The author explains that
the mind's fullest functioning requires the legal protection
of individual rights. Each human being has the fundamental
right to act on his own thinking and thus requires
protection from the initiation of force or fraud. Capitalism
requires a government that protects rights and that does not
itself violate its citizens' rights and freedom. Bernstein
observes that the U.S. Constitution is flawed because it
allows the government to initiate force against American
Egoism is the pursuit of
an individual's rational self-interest. Bernstein explains
clearly why a man should be the beneficiary of his own
actions. He validates egoism as a universal principle and as
the only proper moral code. He defends capitalism as the
logical political-economic consequences of an egoistic
approach to ethics and as the embodiment of rational
Bernstein maintains that
individual rights and capitalism are necessary for man's
life-gaining quest for values. He thoroughly discusses the
nature of value and the standard by which values are judged.
He explains that the concept of value is based on
metaphysical facts of reality and identifies the
relationship between values and the nature of human beings.
The ultimate value is an individual's life and the standard
of value is man's survival qua man. The author
identifies man's mind as the primary means to gain values,
to promote one's life, and to seek one's happiness. He also
describes virtues as a means by which a man achieves values.
It follows that productiveness is one of the moral virtues.
When men are free they
can use their minds to attain their goals and further their
lives. Bernstein explains that reason does not function
automatically and that irrationality is evasion or the
refusal to think. To use one's mind as a tool of survival
involves the choice to focus on reality. Focus involves a
man's decision to activate his mind and to be alert for
opportunities to form his ideas, values, and principles.
The author describes
altruism, the surrendering of values, as a code of
self-sacrifice. Rejecting altruism, he explains that each
human being should pursue and gain the values his life and
happiness require. He thus rejects Kant's ethics of duty
that maintains that each person has unchosen obligations to
others and thus should perform selfless service to them.
Kant's moral philosophy deprives self-interest of any and
all honor. The rejection of self-interest is also a
rejection of all human values because to pursue one's
self-interest means to pursue values and goals. Kant's
vision of morality thus consists of total, abject,
Economic ills are caused by statism
that capitalism is the only system that helps the poor, is
the cure for racism and bigotry, and is the solution for
problems in education and healthcare. He also explains that
slavery is founded on the initiation of brute force and that
abolition involves free capitalist nations struggling
against statist regions that reject individual rights. In
addition, the author evaluates the economic performance of
capitalist nations such as America, South Korea, Hong Kong,
and Taiwan versus that of socialist regions like Soviet
Russia, Cuba, Socialist Scandinavia, North Korea, and China.
Real-world performance indicates that the non-capitalist
nations of the world are not only repressed but have much
lower living standards. Bernstein observes that, when the
mind is suppressed, industrialization and technological
development are stifled. Furthermore, it is statism that
gives rise to evils such as war, imperialism, and slavery.
The author describes how
capitalism liberates both the producers who set the economic
terms and the customers who apprehend the value of products.
Economic calculation provides a standard of action for
planning under capitalism because of the existence of market
prices that result from the thinking and actions of
countless people. He explains how capitalism applies a
vastly greater and incalculable amount of knowledge and mind
power to solving problems of production and distribution
than does socialism. The author states that the problem of
socialism is that it requires economic planning without the
benefit of an intellectual division of labor.
The book details how
economic ills commonly ascribed to capitalism such as
monopolies, unemployment, inflation, and economic downturns
are actually caused by statism. Coercive monopolies stem
from the government making laws debarring entry into a
field. Unemployment results from minimum wage laws and the
granting of coercive power to unions. Inflation is a product
of government expanding the money supply which leads to
debasement of the monetary standard. Depression and
recession are brought about by regulations and interventions
that strangle the economy.
Statist regimes are at
chronic war with their own citizens and invariably hate
America, the world's freest nation. Bernstein observes that
statism needs war and survives by looting, whereas a free
country requires peace and survives by production. He states
that world peace requires the establishment of global
capitalism (i.e., international free trade). Capitalist
nations would protect their citizens' freedom of speech,
freedom of the press, and economic freedoms such as the
right to own property, to start their own businesses, and to
seek profits. Pre-capitalist and non-capitalist systems are
politically oppressive and economically destitute and their
citizens have few or no rights.
The charges that
capitalism is responsible for imperialism and slavery are
false. According to Bernstein, a government that fails to
recognize the rights of its own citizens exists under no
moral constraints with respect to foreigners. Individuals of
any nationality are its potential victims. Imperialism is
simply warfare to conquer a territory. Like war and
imperialism, slavery is founded on the initiation of force.
Slavery relies on force and thus undermines the role of the
mind in man's life.
A systematic treatment of
provides a systematic treatment of capitalism as developed
over centuries through a number of disciplines including
philosophy, economics, political science, law, history, and
so on. The Capitalist Manifesto is interesting,
jargon free, clearly written, and accessible to a wide range
of readers. It argues convincingly that wealth comes only
from adherence to the rational principles of the free
enterprise system. The book is a fine statement of the moral
and economic arguments for capitalism. This tour de force
presentation thoroughly and eloquently addresses virtually
every question or criticism anyone has ever made about the
morality or practicality of capitalism.
This solid work is a real
contribution to understanding the philosophical, moral, and
economic underpinnings of capitalism. Its underlying theme
is that the mind is man's tool of survival and that the mind
requires freedom. Bernstein's well-written book persuasively
argues that capitalism rests on a sound moral foundation. By
doing that, it serves an essential function.
Although this book is
written for the educated generalist or layperson and the
college student, it should be read by everyone – especially
by journalists and politicians. Hopefully, it will be
adopted as a textbook both here and abroad with foreign
editions and translations. Bernstein's seminal work is a
triumph in the crusade for freedom and individual rights. We
certainly need more books like this.