This book is a description and examination of the ideas presented by Andrew J. Galambos in his original lectures that were entitled “Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution.”
When Galambos lectured, he did not disclose that title until the final lecture in the series that is the basis for this book. Postponement of disclosure of the title was due to Galambos’ concern that the title would be confusing at the outset of the lectures, employing as it does three terms—capitalism, liberal, and revolution—that in contemporary parlance have political connotations that are contrary to the message Galambos intended to convey.
An essential premise of this book is that free enterprise governance will come about in an evolutionary way, rather than by overthrow of the political institutions that many, if not most people at present consider to be necessary, or at least a necessary evil.
This book asks the reader to imagine a world in which every activity usually thought to be uniquely the province of the political state is performed by free enterprise.
In contemporary times, human society is confronted by a real and unprecedented crisis—the possibility that another world war would be fought with weapons of mass destruction that would imperil the existence of humanity. This crisis originates in a paradox: the knowledge in science and technology that has been beneficial to humanity can also be used destructively.
It was a goal of Galambos to show a new way of confining technology to positive and productive uses. That way requires the abandonment of politics.
Carl von Clausewitz, the early 19th century German military theorist, observed cogently that war is nothing more than politics carried on by other means to compel one’s adversary to submit to one’s will. It is equally valid to say that politics is war carried on by other means to compel an adversary to submit to one’s will.
The way to permanent peace among humans leads away from politics and war. Until humanity forever abandons politics and warfare, the human species will be at risk of perishing by its own actions.
Andrew Galambos was an astrophysicist who understood the dangers of technology used in the service of aggression. Galambos resigned from a position in the aerospace industry because he did not want to work on guidance systems for intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Galambos wanted to make the world safe for continuation of humanity’s great journey of discovery—the continual search for advances in knowledge. To that end Galambos looked to science for advancement and improvement in human governance.
Galambos called the scientific method the supreme tool for error rectification. He sought to apply the scientific method to the identification and eradication of errors in human governance.
War is one of the greatest of human errors, along with the religious intolerance that has engendered many wars.
Another great human error is failure to abide always by the most fundamental principle of human morality—the biblical golden rule: do not unto others that which is hateful to you.
Science, the scientific method, and human interaction
Galambos claimed that he had created a new science, the science of volition, i.e., a science of human choice. A few other profound thinkers of the contemporary era have also declared that the welfare of the human species depends on always and consistently respecting individual choices.
Galambos was among an exceedingly small number of thinkers who declared that political action, including the institution of political democracy, was inimical to and incompatible with the highest aspirations of humanity for peace and freedom. The principles of Galambos’ scientific approach to human society are set forth in two postulates and their corollaries in chapter five of this book.
In practical terms, examining not only the intended purpose of political action, but also its long term consequences is an inquiry using the scientific method. For example, protecting the public from criminal acts is the ostensible purpose of legislative sanctions against criminality. The law and enforcement of law by police, prosecutors, courts and prisons, constitute collectively the justice system in contemporary societies.
That justice system is based on the hypothesis that punishment and the existing justice system are effective in preventing crime. In science, one would make a prediction based on that hypothesis, specifically that the political justice system prevents crime. The next step in science is observation to determine if the prediction comes true.
It is not true. The political system of justice does not prevent crime. There is pervasive criminal activity in every nation on earth, including the United States of America.
Furthermore, the political system of justice is itself a criminal enterprise, as crime is defined in this book, that is crime is a successful, intentional interference with the property of another and thus a successful act of coercion. This is undoubtedly true in societies plagued by corruption among the authorities of the state and by state repression of political dissent. In those societies the system of justice operates on behalf of those in political power and against the interests of the rest of the people.
Political democracies do not suffer from high degrees of corruption and institutionalized repression of political dissent compared to other contemporary societies. Nevertheless, political democracies commit criminal acts. One example is the actions of the United States of America during the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s.
Fifty years after the war it has become evident that the war was a mistaken and tragic undertaking by the United States. During the war, David Harris was sent to prison for his refusal to submit to conscription into the armed forces of the United States.
David Harris was not a common criminal. He had neither stolen anything nor assaulted or robbed anyone. He had an exemplary personal history, including election as student body president at Stanford University. His crime was that he objected to conscription for the Vietnam War on the ground that the United States should not be engaging in that war. He did not want to participate in what he believed to be an unwise and unjust war.
David Harris was married to the popular and successful singer Joan Baez. She withheld from her income tax payments the percentage of tax that she calculated was being used to prosecute the Vietnam War. The United States seized receipts of concerts of Ms. Baez in satisfaction of her tax liability.
The example of treatment of David Harris and Joan Baez is not an extreme example. In the Justice chapter of this book there is extensive documentation of egregious injustices perpetrated by the United States and by its individual states. Those state inflicted injustices are not anomalous; to the contrary, they are characteristic of the political justice system in the United States.
Effective protection of people from crime is occurring contemporaneously, but the protective agency is not the political state. Rather, it is protection by private security and fire protection companies whose services are supplied by contract with the people who are its customers and who pay for the protective service voluntarily. This subject is explored in the Security chapter of this book and elsewhere herein.
Decline and fall of civilizations and societies
Every civilization that has ever existed has experienced or is presently experiencing decline and fall similar to that of the Roman Empire. The cause is always the same: political coercion that is carried so far that it becomes destructive of the state itself. Andrew Galambos posited that beginning in the 1960s the United States began a decline from the peak in prosperity, power, and influence achieved up to that time. There is evidence of the correctness of his assessment discussed throughout this book.
Accelerating growth in knowledge, human freedom, and prosperity
Human society has enjoyed progressively accelerating growth in knowledge and prosperity due to revolutions in human thinking and understanding: the Newtonian or scientific revolution, the liberal revolution also known as the Age of Enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and the American Revolution.
The scientific revolution brought an ever accelerating accumulation of knowledge. The Age of Enlightenment brought liberation from intellectual acquiescence to the coercive and stultifying authority of church and state.
The industrial revolution accomplished ever increasing productivity that brought a widespread increase in living standards of most people to a level far greater than that enjoyed by the monarchs and aristocracy of the past.
The American revolution accomplished liberation from the idea that people need a powerful monarch to provide security and stability in society.
Knowledge as the source of abundance
Where abundance exists, its primary source is knowledge. Where poverty exists, its primary cause is lack of knowledge.
Switzerland and Singapore are nations that are small in size and lacking in natural resources. However, both enjoy prosperity because free enterprise is a characteristic of the economic life of each nation.
Russia has probably greater and more extensive natural resources than any other nation. However, under communism in the 20th century, most Russians suffered from abysmal poverty. Despite the fall of the communist party of Russia in 1991, there is still widespread poverty in Russia. That is because Russia has no history or tradition of individual freedom and protection of property rights of its inhabitants.
The false alternatives of politics
All political debates have three things in common.
- There is disagreement over political choices, each of which is certain to displease some or a large number of people affected by the choices.
- None of the political choices provides a real and permanent solution to the problem; they are all false alternatives.
- All political choices involve coercion.
The anti-capitalistic mentality
Capitalism has raised the average standard of living in an unprecedented way. Nonetheless, many people passionately loathe capitalism. This is because an anti-capitalistic mentality is pervasive in schools, colleges and universities, and the media.
If the reader doubts the foregoing, consider motion pictures and television. There are many motion picture and television dramas and documentaries that focus on the misdeeds of capitalistic enterprise and entrepreneurs without, however, mentioning the accomplishments of free enterprise in every society that encourages it, or even permits it.
There are many examples of business activities that benefit humanity on every scale of human activity, including but not limited to the following.
- Production, transport, and retail stores that bring lower prices and better quality to consumers of food and tangible items in use by everybody.
- Unprecedented mobility for people achieved by the builders of the vehicles of transportation on the ground, at sea, and in the air and by petroleum producers who provide the fuel for motor vehicles.
- Worldwide communication at the speed of light via mobile telephony, digital computer technology, and mastery of electromagnetic and rocket technology used in satellites and mobile phones.
- Entrepreneurial philanthropic activity by individuals who find creative ways to aid the poor of the world, such as Muhammad Yunus, Eric Reynolds, Bill and Melinda Gates, as described in this chapter and elsewhere in this book.
How often does one see in the media reports of activities such as those of Muhammad Yunus, Eric Reynolds, and Bill and Melinda Gates?
How often does one see in the media reports of harmful activities by individual entrepreneurs and businesses?
Usually these negative reports are not balanced and thoughtful in showing any of the good that comes also from the activities they criticize.
The true democracy of the free market
In political democracy the minority must submit to the will of the majority. However, in the economic market place no one must submit to the will of anyone else. Every choice counts. This is a true rule of the people, a true democracy of self rule, in which each person rules himself or herself and no others.
Political states: the unique cause of war
Political states are the sole and unique cause of war. There was warfare in traditional, preliterate and Neolithic societies, but they were short-term conflicts that were resolved without destroying the adversary. This is known from anthropological descriptions of preliterate, Neolithic societies still in existence in contemporary times.
Monopoly, non-coercive and coercive
In the United States there are detailed laws controlling and attempting to prevent commercial monopolies—the monopoly of a single supplier of goods or services. Experience has shown that such laws are not necessary, that no commercial monopoly is long lasting except in a product of limited usage. The case of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil is illustrative.
From inception in the early 1860s until the early 1890s Standard Oil became by far the largest petroleum company in the United States. However, it always had smaller competitors. By the 1890s, with the discovery of extensive petroleum resources in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and California, large new domestic competitors came into existence.
Contemporaneously electric lighting was being introduced in the United States. Until the introduction of electric lighting, kerosene, a petroleum product, was the principal source of lighting in homes and businesses. By the end of the 19thcentury, Standard Oil was negatively impacted both by large competitors and by electric lighting. However, the introduction and widespread acceptance of automobiles created a new business for Standard Oil and other petroleum companies, but not a business in which any of them had monopoly pricing power.
In comparison, the state’s monopoly of coercion is harmful, and eventually destructive of the state itself.
Evolution of the tools of human civilization
Human curiosity, ingenuity, and resourcefulness have led to the development of important tools of civilization including the following.
- The Corporation
- Credit and reputation
Each of these tools of civilization is also a tool of freedom in that each magnifies and amplifies the productive capabilities of humanity that increase prosperity. It is increasing prosperity that enables the achievement of greater human freedom. Each of these tools of civilization is discussed in separate chapters of this book.
A note on the corporation
To many people the word “corporation” denotes a profit-seeking enterprise that can exploit its customers unfairly, and that can be used to injure people. However, that is not the essence of a corporation. A corporation is a tool for carrying on an activity over a long period of time. Whenever people start an activity that they expect to continue beyond the duration of the founders lives, they organize in corporate form. That is true of institutions as diverse as a college or university, a religious organization, a hospital, or a municipality. Harvard University, established in 1636, is the oldest corporation in America. Harvard University is located within Cambridge, Massachusetts, an incorporated municipality under the law of the State of Massachusetts.
The quest for freedom and order
As noted economist and philosopher F. A. Hayek observed,
“What are chiefly responsible for having generated [the] extraordinary order [of human civilization], and the existence of mankind in its present size and structure are the rules of human conduct that gradually evolved (especially those dealing with several property), honesty, contract, exchange, trade, competition, gain, and privacy.” 1
The Natural Republic envisioned in this book is a development of humanity’s perennial striving for both freedom and order—the freedom of each individual to pursue happiness in his or her own way, and the orderliness evidenced by effective, non-coercive, proprietary protection of each individual’s life and property, including an individual’s ideas and freedom of action that does not impinge on anyone else’s freedom.
SIC ITUR AD ASTRA
Andrew Galambos was an astrophysicist. He believed that the destiny of humanity was to explore beyond the confines of planet Earth, and even beyond the galaxy of which Earth is a part. Andrew Galambos intended to write a book recording his ideas. He passed on without having written the book. His intended title was Sic Itur Ad Astra, Latin for “this is the way to the stars.” That title epitomizes ideas about the prospects for humanity, if humans could avoid destructive wars in the future.
- Quoted from Hayek, F. A., The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (1988), page 12 ↩