Many people are pro-capitalism with the proviso of "it's not perfect but it works", and think that it should be regulated. I claim, on the contrary, that laissez-faire capitalism (unregulated capitalism) is perfect and is the best political system. This implies that there should be no regulation whatsoever, including organizations such as ECC, FDA, and FED. Most importantly, there should be no anti-trust laws.
There should be only three things that are the responsibilities of a government: the army, the police, and a judicial system.
My argument is simple: capitalism is not an economic system, but a moral system, of which economic aspects are a necessary consequence. This moral political system respects inalienable rights of individuals. These rights are: the right to life and to private property.
These observations imply that under unregulated capitalism, the only way individuals can deal with each other, is by persuasion (without any threat of force). In other words, they deal with each other voluntarily. As such, the common criticism against capitalism that leads to exploitation is impossible, just from the definition of the terms. One can't be exploited if he engages voluntarily.
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I'd like to begin by agreeing with my opponent on the first half of the resolution. Capitalism is not amoral. In fact I strongly believe it is immoral. Where I contest the resolution is in the claim that capitalism is perfect. Perfect is a very high standard that pro must conclusively prove in order to win this debate. It is insufficient that pro merely shows capitalism is a good or even the best system - pro must counter my attempts to problematise capitalism, and further show that it cannot be problematised. I don't agree with "it's not perfect but it works" - it is my position that capitalism is inherently flawed in the long run.
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My opponent is concerned with the breaking down of society. He considers the well-being of a society as a whole to be the indicator of a successful political system. This is a common view, but one with which I disagree. There can be a society that is efficient overall, but unfair to some individuals.
An example of such a society would be a caste system, in which person’s vocation is legally determined at birth. This was India for two millennia, and it was prospering overall. A more dramatic example would be the institution of slavery. Under such a political system, the society also prospered (Ancient Rome, Greece, Babylon, Persia).
Clearly, there is something wrong in judging a political system from a birds-eye view. In contrast, I judge a political system from the point of view of an individual. I build the political philosophy bottom-up, from a single individual to a society of individuals, never loosing sight of the rights of a single individual.
After all, the most basic thing that I know is the fact that I exist. Every baby experiences this “I exist” moment, early in its development. Therefore, the “individual” must be the place to start in order to develop any moral theory.
I will now sketch how individualism implies that ownership of the body, and of private property are necessary moral rights, guaranteed metaphysically by man’s nature. They also give rise to all the derivative rights. (For a complete and original account see Ayn Rand’s “Objectivist Ethics”.)
Objectivist Ethics as the moral foundation for Capitalism
Living things have values, things that they desire to gain and keep. The ultimate value, which gives rise to all the other values is the desire to stay alive. For instance, an animal values food, because it values its life. It also values the ability to have a life in the nature of the specie. For instance, a lion could survive in a zoo cage, but a life in the wilderness would be better. (The lion would not be able to realize this consciously, but all of his essence will.) What are the basic values of a human being?
A human being is a rational animal. Furthermore, reason is his primary way of survival. He could not survive in the wilderness without discovering, through the process of reason, of how to make a fire, and how to build a warm hut. Therefore, to deny him to exercise this faculty would be arrest his very existence as a homo sapiens. Therefore, the ability to exercise the faculty of reason is of a primary value to him.
Just as it is in the nature of a lion to own the prey that he caught, it is in the nature of a man to own the results of his rational activity. If a man builds a house, it is his house. If a man turns a patch of wilderness into a civilized patch, it is his patch of land. Otherwise, what is the point of using this faculty to create results, if one cannot use them?
To illustrate the next part of my thesis in concrete terms, I will ask you to recall the story of Robinson Crusoe. Recall that Robinson suffers a shipwreck and is stranded on a deserted island, where he must survive. Not only he wants to merely remain alive, he wants to survive as a civilized man; living like a monkey and eating bananas would not suffice.
Therefore, from Robinson’s perspective, it is moral for him to (a) use his mind (b) act on his decisions, and (c) keep the product of his actions. For instance, he could domesticate wild pigs, in order to have a reliable meal. Consequently, here are formed the basic rights: the right to his own body (which is parts (a) and (b)), and of private property (part (c)).
Shortly after Robinson adapts and gets settled, another man by the name of “Friday” arrives on the island. By the principle of symmetry, and because Friday is a human being, Friday also has the same basic rights as Robinson. What is the metaphysics of these two men, now co-existing on the same island?
To illustrate this visually, I will use the device of a force-field from the “Star Trek” TV series. Imagine that a force-field bubble protects each man. The size of the bubble represents his rights. Also, a person would mark each of his private properties by enclosing it in a bubble that only he can enter.
Within his bubble, a person’s freedom is absolute. This is a crucial point: neither Robinson nor Friday gives up any of his former rights. Before Friday arrived, Robinson’s bubble would have been superfluous, but it would have been exactly the same size.
From the fact that freedom within a bubble is absolute, we derive all the other rights, such as, for instance, the right to free speech. This example shows why the right to private property is the foundation that makes all the other rights possible. On his own territory -- this could be a virtual real-estate of a private newspaper -- a person may say whatever he wants.
Because we lack the technology of “Star Trek”, the force-field bubbles are simulated by a political institution, to which all members pledge allegiance. This institution has a government of consisting of three things: a code of law to define the “geometry” and “locations” of the bubbles, a police force to enforce it, and a military to protect the island from invaders who do not want to accept the requirements of this political system. Finally, this institution is laissez-faire capitalism.
Note that the outlined protection of rights doesn’t stop Robinson and Friday from voluntarily collaborating. For instance, Robinson can invite Friday to visit his house. Or he can offer him a job in exchange for room-and-board. Friday, in turn, may refuse.
I do not find it necessary to add anything else to the political system I specified. I make no stipulations of what would benefit a group, because this problem does not arise in my analysis. I can only say generally that a moral system, if consistently applied, will not generate immoral behaviour.
A society, to me, is just a collection of individuals. My analysis started with individuals, and found a solution for individuals to co-exist. Whatever the interaction between these individuals, it is voluntary and is not set in stone.
The Occam’s Razor is a principle that states that if one has found a solution to a problem, there is no need to add more complications to the solution. The simplest solution is the right one. Here, I stated a solution for how individuals can co-exist, and that is my only concern. Furthermore, whatever add-ons we observe in other political systems, they happen to contradict the core requirements of laissez-fair capitalism.
I ran out of space, and placed the rest in a shared Google Doc.
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I'd like to thank my opponent for continuing the debate.
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I would like to thank my opponent for continuing the debate, despite my breaking of the rules in the previous round.
instance, is it good that women should be able to vote? One man would consult his holly book and say
“no”. Another man would consult his holly book and say “yes”. But there is no ties to metaphysical reality here, the deduction of why this vote and not that vote, ends at the views of the individual voters.
Just because an idea is widespread does not make it correct, and it should not be used as the basis to define rights. The only way to define rights is to start with an axiom that is true for every man. The axiom that I chose is the fact that every man agrees that he exists, and that he wants to remain to exist, as the primary value.
The next step is to recognize that he exists as a homo sapiens, not as a monkey, a sheep or an ant. What is the difference? The difference is that a homo sapiens has a faculty of reason and volition, that he can think rationally and make choices. For instance, what works for ants does not work for people. Ants are programmed to live for their colony, but people do not live for their society, because they are not programmed at all. They are equipped with a rational capacity, and that is it. The rest they must decide on their own, individually.
The "relational structures" to which my opponent refers to, make sense only after inalienable rights have been identified, established and are protected. Then, whatever "impositions" people attempt on other people by spreading ideas (for instance, of Christianity), the ideas may be voluntarily accepted or safely rejected, with the protection granted by the already established rights.
I will now address some of individual points that my opponent made.
Access to Cancer Treatments
It is important to clarify what should be meant by “access” in the discussion of a cancer patient. In capitalism, a sick patient cannot demand to be treated (to have access to a treatment) as if it was a human right. He must find a willing seller to sell him this treatment, for the price he is willing to pay. (Note: there may not be such seller available.) My only claim is that the government should not interfere against the opportunity to make such a voluntary trade.
Now, if a seller sells a rogue “cancer treatment”, it is a case of fraud and should be handled as any other fraud. Fraud is an indirect form of physical force. (For instance, a patient has agreed to a cancer treatment, but through a fraud, signed a document to have his kidney removed.)
However, that a treatment is safe should not be handled by a regulation that requires each treatment to pass a governmental test apriori. Law should treat everyone as innocent until proven guilty.
Note that it is not necessary for someone to die from a bad treatment, in order to identify it as fraudulent. I have already described, in the previous round, that private firms of high reputation can certify quality of products. This applies also to services. In the case of the cancer treatment, such a certifier can audit the scientific process through which the procedure was tested in the lab.
My opponent mentions extreme poor conditions in 3rd world countries such as Laos and Thailand, and says that poor people have no chance because they have no capital. This would not happen in capitalism. The reason that they can not make capital is because their country does not offer protection of private property. Their small private property would be ravaged by gangs of marauders.
In contrast, protection of private property is the fundamental feature of capitalism. A poor man would grow food on his property, knowing assuredly that it is safe. If he grows just a bit more than he needs, he can trade the excess for other types of food. Or, instead he can create something else of value (on the premises of his property), and trade that. His children would be able to capitalize on his legacy. Historically, many people lived in this fashion.
This last example also answers the claim that if one man owns all the food, then another man must work for him.
Also, it is impossible that a single man would own the whole resource on the free market. The free market landscape changes gradually. When a certain product becomes desirable, it is traded. As such, other people would accumulate the product or learn to produce it. For instance, in medieval times, Chinese porcelain was at first China's biggest export to Europe, but soon after the Europeans learned to produce the product by themselves.
Although there are indeed competitive barriers to entry in the free market, it is important to think in principles when evaluating a moral political system. The principle in capitalism is that each man is free to create whatever he wants on his private property. He can then consume it himself, or trade it. But, he is not required to trade it, and he is not required to compete with anyone. He can consume all of it by himself. (I touched on this point in the previous round.)
The possibility of trading is a bonus. It allows people to create a division of labour without sacrificing any of their rights. (Note: slavery of antiquity is also a division of labour, but in that case, rights were lost.)
To use the terminology of my opponent, capitalism allows relational structures to exist on top of the protected inalienable rights. Different customs can co-exist in capitalism, into which members can voluntarily join or leave.
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I'd like to thank my opponent for a spirited debate. This is the final round, so I will use it mostly to summarize what's happened. I see it as coming down to three fundamental disagreements.
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