Monday, June 23, 2008

Excerpt from "Why Businessmen Need Philosophy"

Quoted below are some excerpts from Leonard Peikoff's "Why Businessmen Need Philosophy" which is an exposition of why it is essential to defend capitalism in principle, that is, from a moral perspective. It also serves to show why those who simply defend capitalism on "pragmatic" grounds or because it is "practical" consistenly lose ground to capitalism's enemies. To change the culture, we must defend capitalism logically and without compromise. Contrary to popular belief, defending capitalism philsophically is the most practical thing in the world:

Why should you care about this philosophic history? As a practical man, you must care; because it is an issue of life and death. It is a simple syllogism. Premise one: Businessmen are selfish; which everyone knows, whatever denials or protestations they hear. Premise two: Selfishness is wicked; which almost everyone today, including the appeasers among you, thinks is self-evident. The inescapable conclusion: Businessmen are wicked. If so, you are the perfect scapegoats for intellectuals of every kind to blame for every evil or injustice that occurs, whether real or trumped up.


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We are all trained by today’s colleges never to take a firm stand on any subject: to be pragmatists, ready to compromise with anyone on anything. Philosophy and morality, however, do not work by compromise. Just as a healthy body cannot compromise with poison, so too a good man cannot compromise with evil ideas. In such a set up, an evil philosophy, like poison, always wins. The good can win only by being consistent. If it is not, then the evil is given the means to win every time.

For example, if a burglar breaks into your house and demands your silverware, you have two possible courses of action. You might take a militant attitude: shoot him or at least call the police. That is certainly uncompromising. You have taken the view, “What’s mine is mine, and there is no bargaining about it.” Or, you might “negotiate” with him, try to be conciliatory, and persuade him to take only half your silverware. Whereupon you relax, pleased with your seemingly successful compromise, until he returns next week demanding the rest of your silverware and your money, your car and your wife. Because you have agreed that his arbitrary, unjust demand gives him a right to some of your property, the only negotiable question thereafter is: How much? Sooner or later he will take everything. You compromised; he won.

The same principle applies if the government seeks to expropriate you or regulate your property. If the government floats a trial balloon to the effect that it will confiscate or control all industrial property over $10 million in the name of the public good, you have two possible methods of fighting back. You might stand on principle—in this case, the principle of private property and individual rights—and refuse to compromise; you might resolve to fight to the end for your rights and actually do so in your advertisements, speeches and press releases. Given the better elements in the American people, it is possible for you by this means to win substantial support and defeat such a measure. The alternative course, and the one that business has unfortunately taken throughout the decades, is to compromise—for example, by making a deal conceding that the government can take over in New Jersey, but not in New York. This amounts to saying: “Washington, D.C., has no right to all our property, only some of it.” As with the burglar, the government will soon take over everything. You have lost all you have as soon as you say the fatal words, “I compromise.”

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