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Tuesday, July 15, 2014
The Urge For Economic Betterment
Under capitalism the common man enjoys amenities which in ages gone by were unknown and therefore inaccessible even to the richest people. But, of course, these motorcars, television sets and refrigerators do not make a man happy. In the instant in which he acquires them, he may feel happier than he did before. But as soon as some of his wishes are satisfied, new wishes spring up. Such is human nature.
Few Americans are fully aware of the fact that their country enjoys the highest standard of living and that the way of life of the average American appears as fabulous and out of reach to the immense majority of people inhabiting non-capitalistic countries. Most people belittle what they have and could possibly acquire, and crave those things which are inaccessible to them. It would be idle to lament this insatiable appetite for more and more goods. This lust is precisely the impulse which leads man on the way toward economic betterment. To content oneself with what one has already got or can easily get, and to abstain apathetically from any attempts to improve one’s own material conditions, is not a virtue. Such an attitude is rather animal behavior than conduct of reasonable human beings. Man’s most characteristic mark is that he never ceases in endeavors to advance his well-being by purposive activity.
However, these endeavors must be fitted for the purpose. They must be suitable to bring about the effects aimed at. What is wrong with most of our contemporaries is not that they are passionately longing for a richer supply of various goods, but that they choose inappropriate means for the attainment of this end. They are misled by spurious ideologies. They favor policies which are contrary to their own rightly understood vital interests. Too dull to see the inevitable long-run consequences of their conduct, they find delight in its passing short-run effects. They advocate measures which are bound to result finally in general impoverishment, in the disintegration of social cooperation under the principle of the division of labor, and in a return to barbarism.
There is but one means available to improve the material conditions of mankind: to accelerate the growth of capital accumulated as against the growth in population. The greater the amount of capital invested per head of the worker, the more and the better goods can be produced and consumed. This is what capitalism, the much abused profit system, has brought about and brings about daily anew. Yet, most present-day governments and political parties are eager to destroy this system.
Why do they all loathe capitalism? Why do they, while enjoying the well-being capitalism bestows upon them, cast longing glances upon the “good old days” of the past and the miserable conditions of the present-day Russian worker?