Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Collectivism vs. Capitalism

Back in late March to early April of 2011, just a month into writing this blog, I wrote a series called “Anything Evil about Capitalism” parts I, II, III, and IV. (The first two define the terms wealth and capital, to prepare for making moral judgments in the third. The fourth is to additionally address inherited wealth. These ideas review portions of the Economic Sphere portion of the Spherical Model.) Over the weekend I watched last Friday’s episode of the Glenn Beck TV show that supported the assertion that capitalism is moral. Rabbi Daniel Lapin was the guest teacher wielding the chalkboard. So much of it was clear and sensible, I wanted to share it. [To see the video requires a paid subscription, but it's the first hour of Friday, April 26, 2013.]
Rabbi Daniel Lapin on Glenn Beck show, 4-26-2013
(note: erasing "freedom" and replacing with "$" was part of
the discussion, not the actual formula)

He also starts with defining terms, specifically defining collectivism and materialism, to prepare for making a comparison with their opposite. Here’s a part of the conversation:
Rabbi Daniel Lapin: We’ve been talking about collectivism, a whole lot. It’s one of the favorite words of the left side of the political spectrum. And I thought it would be helpful if we identify, first of all, what they say it is, and then what it really is.
Collectivism is, as it’s usually defined, as any kind of political, or social or economic philosophy that stresses our interdependence with one another. You and I agree with that. We couldn’t live without each other. We know that; we understand that.
Glenn Beck: Yeah, no man is an island.
Rabbi Lapin: We get it. That’s not what collectivism really is. What collectivism really is is a formalized, deliberate structure…deliberate attempt to create a moral matrix to legitimize taking things from one group of people and giving it to another. That’s what collectivism is all about. It’s essentially finding a framework of virtue about stealing.
He goes on to say that the “manure” that fertilizes the idea of collectivism is materialism, “the fundamental conviction that nothing that isn’t material matters in the world.”
Then there’s a need for more definition:
Glenn Beck: Define materialism. Because in my own head I was thinking it was about having all this great stuff. But you’re talking about that there is no spiritual part of the world, that it is only the material make-up.
Rabbi Lapin: Well, I can actually call upon an expert from the left to define materialism, no less an authority than, you might remember, Willie Brown, former mayor of San Francisco, speaker of the California State Assembly. Now, I'll give you in almost exact terms how he defined materialism.… What he said is, “If I cannot eat it, wear it, drive it, or make love to it, I’m not interested in it.” That’s a pretty good definition of materialism. If I can’t actually see it, touch it, make use of it, exploit it, benefit from it in some way, it doesn’t exist. In other words, there is no such thing as love. There’s no such thing as loyalty. There is no such thing as awe. There’s no such thing as staring at the heavens in wonder or biting into an apple and just wanting to thank somebody for giving that to you. None of that is true, because it’s all just firing of neurons in your cortex and your spinal column. There’s no mystery in life; it is all thoroughly basic and scientific.
This discussion of materialism clicked a lot of understanding of the enemy mind, connections I hadn’t made before. I expect some of that will come up in future posts. But this post we’re mainly limiting to the morality of making money. The definition discussion prepares us for the blackboard instruction. It contains this chart, which he then explains:


While he’s discussing that first line, he gives one of the best definitions of capitalism I’ve heard, and that’s what caught my attention.
Rabbi Lapin: If materialism and collectivism encourages competition about being a bigger victim, what does this [making money] philosophy engender? Competition to provide service. How beautiful is that! It’s figuring out, to recognize that you will succeed best at making money if you are obsessively preoccupied with supplying the needs of your fellow human beings.
In referring to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and the technological products they’ve provided, Rabbi Lapin says, “The money they make is testament to how many of God’s children they pleased.”
Which is better? Making wealth for your use by providing service to others, or requiring wealth from service providers to provide goods and services to someone who did not earn it? Clearly, the answer is making wealth through service is more moral.
But what about those who can’t provide for themselves? The best answer is for those whose love makes them feel responsible for the weaker members of society to provide for them willingly. And where those closest can’t do enough, then the caring larger public of service providers will offer help. I’m more willing to trust that goodness to a people whose goal is to find ways to serve than I am to trust a people who look for ways to take wealth from service providers.


  1. What exactly would the Pope's "dictatorship of the economy" be?

    1. Pope Francis was referring to unrestrained capitalism that puts economic interests above people. Hong Kong's largely caveat emptor capitalism is probably one of the best examples. Most people agree that the govt should function as a sort of referee so that making money does not trump human decency (ie. intervening when pet food companies & baby formula makers use melamine to artificially raise their food's protein count). That model of restrained capitalism has worked mostly well in the U.S. until the govt stopped being a ref and started favoring big corporate interest$ over other businesses, the environment & the workers. (Don't mistake me - I believe that the liberals' ideology is socialistic & wrong, but conservatives handed them these bludgeons by not speaking up when Republicans got in bed with big business at the expense of everyone & everything else)

    2. Thanks for the added input. I agree about regulation and big business. I wrote a little about it here:

  2. Found this article when I looked up the phrase to know what you were referring to. In general terms, I think the new pope, being a Jesuit, walks the walk when trying to avoid the trappings of wealth. But I can't say I think having governments assert more "control" over economies is a good direction for the poor, whom we both care about. We need a hard working people in a free economy, who are personally righteous enough to volunteer help to the truly needy. No sort of coercion can ever lead to true charity.

  3. I loved this presentation that Rabbi Daniel Lapin made on the Glenn Beck snow, as well. I wish it were available to everyone, but you have to have a Blaze subscription to view it. Highly recommended!!