Reconciling ourselves to capitalism

Reflecting on aspects of the debate about capitalism, I picked this out of Liberalism, the Classical Tradition:

To advocate private ownership of the means of production is by no means to maintain that the capitalist social system, based on private property, is perfect. There is no such thing as earthly perfection. Even in the capitalist system something or other, many things, or even everything may not be exactly to the liking of this or that individual. But it is the only possible social system. One may undertake to modify one or another of its features as long as in doing so one does not affect the essence and foundation of the whole social order, viz., private property. But by and large we must reconcile ourselves to this system because there simply cannot be any other.

In Nature too, much may exist that we do not like. But we cannot change the essential character of natural events. If, for example, someone thinks — and there are some who have maintained as much — that the way in which man ingests his food, digests it, and incorporates it into his body is disgusting, one cannot argue the point with him. One must say to him: There is only this way or starvation. There is no third way. The same is true of property: either-or — either private ownership of the means of production, or hunger and misery for everyone.

By this point, Mises has considered — bullets my own — “five different conceivable systems of organizing the cooperation of individuals in a society based on the division of labor [sic]:

  • The system of private ownership of the means of production, which in its developed form, we call capitalism;
  • The system of private ownership of the means of production with periodic confiscation of all wealth and its subsequent redistribution;
  • The system of syndicalism;
  • The system of public ownership of the means of production, which is known as socialism or communism;
  • and, finally, the system of interventionism.”

Also, the point is explored that socialism can be brought about by retaining private ownership of property but so tightly controlling its use through rules and regulations that the fact of private ownership is of no consequence.

I won’t quote the book all day: I do recommend it.

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