Capitalist system

Read Part I here and Part II here

Antitrust laws

Rand views the Sherman Act of 1890 as the ultimate destruction of the American industry. According to Rand, the Sherman Act created the antitrust laws, which made an individual a criminal the moment he went into business. She feels so strongly about the antitrust laws because of their ambiguity and lack of standards regarding competition, pricing, and markets.

If a businessman charges prices that are considered too high, he could be prosecuted for an "intent to monopolize." If he charges prices below his competitors, he could be prosecuted for "unfair competition." If he charges prices that are the same as his competitors, then he could be prosecuted for "collusion" or "conspiracy."

Rand advocates for a repeal of the antitrust laws. She views them as utterly unfair on philosophical, economic, political, and moral bases. She sees businessmen as the symbol of a free society, and the antitrust laws as "the product: (a) of a gross misinterpretation of history, and (b) of rather naïve, and certainly unrealistic, economic theories."

Businessmen provide individuals with livelihood, jobs, and modern comforts. Rand demonstrates that society needs businessmen, but instead, an altruistic, collectivist systems attack, smear, and denounce the exact people who benefit society the most. Rand compares that to the Robin Hood story, which glorified "the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don't have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does."

Monopoly

Related to the antitrust laws is the concept of monopolies. This concept was heavily discussed by Karl Marx and accepted by many, including people in the business. The antitrust laws were created to prevent monopolies under the presumption that an unregulated economy can lead to evil monopolies. That is where Rand disagrees, arguing that monopolies are impossible in a free market.

Rand's argument is nuanced, and definitions are important in order to understand her position. She distinguishes between a coercive and non-coercive monopoly. When people hear the word "monopoly," they usually think of the coercive type. That is when a company has exclusive control of production with no competition. The company can set arbitrary prices and production policies, often immune from the laws of supply and demand. Under such conditions, another company cannot compete.

Rand suggests that coercive monopolies exist only as a result of the government involvement through subsidies, special franchises and licenses, or legislative actions that grant special privileges. Without government intervention, a free economy, bound by the laws of supply and demand, would make non-coercive monopoly impossible. Under pure capitalism, State and Economics are separate, ensuring that prices and production policies are not independent of the wider market, which in turn prevents the possibility of a monopoly.

Standards of living

Another topic that seemingly aggravates Rand is the idea that American workers owe their high standard of living to "humanitarian" labor legislation and labor unions. She argues that a country's standard of living depends on the productivity of labor, which relies on capital investments, machines, and inventions. All of that requires creative human ingenuity, which is only possible in a politico-economic system where the individual's rights and freedom are protected.

Wages have risen since the start of the Industrial Revolution as a consequence of technological progress, industrial expansion, and increasing capital accumulation. Capitalism created new markets and multiplied the number of jobs available, increasing the demand and competition for employees, which resulted in higher wages. "The belief that unions can cause a general rise in the standard of living is a myth," proclaims Rand.

Conservatism

Conservatism is commonly understood to mean "pro-capitalism," and its supporters often equate it to "the American way of life." Rand is critical of conservatives and sees them holding on to the status quo and the established way of life regardless of whether it is good or bad, right or wrong. Defending the American political system not because it is right, but because the country's ancestors had chosen it is irrational in Rand's mind.

Holding on to the "old," to the "tradition," and rejecting "new," "forward-looking," and "progressive" prevents people from achieving anything in life. It impedes creativity, originality, independence, and self-reliance. Rand encourages people not to "join any so-called 'conservative' group, organization, or person that advocates any variant of the arguments from 'faith,' from 'tradition,' or from 'depravity.'"

Capitalism is a system of the future, not the past. Rand asks the individuals who believe in capitalism to reject the notion of conservatism. She argues that conservatism is a misleading name, and it is inappropriate to the United States.

Conclusion

Ayn Rand does not mince words. Her strongly pro-capitalist views have served as the philosophy and a belief system for many entrepreneurs. Some consider her book Atlas Shrugged as their bible. On the brink of one of the most polarized and toxic elections in history, many of her views are as relevant today as they were when she wrote them sixty years ago.

While the United States has never been a pure capitalist society, the country has experienced a strong push toward a more socialist state in recent years. Based on Rand's views, that is a terrible paradigm shift. While few would choose to live in a society where individuals are only preoccupied with their own self-interest, we do need to be careful not to over-regulate, over-control, and over-interfere to the point that the government starts to inhibit individual rights.

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