“The Natural Order of Human Affairs”

JB is a 59 year old white male who owns a small communications business and recently started a small farm. He typically votes Republican, though he has recently begun to consider himself more of a Libertarian than anything else. JB states multiple time that capitalism is the “natural order of human affairs” and that he knows of nothing that works anywhere near as well as capitalism.

How would you define capitalism?
“Capitalism is free enterprise business, where business is not very restricted in what it can and cannot do […], and it is the natural order of human affairs when freedom is present.”

Why do you think capitalism is the natural order of human affairs?
“Because it is surrounded by freedom. It means that I’m free, I don’t have to go to the king and ask for his permission to […] open a business that competes with him[…]. The government needs to be involved in government, and business needs to be free as reasonably possible to do business. When the government is in control, or has too much control, that’s socialism, and it’s a proven fact that it doesn’t work really well for anybody.”

You mentioned Socialism, can you build on that and tell me about some alternatives to capitalism and what do you think about them?
“I think they’re all unnatural. I mean it all restrains what human beings would normally do if left on their own for their own benefit. When you are free to do things for your own benefit, it helps society as a whole because we’re all free to make those kinds of decisions, instead of being constrained by the government.”

Can you think of any other alternatives?
“Oh yeah, they’re alternatives but none of them work. Communism is probably the worst because you substitute the freedom of choice by the many for [a system] that assumes that [one person] has all the information and makes the best decision for everybody […] and I don’t think there are any people capable of making all those decisions. Life is very complicated, and the closer a decision is made to a local area, the better for everybody because they know more about what’s going on where they are. And I would say that socialism is hardly much better, I mean the way you get ahead in business in socialism is by having connections with those people that are making the decisions in the government. Socialism benefits those that are running the system, and it’s very hard, I mean in Europe today […] It can take years for all the permits in some places, and most people just give up. The Arab Spring revolution in Tunisia was brought about by a man that was so repressed by the government […] and was so put upon in running his business […] that he burned himself to death in public to make a statement. I know of nothing else that works half as well as capitalism because capitalism is freedom.”

What do you think are capitalism’s origins? Where did it start in the world and in America?
“Well I think we’ve always had it in the United States, since we’ve been the United States. I mean the king gave charters to this or that company to his inside buddies, whether it was the Lord’s Proprietors or whether it was through the East India Company who had the sole right to get tea in the far East and bring it over to the New World, that was some kind of socialism. But once whoever’s got the best ideas is able to compete on a level playing field, it enriched everybody.
“Now in the world, I would say it’s always been the natural order, but it’s only when you have repressive governments, which has been most of human history, whether it was a divine right king or the pharaoh or whoever […]. That’s not the natural order because I don’t think anything where the people are repressed is natural. But it’s unfortunately the way it has been through most of human history.

How do you see capitalism’s influence in America, today and in the past?
“Really I believe it to be the natural order, I mean everybody that wants to go into business wants to do it when they think they’re got a good idea, and they don’t want the government, or the king, or whoever, limiting [them]. Like when we started the paging business here, there was only one company doing it, and it was the phone company, a monopoly. Well, when we came in and started doing it, we stole virtually all their business; they ended up shutting it down, because they couldn’t compete with us, it was too difficult to get the service from the government, or from the monopoly. When you can only get it from one place, they can make the prices high, and their rules are the only rules you can live with. Say you need to get a pager, you could get one three days later and they’d ship it. People would walk in here, and 15 minutes later you left with a pager. That’s the difference between monopoly, or socialism, and free enterprise. As long as there’s lots of people competing for your business, they have to offer quality services at a reasonable price, or you’ll go somewhere else. I think everybody gets ahead in that system.”

Do you think capitalism has changed over time? Do you have any examples?
“Well it’s more regulated now than it used to be, which is not good, in general. I mean, nobody wants abuses, but you can over-regulate and restrict companies or individuals from offering new services […]. Like the use of drones. Amazon wants to use it to deliver packages in big cities. They can’t do it now because the FAA has said that they would come out with drone rules in about 3 years. Are you kidding me? Three years to come up with some kind of rules for when and how people can use a drone? We invented that industry in this country, and it’s never been allowed to get off the ground other than as a military aircraft. Today, if you wanted a drone, it’s going to come from China, because the government it promoting that industry over there, and ours is scared to death that one’s going to crash into the White House lawn like happened 60 days ago. Surely we can come up with some rules for how you can operate drones in this country in under 3 years, I mean they’re not even trying.”

What is your personal experience with capitalism, and your relationship to it?
“Very favorable. I just can’t imagine any other system where we had to get basic services from the government, or a government chartered corporation that was a monopoly. Even with something that’s supposed to be considered a natural monopoly, like the power company, I’m not so sure it’s really a natural monopoly. It’s set up in favor of the government and the utilities. It’s the only one in the area. I’ve had experience now with dealing with the power company as a customer and a vendor, and I am absolutely convinced that because they don’t have to compete with anybody else, they are as wasteful as they can possibly be. They are the only one you can go get power from in a given area, so they are guaranteed to make a profit and a return on their investment, because that’s what the government wants, and therefore, they don’t have to do it in the most efficient means possible, and that’s not good.”

At the different levels of your education, how has capitalism been taught to you?
“I would say almost not at all. I can’t remember any lessons in capitalism, per se, before I got to economics classes in college. […] And you know, it was a long time ago, I just don’t remember much about it. I took a macro and a micro economics course, and I enjoyed both of them, but I don’t remember much about what they had to say about it, it was just about 40 years ago.”

Any final thoughts?
“I would just underline the fact that in my opinion, capitalism is when business has freedom to make mostly their own decisions. It is the natural order of human affairs, anything else is not going to work as well.”

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