|Gary M Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. He is the author of The Apostle of Peace: The Radical Mind of Leonard Read.|
[Striker: The source article begins with a myriad of “quoted proof” for Gary’s summary which follows]:
So what can we conclude about the “selfish materialism” assertions against capitalism?
Freedom, or “liberalism” in Ludwig von Mises’ terminology, does not directly advance ultimate ends because those ends are unimportant, but because they cannot be provided through external expedients. It is not a valid criticism to say that freedom does not directly advance ultimate ends, when no system of social organization can do so.
When no social organization can directly advance ultimate ends, systems must instead be evaluated by which does the most to make those ends possible. Here, freedom offers multiple major advantages.
Freedom’s massive expansion of productivity compared to any other system allows people to free up far more time and effort for pursuing ultimate goods (while simultaneously providing far more material goods). In this sense, freedom is a complement to, rather than a substitute for, attaining ultimate ends.
By offering individuals the ability to choose the means they will employ, within the bounds created by others’ rights, which coercion does not, freedom expands the higher, ultimate ends individuals’ are actually able to pursue.
Freedom requires that the pursuit of one’s ends must at the same time expand others’ freedom to pursue their ends, while coercive alternatives contract that freedom for others.
Freedom is the only system that appropriately rewards responsibility and is not inconsistent with the imperative that “you shall not steal,” expressed in every society but violated in all coercive systems.
Freedom allows people to learn from example to better discover what will work in advancing their ultimate ends. It offers individuals the maximum potential for moral growth.
Historically, freedom-enabled bursts of productivity and wealth creation have led to consequent outbursts of creativity and learning, improved health and humanitarian advances, the reverse of accusations leveled against it.
While freedom allows greater output to be produced, that does not make it materialistic. It is more likely that the persistent denial of the fruits of one’s labor to individuals in alternative, coercive systems makes people, of necessity, far more materialistic in focus.
By making more material goods and service available, freedom, plus diminishing marginal utility actually encourages more focus on non-material things.
Finally, the logical u-turn done by socialist-leaning critics in transforming material goods from benefits when they promised them to costs when freedom delivers them reveals that accuracy and truth are not the main motivation for the criticism.
“Selfish materialism” is one of a host of accusations by which those who wish to impose their views on others harass believers in freedom—and potential believers in freedom. But it shares two central things in common with the others—it is false, and careful thinking is able to reveal it as such. That is why those of us who wish to expand the reality of self-ownership and its consequences in the world must continually work to rebut such distortions and communicate the wonders of freedom accurately—it is the only hope of reaching those who remain open to freedom that is consistent with freedom.
Hopefully this will aide in some readers grasping just what Freedom truly means! If you need further proof then there’s good reason for reading the Source! Your thoughts are most welcome!