"When people are free to act, they will always act in a way that they believe will maximize their utility, i.e., will raise them to the highest possible position on their value scale. Their utility ex ante will be maximized, provided we take care to interpret “utility” in an ordinal rather than a cardinal manner. Any action, any exchange that takes place on the free market or more broadly in the free society, occurs because of the expected benefit to each party concerned.” –Murray N. Rothbard, Power and Market
"We must not be afraid to be free."--Justice Black
Human beings have an inexhaustible spirit. Through wars, pestilence, oppression, disasters, genocide and personal tragedy, human beings continue to express creativity and ingenuity to the very degree that they are allowed the liberties to do so. It is an unquenchable and inexhaustible Spirit. It is the best—the Divine—within each of us that makes it so. And while at times, we have varying degrees of access to the divine within us, and sometimes the light is dim and flickers, the fact remains that there is a god or goddess in all of us waiting to come out and play.
What if we could integrate our work and our play? Our spirit and our finances? Our economics and our purpose? Our job and our internal worship? The mundane and the divine? My assertion is that not only is this possible...it is necessary...for the conscious evolution of the planet and for our survival and thrival as a species ::: not to mention our personal happiness.
As many of us our satisfied--that is we have all the nice stuff. Cars, houses, fine clothing, computers, iPods, great relationships, money...but we remain unfulfilled. How many of us are seeking something. Trying to fulfill ourselves with something outside? How many of us have done this ourselves? Seeking, looking, grasping...some of us desperately. And yet, what we seek is right within us all along waiting to be discovered. Waiting to be unleashed. Waiting for the full integration into our daily lives...
Spiritual and Capitalism are two words that we seldom, if ever, hear in the same sentence unless derisively or pejoratively in this Country. The conventional and majority “wisdom” states that they are diametrically opposed. That one cannot live a truly spiritual life and be a capitalist and that a capitalist is never really up to any good. Is this conventional wisdom truly wise? Is it even remotely accurate?
First, we must define “capitalism” and “spiritual” if we are to get anywhere in this discussion. It is worth noting that “capitalism” is a term that was coined my Marx—the greatest self-anointed enemy of capitalism—someone whose economics theories have virtually all been empirically disproved—to live. We could simnply say he was a failed mathematician. Just wrong on the numbers.
The irony there is obvious on both counts. Prior to Marx, there was no definition or characterization of “capitalism” really, for it was not a system at all—it was very simply the application of liberty in the economic domain. “Free Market” meant just that—that the market was free and unrestricted. What was the market? Humans engaged in voluntary associations for mutual benefit. Nothing more. That association may have been a mine worker freely associating with the owner of a mine for some agreed upon amount of money per unit of work [hours or perhaps ponds of extracted materials, etc.] or a provider of transport for someone who wishes to travel somewhere or to send goods to a market in another geographical area or someone wanting to “buy money”—that is, take a loan out with the contract obligation to repay it plus a fee [interest], but in no case could there be violent coercion. It is also noting additionally, that “coercion” does not mean “influence” as in political vogue today, as it abrogates free will and muddies the waters. By "coercion", we mean violence or the threat of violence against person or property. It is truly a triumph of rhetoric over reason that the thinking—debunked for over a century now—that in the free market one person always gains at the expense of another still prevails among many laypeople.
What has been known almost since the beginning of economics becoming a science is that both parties always benefit—or at least expect to do so—otherwise they would never engage in the association to begin with. For humans always expect—through all their choices and actions—regardless of if they are proven right or not, to benefit or improve their lot by their choices. Of course, “liberty” does not mean you are "free" to aggress against another’s person or property as an extension of their person though their labor. Therefore, the only “restrictions” were and should be that force and fraud [fraud is implicit force or implicit theft] were actionable torts. Liberty does not mean you are free to do anything you like. Liberty and freedom are different distinctions. What liberty does mean is that you are free from violent aggression from another. You are therefore not “free” to aggress against another, as to do so would violate his or her liberty.
So “capitalism” as it is so ill-named, is liberty practically applied—the ability to freely associate for mutual benefit. Nothing more and nothing less. Anything else is a moral judgment or characterization or perhaps an aesthetic condemnation and therefore not appropriate for a definition as such. There are, of course, questions of morality and aesthetics, which often confuse this definition or muddle the thinking around it, but for our purposes, we will address those later, if at all. However, that does not mean that they are not important and valid questions. I would love to have that dialogue, it is just beyond the scope of this piece. Let's is suffice to say that just because you can to something does not mean you should do it. Unfortunately, in this highly politicized and philosophically muddled society, the distinctions among ethics, morality, and aesthetics have become blurred.
What then, is spiritual, for surely, “capitalism is the least spiritual system of economics” is it not--according to the conventional wisdom?
Spirituality or “being spiritual” means so many things to so many people. It may mean following this spiritual text or that spiritual text. It may mean being “Christ-like” or “possessing the Buddha mind” or it may simply mean being pious or acting for the good of others. For still others, it is following the directives of this spiritual leader or that spiritual leader. For still others it is “opening to the Divine” or “becoming one with all things” through meditation and “spiritual practice”. For still others, it is accessing their own consciousness or their creative spirit. How then can we come to a universal definition of “spiritual”? For this, we must understand the spirit of human beings.
Spir·it n: 1. a vital force that characterizes a living being as being alive2. somebody’s will, sense of self, or enthusiasm for living 3. an enthusiasm and energy for living 4. somebody’s personality or temperament 5. somebody or something that is a divine, inspiring, or animating influence Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
For our purpose, we will define “spiritual” as: accessing and liberating to the largest degree possible that which is our vital life force and the best we have within us—our creativity, our inspiration, etc.
That is, by demonstrating behavioral alignment or pure expression of our highest values. This could be through art, community, leadership, study, contribution, entrepreneurship, our job roles, or our chores. It could be liberating our minds through meditation. It could be making love to our partner, for anything with which we bring our Spirit to, and engage fully unleashing our highest inner self, can be, and will be, a spiritual experience and we can bring this to most activities, most notably, our ideas and the implementation or actualization of those ideas or visions. That being the case, let’s examine capitalism, and not-capitalism very briefly. Anything other than unfettered capitalism—full economic liberty—is marked by increasing intervention by the State. That is—the government.
What then, is the nature of government? Government in any form [from democracy to socialism to communism to monarchism or dictatorship] has two inalienable qualities: 1. a monopoly on the initiation of force over a declared geographical area, often under the pretense of “protecting” its citizens—whether they need it or want it or not; 2. it exists and operates by levying taxes—that is the coercive and compulsory appropriation of money, which if any other organization or group or individual were engaged in would be called “theft” and prosecuted. The more the government intervenes in the affairs of its citizens [including “assisting” its citizens], the more the use of force is employed and to pay for the increase in government “services”, taxation, or debt, must increase—more force. If it is taxation, it is direct and immediate force. If it is debt, it is delayed force as future generation will have no choice in the matter—they are, in a real way, enslaved to the government as a result.
Therefore, the government is always committing the very same acts that it is entrusted to prevent: violence and theft. The emperor indeed has no clothes, yet all of society is raving about how wonderful his robes are, and how we should make more of them in various colors. We have already seen that the most spiritual a person can be is liberation of their spirit, often through creativity, and that they have the inalienable right over their own person and body [and by extension their property] is accepted as natural law and our intuitive moral sense. It is obvious that the use of force against someone—one of the few things all humans can agree on as criminal unless it is purely defensive while protecting your person or property—is dampening to their Spirit, not liberating.
Therefore, the more the government intervenes, the less “spiritual” and the more liberalized [free] the economy, the more spiritual, as human beings are free to fully express themselves in every domain of their life, including the economic. Therefore, Capitalism is the most spiritual system. What of the "evils" of capitalism? Some people think we have a free market in America, and/or in the Western Industrialized core of nations. We do not. We do not have capitalism. We have something between “mercantilism” and “corporate statism”. Most people who argue about the evils of capitalism know not what they speak of, nor even what system we operate within. In fact, America is not a democracy at all—it is a constitutional republic—an important difference.
But let’s leave politics aside for this discussion.