Why Many People Hate (Free Market) Capitalism

Libertarians like to say often that one of the reasons people don’t like capitalism is because what we capitalism today isn’t capitalism as we think of it. They are thinking of mercantilism, which is what our current economy is based on, whereas libertarians equate capitalism with the free market. The argument is that if people understood the difference they wouldn’t oppose capitalism and thus a lot of misunderstanding could be cleared up by differentiating.

I disagree. My own experience has been that most people equate the free market with capitalism. They know what it is. And no matter how much you explain that our current economy is fascist and mercantile in its nature, it won’t persuade them that state intervention in the form of regulations and subsidies are harmful. If you’re able to get them to reject the idea of a central bank due to the boom-bust cycle, you’ll be lucky.

There are some people who oppose the free market (capitalism) for the same reason they oppose libertarianism; they’re narcissists. They’re insecure and afraid of their own perceived failings and how it will be reflected in their life. The state is a wonderful means of cloaking inferiority that would inevitably and natural arise through voluntary interactions and a marketplace where people’s achievements were more or less merit-based.

Or, more nefariously, one can argue that they are victims of oppression; it is why you will see people say contradictory things, such as decry the bigotry of racial groups then complain and whine when they leave the region. They’ve created a false oppressor and require its presence in order to maintain the charade. The state can be used in a similar manner.

The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote as much in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality.

In his writing, he refers to capitalism as the free market (emphasis added):

Now we can try to understand why people loathe capitalism.

In a society based on caste and status, the individual can ascribe adverse fate to conditions beyond his own control. He is a slave because the superhuman powers that determine all becoming had assigned him this rank. It is not his doing, and there is no reason for him to be ashamed of his humbleness. His wife cannot find fault with his station. If she were to tell him: “Why are you not a duke? If you were a duke, I would be a duchess,” he would reply: “If I had been born the son of a duke, I would not have married you, a slave girl, but the daughter of another duke; that you are not a duchess is exclusively your own fault; why were you not more clever in the choice of your parents?”

It is quite another thing under capitalism. Here everybody’s station in life depends on his own doing. Everybody whose ambitions have not been fully gratified knows very well that he has missed chances, that he has been tried and found wanting by his fellow man. If his wife upbraids him: “Why do you make only eighty dollars a week? If you were as smart as your former pal, Paul, you would be a foreman and I would enjoy a better life,” he becomes conscious of his own inferiority and feels humiliated.

The much talked about sternness of capitalism consists in the fact that it handles everybody according to his contribution to the well-being of his fellow men.

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5 Responses to Why Many People Hate (Free Market) Capitalism

  1. Yes. A lot of populist anticapitalism, and perhaps all anticapitalism, boils down to insecurity.

    I see this a lot in artistic circles – in film, music, literature, etc. I have interests in art (particularly film, literature, and music), and I see how these fields are dominated de facto by leftists (strangely, a lot of SJWs have it in their head that a liberal-dominated sphere is racist sexist homophobic misognyistic chauvinistic).

    The strain of artistic anti-capitalism comes with these premises: in capitalism, masses prefer mindless pulp to great literature; without government funding of arts, great art will be phased out and forgotten; capitalism is dehumanizing (haven’t these nutcases heard of Soviet communism or even “Old-Order” monarchism) and in a capitalistic society people are dehumanized and objectified and thus greatness is at a risk.

    I want to respond with the example of Herman Melville’s masterpiece Moby-Dick. Yes, when it was released, people disliked it or were lukewarm to it, because they expected a sea adventure and instead got a digressive, strange, overwhelming prose epic. Some critics did indeed like it, but it was a flop by financial standards. Leftists may take this as an example of the evils of capitalism and how it is dangerous to greatness. However, it was in the private sphere, with scholars such as Carl Van Doren and D. H. Lawrence, that Moby-Dick earned its rightful eminence as one of the great books of Western literature.

    Plus, it was in relatively capitalistic Britain and America that a lot of good-great works of literature were popular and well-received, and also where they were rediscovered and exalted to there rightful eminence. It was not due to the State but to the spontaneous workings of an unhampered sphere that these works rose to the cream of the crop.

    Yes, audiences tend to favor nonintellectual pursuits, but it is in freedom (even economic freedom) that intellect and the higher things thrive best.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It probably has very simple explanations:
      – Art is about emotions rather than reason.
      – Art is often subsidized; leftists get paid for exercising a hobby through which they can actually show contempt for the very people that indirectly pay them.
      – Art is esoteric. People who create it feel that they’re superior and deeper thinkers – intellectuals – compared to the masses. A sense of self-importance. Think about post-modern art: it’s often BS, but the artist (and his supporters) can claim people who call it such just “don’t get it”.-
      – Art can be easy (especially in the case of “post modern art”). They can get subsidies even if they suck as artists. In the market these people would actually have to provide something that is wanted. They are too talentless for that.

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  2. The Question says:

    “I see this a lot in artistic circles – in film, music, literature, etc. I have interests in art (particularly film, literature, and music), and I see how these fields are dominated de facto by leftists”

    As a fiction writer living in the Seattle area, I definitely see the Leftism in the art world. Why that is, I’m not particularly sure. Perhaps capitalists tend to pursue more STEM related work.

    “The strain of artistic anti-capitalism comes with these premises: in capitalism, masses prefer mindless pulp to great literature; without government funding of arts, great art will be phased out and forgotten;”

    Having an insider’s perspective into the fiction world, I can tell you one of the reasons that their books don’t sell well: They write literary fiction, which emphasizes prose and style over story. They also use a lot of passive verbs and the characters react rather than act. Mainstream fiction emphasizes story over prose and style; the stories are also character-driven, meaning the character’s desire propels the narrative. When it comes down to it, people buy books for their story, not prose, though a writer who can do both has it made. For some reason, however, writers want to either tell good stories or tell stories well, but not both (though I do try).

    Try reading, for example, anything by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy is the best prose writer I’ve come across, but his stories are extremely simplistic and straightforward. Literary fiction characters are also tend not to be particularly driven by an explicit desire, which gives them a very Calvinistic fatalism – even if the author is an atheist.

    As for the idea that the masses don’t like quality art, how do they explain Pixar films? They tell some of the best stories and they tell them well. Best of both worlds.

    One thing I found fascinating in antiquity, such as Roman times, was that artists had patrons who financially supported them; the idea was that art was meant to contribute to society and culture but not necessarily be valued monetarily. Some of the greatest art was commission by small, but wealthy individuals or groups. It wasn’t sold en masse.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your response.

      In defense of literary fiction, it’s not all “style over substance,” despite what a lot of genre fiction aficionados may have you believe. Rather, there can be many great stories in “literary fiction” (which includes what we deem “classics”). Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay — all these novels are literary, and all have stories. And the characters in them react and act, and these reaction and actions drive the story.

      Likewise, even the most “difficult” of literary-fiction books (particularly of Joyce and Faulkner) have stories. James Joyce’s Ulysses, a difficult modernist epic, definitely has characters and stories.

      Cormac McCarthy’s stories do tend to be “simpler,” particularly in The Road. But he’s an old-fashioned, epic storyteller, and Blood Meridian remains his supreme work. And that book is pretty complex in prose and story.

      Plus, a lot of our best fiction emphasizes prose as much as story. Nathaniel Hawthorne is one example, as is Herman Melville

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Question says:

    Agreed. Literary fiction can certainly have both story and prose, but just as mainstream fiction often neglects prose in favor of story, literary fiction can neglect story to focus more on prose.

    My reference to literary fiction writers are those who obsess over style to the point where they ignore story completely, then complain that mass readers don’t appreciate good art and this shows where the free market is flawed in bringing out the best product. People can appreciate good art, but the art has to properly appeal to their interests – one literary agent who read a novel of mine remarked that I had written “a 1930s book for a 1930s audience” and I needed to change that if people were going to buy it.

    We see this in how people who love quality films made by Pixar also have kitsch Thomas Kincade paintings hanging on the wall next to their TV, because both appeal to their interests.
    It also brings to mind a lot of art films or films with excellent cinematography, acting and directing, but the stories aren’t either are great or they have zero appeal to a mass audience.

    “Blood Meridian remains his supreme work. And that book is pretty complex in prose and story.”

    Have it on my bookshelf, ready to read. From what you say, it must be different from All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and the Cities of the Plains. I love McCarthy and studied his prose a lot when trying to improve my own work in my most recent fiction, but none of his books I’ve read so far are examples of complex stories, per se, but excellent story-telling.

    To make a long ramble short, in the free market people prefer art that reflects their values over quality art that doesn’t. What the types of artists you’re referring to are complaining about is that their art is (or not) good quality but it’s not popular because it reflects the values of only a limited percentage of the population.

    Thus, they want a system where their art isn’t a reflection of society’s values but where the art defines society’s values.

    Liked by 2 people

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