Quite often when people make negative remarks against libertarians they will claim that capitalists are selfish. Whether it’s commenting on the amassed wealth as some form of negative against the common man, the labor theory of value, or other such arguments, we can see the statement is little more than an empty insult rather than any form of proper critique. I’ll explain why below so the next time someone attempts to claim that capitalists are selfish you can counter more effectively.
For starters, we will need to give some ground. There definitely are some people out there with command of capital that are indeed selfish. Whether its crony capitalists abusing IP law and government interference, or something as simple as the still-prevalent slumlords that overcharge their renters. Now the key here is “some people.” This is known as a Hasty Generalization Fallacy. This fallacy is when one generalizes too quickly based on small amounts of data. The notion that a small collection of people that act selfishly to the degree of negatively affecting others represents all those who are business or landowners is simply false.
The other issue with this is the circular argument in play. Capitalists are selfish because they hoard wealth because capitalists are selfish ad infinitum. The assertion of the claim is backed up with another assertion, which in turn is also only backed up by the initial claim. Even if we break the cycle there is little weight to either of the claims. “Hoarding” wealth is a misnomer as most wealth simply stock rather than liquid assets. It’s also a bad claim because if capitalists are selfish then they would want to generate even more wealth which means they’ll be spending that money or reinvesting it creating new jobs or products to do so. How terrible. Ignoring this the only other claim for capitalists being selfish would be that they have wealth at all, which is an argument so terrible it doesn’t warrant a breakdown here.
Now even if we go a step further and conceded that capitalists are selfish (which we’ve already shown that the arguments for that are moot) we have to ask “Well, has that been a bad thing?” Capitalists, even the ones that are selfish, take their wealth and spend it. It goes back into the economy, creates demand, and generally creates jobs and more wealth. Further still, the largest philanthropists are the very same capitalists they claim are too selfish to do anything for their fellow man. They even have a club for it.
With three little words, opponents of capitalism have committed two fallacies and ignored reality. I usually try not to be this harsh against those that use bad arguments, but I find those that use this particular one are simply malicious in intent. At the least I am willing to acknowledge it’s not all of them; it would be better for discourse if they could do the same.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.