On particular issues, I can find common cause with conservatives. For example, when Houston sought to implement zoning in the early 1990s, many conservatives opposed the measure, and they were valuable allies in defending property rights and capitalism. However, with few exceptions, their argument consists of “capitalism works.”
Of course, this is correct. There is ample evidence—nineteenth century America, East Germany versus West Germany, communist China versus Hong Kong, etc.—that demonstrates the practical benefits of capitalism. But that hasn’t stopped America from steadily moving towards socialism/fascism. The reason lies in morality.
Faced with a choice between what is considered moral and what is practical—what works—individuals choose what they regard as moral. And most Americans, including conservative talk show hosts, have embraced altruism—the belief that morality consists of self-sacrificial service to others.
The free market is founded on the premise that each individual has a moral right to act according to his own judgment in the pursuit of his own values. It is a system based on rational self-interest, in which each individual is free to take the actions he deems appropriate to achieve his own interests and happiness (so long as he respects the mutual rights of others). This is, of course, the antithesis of altruism.
If morality consists of self-sacrificial service to others, if we must place the welfare and interests of others before our own, if the needs of one man supersede the rights of another, then morality demands that practical consequences be cast aside. It doesn’t matter that capitalism delivers the goods. According to altruism, capitalism is immoral.
Certainly, it is important to address the practical benefits of capitalism. But such arguments will not win the battle for freedom and capitalism.
Until conservatives reject altruism, they will not be able to defend capitalism. Until they defend capitalism on moral grounds, they will continue to win battles and lose the war. And if you disagree, just consider this fact: Over the past 100+ years America has moved steadily towards socialism and away from capitalism. If the “capitalism works” argument works, then why are conservatives losing the war?