Thursday, December 05, 2013
Within a recent
discussion of the superior ability of capitalism to improve the general
welfare, John Stossel describes an amusing encounter:
Today, [Bill] Gates spends his time giving money away. He's unusually conscientious about it. He experiments, funding what works and dropping what doesn't. His charity work saves lives. Good for him. But Gates was also unusually skilled at bringing people better software. Had he continued doing that at Microsoft, I bet the company would have been even more productive. And Gates would have done more for the world.Stossel clearly hit a nerve, but I don't see benevolence as a primary explanation for Turner's reaction. At best, I can see self-doubt: Perhaps Turner finds his charity work more fulfilling than other activities, but since he rejects egoism, he can't see this as a valid reason to have moved into the area. Too bad for him.
I tried that thought experiment on [Ted] Turner, who, in turn, unclipped his microphone and walked off the set. [bold added]
Stossel's piece is informatve, but while it is true that the rising tide of capitalism lifts all boats, this is not why we should fight for it, as Ayn Rand once argued:
The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve "the common good." It is true that capitalism does--if that catch-phrase has any meaning--but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man's rational nature, that it protects man's survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice.It is interesting to see that Turner's anti-egoistic drive to "guilt" other wealthy people into parting with vast sums is making him less effective at his professed goal -- and perhaps even unable to derive any selfish enjoyment from his own charitable work.