In our genes are is encoded from the beginning of evolution the idea of survival of the fittest. When humans were becoming modern between 200,000 years and 50,000 years ago in Africa, only the strong survived. This is found and imprinted in our DNA . However, people have extend this idea of Darwinism to the economic arena of competition in the market place. They have accused capitalism as being predatory.

The question is, is this an accurate portrait of capitalism and the way we really interact in a modern human setting? Is capitalism is a moral and valid option for an enlightened society? Is a free market a good market?

capitalism and ethics

As we have evolved, in our genes is not only encoded the survival of the individual but also the survival of humanity. Therefore, when individuals are given economic liberty, they generally gravitate to a greater good. Even if the greater good results from unintentional consequences of self-interest actions.

Our basic genetic equipment also includes the capacity of putting oneself in the situation and thoughts of others. It is in this and similar aptitudes of social behavior and the very great capacity of our species rests – Alfred Gierer Director of Max Planck Institute.

Humans evolved based on a survival of the fittest code, but not only. Further, as we continue to develop, this code  becomes less important. What is important and genetic research confirms this is, creativity, communication and cooperation.

If the human race is to survive, reptilian predatory genes need to yield to creative, communicative and cooperative genes in our species. Nature knows this even if humans do not. As resources grow scare and populations increases nature is pruning our DNA by allowing the creative and cooperative to proliferate and further differentiate our genetic material over simply the aggressive and strong.

Therefore, my thesis that positive human economic behavior in a free society is generally deeply ingrained in our being human.  I believe humans are innately good. Free economics create unintentionally positive outcomes.

When given freedom in economics, like in a capitalist model, generally people will bring good to their lives and those around them and society as a whole will be better off.

Evidence why capitalism is ethical

The same can be said about capitalism and economics. Think of your workplace today.

  • Most of your day-to-day work life activities are a series of boring but important cooperation and communications with your coworkers.
  • New clients are won often on strategic partnerships, contacts and business relationships.
  • Creative ideas like thinking of the next big thing (Facebook and Netflix) or a cure to lower back pain will yield greater profits than squeezing out another 1% of market share from your competition. Innovation and entrepreneurship is rewarded in capitalism.
  • Economics is not zero sum game. Generally markets are organically growing and new markets arise. Think of the search engine market and the number of new users coming online abroad everyday.  Economic trading is a Win-Win a mutual benefit of two parties operating on arm’s length transactions, is what trade is about.
  • Philanthropy – An economic love of humanity – From Bill Gates to Warren Buffet to the Rockefeller foundation philanthropy is a positive outcome of capitalism. Sergey Brin’s ethos of ‘do not harm’ + ‘do good’.  Read about the morality of capitalism from a co-founder of Wholefoods. If this type of example continues I hope the world will be a better place.

So we can conclude that man is a social animal and to survived as a social animal positive cooperation is a part of competition. We are not simple reptiles, even if we wanted to me. I know countless wealthy honest normal business people, establishing small firms. Economic criminals who hit the headlines we take note of but are not the rule. They could not be or economic relationships would not exist.

Keep economic liberty but punish people who take advantage of the trust of others

We can not through the baby out with the bath waters because we have rule breakers or people that exist several standard deviations from the norm in terms of greed and selfishness.

People who violate the codes of ethical human behavior in the market place are punished. Maybe not all, but many.

A human ethic combine with liberty is playing a greater role in changing the way people do business. You can have a free market, with individuals accepting the responsibility of this freedom. People who play by the rules and creative and innovate are rewarded. In this way can enlighten self-interest work.

  • Trust is the real global currency that markets are based on, and creativity and cooperation is what modern capitalism is about.
  • This is a global economic ethics manifesto

The capitalism that I am talking about is enlightened self-interest of Adam Smith, not extreme selfishness and greed, but an ethically oriented economics that is played out in the economic field. It is of course easier to think in terms of absolutes like extreme capitalism or a straight jacket on personal liberty at the expense of ‘equality’, but for a healthy functioning body of human economic behavior works better if it enlightened capitalism. This will be better for individuals and society. Adam Smith was about enlighten self-interest, not selfishness and greed.

What about the idea that a wave of greed brought on the economic crisis

The economic crisis was caused by the central bank lowing interest rated down to 1% so we could all go shopping again after 9/11. I think the movie Wall Street 2 pretty well outlined this explanation of the financial crisis of 2008.

It was caused by the expansion of public and private credit, driven by central bank policy. It was like some farmer opening the grain storage bins and when the animals rush over and bloat themselves, blaming it on animal greed.

Animals will eat until their own personal demise if they are given free access to unnatural refined stores of grains. This is what the central bank does and why we should have free market money and less government not more. This is why capitalism has a bad name, distortions in natural grazing so to speak.

It was not caused by a wave of irrational greed that grip the country, but central bank policy that opened Pandora’s box.

Politicians played up on jealousy and fear to create social and class division.

 Criticisms of capitalism are mostly unjust

Although I am an unrepentant capitalist, I take these criticism of a free market seriously and do not believe in absolutes and extremes.

  1. Not every person operating in a free capitalist society is enlightened and operating on enlightened self interest.
  2. Further, there is great injustice in the world, particularly in economically and some created by capitalism.
  3.  Lastly, even Adam Smith explained that there needs to be opportunities for people, to have a critical level of education, a good upbringing and guidance to be able to function efficiently in a free market.

However, most of these things can be solved with an understanding of  ‘public goods’ and a free market management of these things. Milton Friedman outlined a number of these solutions in his works. However, I admit not all.

Marxism rose out of  abuses of human capital, but also jealousy and resentment. Similarly, politicians in the US play with people’s emotions and turn them against the idea that people can handle their own economic liberty. I belive they can. I believe in the goodness of human nature and the human race that we are evolving to a greater level, a level of freedom

Ethical investing and consuming – what you can do?

Do you want to have a more just economic order? Instead of focusing on just on political change, first examine your own patterns of consumption and investing. For example, I will not invest in any company that even slightly feels to me unethical. No military contractors or tobacco companies or companies that pollute, take advantage of labor or part of the industrial military complex. I also do not consciously buy products from these companies. You do not have to be a peace and love Greenpeace person, but a factor in my consumption and investment patters is ethics.

My personal experience with ethics in the workplace

I have meet many times more people like jolly Mr. Fezziwig, than Ebenezer Scrooges in my professional life.

I like to think that I have generally treated people fair in the workplace. Both as an employe, a manager and employee.  I enjoyed treating people with kindness and always had a smile and good cheer in the workplace and this was a win-win for productivity but also for people’s lives.

In conclusion, my argument is that capitalism is ethical and a positive thing for humanity as I believe that humans are innately good. Given liberty they will generally do the right thing. In fact, this innate goodness is further being encoded in our genes by a nature that wants us to survive, that is the human race, just not the individual. That is why capitalism can work, but only if tempered by ethics and compassion, both on an individual and global level. Fortunately, most people have this capacity for empathy and ethics, don’t you?

Is capitalism ethical?

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