presumably to promote Klein’s film based on her book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate, which serves as the foundation for the Manifesto. Such denouncements from the Left are continual and not news-worthy in themselves. However, understanding what motivates the haters of capitalism is worthwhile to anyone who cares about and wants to defend freedom, prosperity and well-being.

There are a plenty of capitalism haters in the world, but the smallest yet the most influential group among them are the intellectuals, so I will focus on them. In a Financial Post column, Peter Foster speculates that it is the inability to adhere to reality and to think logically that results in the failure of the Leftist intellectuals see the benefits of capitalism and to bite the Invisible Hand that feeds them. Foster deftly points out the hypocrisies, logical fallacies and falsehoods that constitute the Leap Manifesto, such as: demanding the end of fossil fuels while jetting around the world to spread their anti-development gospel, and calling for the end of global trade and “localization” of all production and trade, while taxing the corporations and the wealthy to finance the low-carbon, local economies.

But Peter Foster is mistaken about the Leap Manifesto being the result of the Leftists’ inability adhere to facts and to think logically. It is not a matter of ability. Every adult with an intact brain is capable of adhering to facts and thinking logically, even the intellectuals (although admittedly, illogical, self-contradictory texts such as the Leap Manifesto does make one question that). It is not the Leftists’ inability to think, but motivation, that drives them to hate capitalism and to resort to illogical arguments to persuade others.

What motivates the haters of capitalism? The intellectual haters know full well that capitalism is a system of freedom where individual rights, including property rights, are recognized, and people are free to produce and trade as they see fit, without government interference—as long as they don’t violate others’ individual rights. Even though full capitalism does not exist today (as to why, see another post here), the leftist hate the capitalist elements of our mixed economy. The hatred of freedom is not based on the Left’s belief that freedom is bad for us—although they do claim that freedom leads to climate change, the destruction of the planet, inequality, poverty, and other alleged calamities. The Leftist intellectuals hate freedom and capitalism because they know that those are the requirements of human survival, prosperity, and well-being. They hate freedom and capitalism because they are good for us. This is what Ayn Rand called the hatred of the good for being the good.

The Leftist intellectuals are anti-freedom, anti-development, anti-business—anti-human—for the alleged goal of saving the planet by eliminating the human “footprint” on it. That is the reason why such intellectuals want to take our freedom away and to create collectivist dictatorships where the majority rules how everyone must live (or preferably, not live at all).

The Left’s intellectuals are a small but an influential group. Most followers are attracted to their anti-capitalist propaganda out of ignorance, with no real understanding of what capitalism is and how it facilitates human survival and flourishing. Others see the benefits of capitalism but reject it out of altruism: the desire to self-sacrifice for the sake of others. For those who value human survival, prosperity and well-being, the best anti-dote to the Leap Manifesto and other denunciations of capitalism is to understand what capitalism means, to advocate it, and to point out the Left’s anti-human motivation.

First published at How to be Profitable and Moral: A Rational Egoist Approach to Business and posted here with the kind permission of the author.

Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. She has lectured and conducted seminars on business ethics to undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA students, and to various corporate audiences for over 20 years both in Canada and abroad. Before earning her Ph.D. from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, she helped turn around a small business in Finland and worked for a consulting firm in Canada. Jaana’s research on technological change and innovation, value creation by business, executive decision-making, and business ethics has been published in various academic and professional journals and books. “How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book.

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