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Promoting wise use of the environment

A free-market society with a combination of private ownership of most land and resources, and public ownership of some designated national and state parks, seems best suited to preservation of resources and wise use of the environment. We discuss this more fully in chapter 7, where we note that a productive society must protect the environment from destruction (see 250-52), and in chapter 8, where we note that government must also protect people’s ability to use the earth’s resources wisely (see 280-84). By contrast, socialist societies have often been the most destructive to the environment (see 250-52).

Curbing materialism and promoting personal charity

It is strange that people who favor state-controlled economies criticize free-market economies as materialistic. It is socialist countries that place almost all of their economic emphasis on the production of material goods, while free-market economies voluntarily support hundreds of thousands of organizations and people that clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Many people work as pastors, church staff members, missionaries, or employees of non-profit charitable organizations.

Charity for the poor, educational endowments, donations for medical research, and other kinds of private giving have experienced significant growth in the past two hundred and fifty years, during the most explosive period of the market economy. This is because:

Capitalism honors and promotes charity and virtue. True charity cannot be compelled. Universities, hospitals, social agencies are more satisfactory and more fun when they derive from voluntary support. Money taken by force and bestowed by formula is no gift. . . . Capitalism honors the liberty and dignity of every person. . . . He is regarded as a free citizen under God and under the law—able to make his own choices.[1]

By contrast, socialism discourages and (by excessive governmental confiscation of people’s money) makes more difficult any individual contributions to charitable causes. More and more of the whole energy of society is forced to focus on material production at the direction of the state.

In this way, socialism is not only more materialistic than a free- market system, but also has a generally detrimental moral influence. Claire Berlinski, in her important book on Margaret Thatcher, summarized Thatcher’s view that state-controlled economies uniformly exert a corrupting moral influence on their people:

In all its incarnations, wherever and however it was applied—[socialism] was morally corrupting. [It] turned good citizens into bad ones; it turned strong nations into weak ones; it promoted vice and discouraged virtue; and . . . it transformed formerly hardworking and self-reliant men and women into whining, weak and flabby loafers. Socialism was not a fine idea that had been misapplied; it was an inherently wicked idea. This was Thatcher’s single contribution to the debate. It was a point she emphasized again and again: “In the end, the real case against socialism is not its economic inefficiency, though on all sides there is evidence of that. Much more fundamental is its basic immorality.” . . .

To a Western world preoccupied with guilt, decline and decay, Thatcher’s message has a particularly significant resonance. It is hardly a secret that many of us are still wondering whether capitalism is the right path. It is the only right path, says Thatcher, and the only one men and women of virtue—not greed, but virtue—should take.[2]

  • [1] Perry E. Gresham, “Think Twice Before You Disparage Capitalism,” in The Freeman 27:3 (March 1977),accessed October 5, 2012,
  • [2] Claire Berlinski, There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters (New York: Basic Books, 2008),7-8, 13. We first saw this statement about Thatcher in Dennis Prager, Still the Best Hope (New York:HarperCollins, 2012), 417.
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