Dogma Premise # 22

Because the private economy is a manifestation of social freedom, government should be restricted to just the few functions it is uniquely suited for, and should not compete if a product or service can be delivered by private enterprise.

Even more than Dogma Premise #20, which questions the economic effect of taxes and incidentally defunds government as an alternate source of economic governance, Dogma Premise #22 takes direct aim at government as an alternate source of economic governance by postulating the government as intrinsically wrong in the moral sense, rather than the economic sense, because government represents oppression, not freedom.

Capitalists always step carefully when making this argument, because they are actually great fans of government authority, police power, and military action when used against people who might challenge the private economic order by, for example, suggesting that “Property is Theft,” as did French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1840.  (Karl Marx, incidentally, agreed that private property was wrong, but disagreed with a formulation using the word “theft,” because theft presupposed the very property rights that Proudhon purported to attack.)

But Capitalist affection for government power vanishes instantly when the question turns to whether government power be used to make economic power as democratically accountable as political power is, and for the same reasons.

This inconsistency in ideology shows that Capitalists’ selective opposition to government power is not based on any consistent theory about government, but merely aims to protect their unaccountable exercise of economic power from the people who think there is something wrong with the unaccountable exercise of power.

Nonetheless, we must still do the work of disproving their claim on its face.

The private economy is not a manifestation of social freedom.  The reason for this is because every right comes with a corresponding responsibility, and every freedom creates an obligation.  For example, if I assume the right to drive a vehicle, I must also assume the responsibility to drive safely.  The right to use dangerous chemicals in my manufacturing plant comes with the responsibility not to spill those chemicals onto the ground and contaminate the drinking water.  Rights without responsibilities are antisocial, even sociopathic -- inconsistent with civil society.

Similarly, if you are free to practice your religion by ringing bells at dawn, then I am obligated to tolerate the early morning noise.  If I am free to have quiet in the morning, then you are obligated not to practice this aspect of your religion.

Because all freedoms create corresponding obligations, calling it “freedom” when economic power is exercised privately and “obligation” when economic power is exercised publicly is a false dichotomy.  Instead, it would be more accurate to say that “Your freedom to build your factory anywhere you want impinges on my and my neighbor’s freedom to control the character of our neighborhood,” and “My and my neighbors’ freedom (exercised through the local government) to control the character of our neighborhood impingest on your freedom to build your factory anywhere you want.”

Neither government power nor private power is intrinsically consistent with freedom or oppression.  Instead, the question is how do we resolve the tension between many competing claims to freedom?  The Capitalist response, that government should act when a private individual could act instead does not create or manifest “more” freedom.  Instead, it simply determines that any time there are conflicting freedoms claims, the property owner’s freedom should prevail at the expense of -- at the oppression of -- anyone else, and especially at the expense of the community acting collectively.

The private economy respresents, manifests, and effects “oppression” every bit as often as government action does, and in exactly the same way.  The only difference is that government approach might represent a democratically accountable balancing of competing interests achieving an optimal social balance that leaves everyone as well off as they can be (or it might not, depending on whether the government is democratic, effective, and non-corrupt), whereas the Capitalist approach favors the exercise of economic power by individuals, even at the expense of the community, no matter who has the economic power and no matter how they got it.

Thus, the Capitalist view that private power should always be favored over public power is not so much an argument that freedom will be maximized or that social outcomes will be better or more efficient, but really more akin to the odious maxim "Might makes right."

Dogma Premise 23

All Dogma Premises