Capitalism and rational egoism / by Simmon Li

It always feels as though we could do better than the egoist moral philosophy that capitalism has come to depend on. I don't think we can change the idea of capitalism. I think, truly and honestly, that capitalism is one of the best economic systems that we have rationalized for ourselves. At its heart, it is simple, and yet so persuasive. The ultimate means of production is private. I own my own labour. I don't have a problem with capitalism at its heart. And really, I don't think I know enough about rational egoism to make a judgment, but here is what I can tell you: the capitalism as we know to lacks a fundamental element of moral philosophy. We can debate what that means all day long, but at the end of the day, I think, not necessarily altruism, but some form of regard or respect for others is missing. Heck, I think even a return of a more utilitarian view would be an improvement on egoism. Ultimately, I think capitalism is concerned with ends (especially as we've constructed the system these days), and so by nature the moral philosophy that governs such a monolith has to be consequential and deterministic by nature. However, within the system, I think people can still function according to (perhaps) a deontological system of ethics. I like Kant's idea of deontological ethics because there is a sense of falsifiability to it. It can be substantiated by revealing the perfect and imperfect duties. I think though, that at the end of the day, both deonotological and consequential ethical systems move the essence of moral philosophy to a realm in which we can shed responsibility. In this way, I would say I am partial to the virtue ethics school of thought. I think that if we can define the state of being that is moral, all decisions (even in an economic system like capitalism) would somehow serve to exemplify virtuous behaviour. Utilitarianism, I feel, lacks that certain strength that virtue ethics provides. To me, utilitarianism enables us to act ethically and morally at arms length. It seems a step removed from what it really means to be a human. Utilitarianism, I feel, places too heavy a focus on the aggregate and this abstract idea of utility. Don't get me wrong, I think utility has its merits when it comes to certain ways of thinking. I think utility is a great concept for capitalism as it pertains to capital (that is, facilities, machines, and other inanimate goods). But as soon as we make the jump to dealing with another human being, or things that may affect another human's well being, I don't think utilitarian moral philosophy stands on its own. In some ways, perhaps I am elevating the "worthiness" of humans to get some kind of special treatment (and how to justify that I have no idea how: at least, I don't know how to resolve such a predicament at this point in my knowledge without invoking some sort of supreme being). Regardless, here is where I think virtue ethics can really make sense.