Younkins' book offers timely,
important defense of capitalism
by Thomas Michaud, Ph. D.
Director of the Center for Applied Ethics at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Capitalism has been getting a “bad rap” lately. The terrible Enron-Tyco-Andersen-Stewart scandals, the anti-IMF/World Bank protests, the blame-American-capitalism-first apologists for Moslem extremists’ terror all have been lustfully covered by various media that delight in castigating capitalism. Their anointed alternative is nothing other than BIGGER government. For them, the demons of capitalism can be exorcised by the collective power of government, whether that be the state, federal or, as some presently desire, a world government with a mighty world court.
The anti-capitalists seek a utopia that they promise can be achieved through the government’s redistribution of wealth so that equality will reign and financial risks and uncertainty no longer will be facts of life.
Those who are being duped by such utopian carnival barking should recall the motto of our state, “Montani Semper Liberi.” Freedom is the very essence of capitalism, and it is only as citizens within democratic capitalism that we can flourish and pursue happiness, which is our Creator-given right.
It is important periodically to be strongly reminded of how precious our freedom is and how our freedom is bound to capitalism. A recent book by one of my colleagues, Ed Younkins, entitled “Capitalism and Commerce” (Lanham, Md: Lexington Books 2002: available on amazon.com) is such a reminder.
Younkins, a native West Virginian, writes for the educated businessperson. He uses plain language and clear arguments to explain the foundations of free enterprise. Readers of his book, and I recommend it most highly to anyone who has been sickened by relentless capitalism-bashing or BIGGER government utopianism, will readily recognize Younkins’ libertarian mindset.
However, Younkins’ libertarianism is not of the sort so common with insipid radio talk hosts who reduce everything, including all ethics, to mere individual choice. In fact, the book’s introduction is titled “Capitalism and Morality” and shows that the development of moral, virtuous character is basic to successful capitalism. Younkins explains that the free market rewards polite, tolerant, open, honest, trustworthy, fair-dealing businesspeople.
A passage from the book: “In the long run, profitable businesses tend to be populated by people who conduct business in accord with basic ethical principles calling for honesty, respect for persons and property, fidelity to commitments, justice and fairness” (p. 4).
With his ethics in place, Younkins discusses a wide range of issues, including the common good, the labor union, the corporation, entrepreneurship and technology. Still, it is Part V of the book, “Obstacles to a Free Society,” that is most provocative, regardless of whether one accepts or rejects Younkins’ views. Among those obstacles are environmentalism, public education, taxation, protectionism, antitrust laws and government regulation.
With regard to environmentalism, for example, Younkins laments how private property rights have been abridged and how business has been unfairly damaged by BIGGER government environmentalism. Younkins, therefore, supports decentralized environmental policy that would rely on private solutions and common law remedies. Such decentralization, Younkins believes, would be far more effective and far less politicized than present government-centralized policy.
Younkins’ thoughts on public education are no less challenging. He argues for consumer-financed education replacing tax-based funding so that there would be a separation of education from the state. His position emerges from his claim that “educational experimentalism,” a program of the 20th century philosopher John Dewey, is dominant today. This program views education as the source of social progress so that public schools have been turned into indoctrination centers to develop a socialized population that adapts to an egalitarian state operated by an intellectual elite (p. 230).
Younkins’ “Capitalism and Commerce” will shake up anyone who has become too comfortable with the status quo of BIGGER government. And, most of all, it motivates readers to exact an honest measure of their freedom and question how much, or how little, freedom they really have left.