Free Speech and Capitalism
Posted by Jerry on May 11, 2007
Recently, I highlighted an insightful interview with Dr. Onkar Ghate, Dean at the Ayn Rand Institute, which was published in The Undercurrent Newsletter.
I wish to refer to that interview once again here in order to draw attention to another interesting derivation from the principle of free speech as identified by Ayn Rand and elucidated by Dr. Ghate.
Note how Dr. Ghate highlights the necessary connection between and the unity of the mind and the body vis-à-vis the right to liberty.
Dr. Ghate states that the spiritual expression of the right to liberty is the freedom of thought, and its material expression is the freedom of speech, that is, the right to put ones thoughts and ideas into words or deeds.
Note also the crucial connection between freedom of thought and the need for survival. In order to survive, man has to use his mind–his capacity to reason. The mind seeks to gain knowledge in order to apply that knowledge to the problem of survival. For example, to eat, man must first know how to obtain food without unnecessarily endangering his own life.
Thus, man must be free to obtain the requisite knowledge, be free to think and devise new solutions based on previous knowledge, be free to apply the knowledge in material terms, and be free to reap the benefits of his knowledge.
Now, the interesting and logical derivation from all of the above is political-economic system of Capitalism. Capitalism is the political and economic expression of the freedom of thought in the realm of material and economic production. It is the only moral and efficient system that allows man to think freely in the market, create material expressions of those thoughts and ideas, and bring those ideas as well as the material expressions to compete in the marketplace without coercion.
Insofar as a nation’s economic system tends towards freedom, liberalization, and the free market, it enjoys the benefits of free men applying their ideas and thoughts freely into economic action to solve the problem of survival and prosper–this is freedom of speech in the economic context.
As evidence of this, observe the rapidly growing economies of China and India. Both countries only recently moved towards some semblance of a free market system in its economic sphere; China began the process in the early 1980s, and India, in the early 1990s. Both countries are still unfree and controlled societies in all other respects. Despite their socialist and collectivist cultures, both countries are now enjoying tremendous growth from the economic achievements of western markets and companies investing in their countries and from their own move towards deregulating their economic systems.
The point here is that capitalism is not only the most efficient system of wealth-creation, it is also the only moral system that remains consistent with fundamental human rights. Freedom of speech, thought, and action in the economic sphere is the system of capitalism. In other words, to compromise on laissez-faire capitalism is to also compromise on human rights.