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“Capitalists Need To Respect Ideas”

By Bradley Harrington

Published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on April 11, 2014

“The economic benefits which the whole society, including the poor, does receive from capitalism come about strictly as secondary consequences, not as primary goals. The primary goal which makes the system work is the personal, private, individual profit motive. When that motive is declared to be immoral, the whole system becomes immoral, and the motor of the system stops dead.” - Ayn Rand, Letter to Leonard Read, 1946 -

Some believe that principles play no role in politics or human affairs.

These are the “pragmatists.” They see no consequences to ignoring ideas and believe that the way to challenge the tyrannical arguments of the collectivists is merely to prove their schemes of enslavement to be economically invalid and unworkable.

For these people, unfortunately, reality has, like a well-scripted morality play, once again given these “defenders” of free enterprise the slap in the face they so righteously deserve.

This time, that slap takes the form of locally-generated arguments for and against an increase in the minimum wage:

“A Cheyenne lawmaker says businesses are morally obligated to ensure residents have the ability to support themselves. But others say a wage increase is the wrong approach and would only cost jobs.” (“Is minimum wage hike right move for city?”, WTE, April 6.)

Observe, right at the outset, the general thrust of each of these arguments:

The “pro” side couches its position in terms of an ethical principle. The “con” side, on the other hand, chooses to evade that level completely, asserting instead that such an increase would simply “cost jobs” (which is true enough, but completely irrelevant in this context).

Specifically, the “local lawmaker” in this mix is state Rep. James Byrd, D-Cheyenne.

He unabashedly declares that it “is a moral imperative that we adjust the base wage so people can live.” He therefore advocates lifting the Wyoming minimum wage to $9 per hour.

But there is more: in a subtle twist on the funding of (so-called) “social” government programs, Mr. Byrd actually promotes such a lift on the basis of saving the taxpayers money:

“Government should not be in the business of making up, or having to make up, the differential where the business entities refuse to.”

Really, Mr. Byrd? Then why have you been a proponent of such government interference for your entire political career?

No, it seems Mr. Byrd now believes government should be in the business of coercing local companies to adhere to his standards of whatever he deems to be “proper” wage policy instead. That is hardly what I would consider to be an improvement.

In both cases, isn’t it obvious that the collectivist view of local businesses is that they are nothing more than a “social resource” to be conscripted and manipulated by government whenever it feels like it, for ends it deems as suitable?

And the correct approach to take against such contentions? To assert:

- That individuals, as well as the businesses they create, exist for their own sake and happiness.

- That their rightfully produced wealth is not a “social resource.”

- That they produce jobs in order to increase production and profits, not to benefit “society.”

You would think the need for such an approach would be evident to anybody - but never underestimate the abilities of the so-called “defenders” of capitalism to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Here’s what we get instead:

“Our focus is more on access and education,” said Dale Steenbergen, local Chamber of Commerce president and CEO and an opponent of increasing the minimum wage.

“It is positive for everyone to have a well-trained workforce. We all have to take responsibility, but it also falls on the individual to find those positions.”

Observe the implications of such an argument:

The collectivists bray that businesses are “morally obligated” to assume responsibility for the lives of their employees.

On the other hand, Mr. Steenbergen - to the extent that he even addresses the moral argument at all - concedes the point, thereby handing the collectivists the victory they could never have won on their own merits.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when one enters the battlefield of ideas armed with little more than “practical,” non-principled peashooters.

It is the very foundations, the philosophical underpinnings of a free society that are now under attack, and it is only on that level that this battle can effectively be fought. This is what can only be termed as intellectual suicide.

And people actually wonder why the alleged “defenders” of individualism, capitalism and property rights have been suffering setbacks for decades. And why they continue to lose election after election. Especially when they have all of ethics, ideas, philosophy, history and economics on their side.

Wonder no longer - for “impractical,” idea-oriented reality always gains its revenge.

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne; he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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