BB&T Academic Programs
What Capitalism Is
The Nature of Government
Economics of Capitalism
The Initiation of Force as Evil
Capitalism protects men and makes it possible for them to be moral by removing the primary social evil, the means of stopping them from taking moral action, the initiation of physical force.
The initiation of physical force is evil because it halts the rational mind. A reasoning man cannot pursue a process of thought when he is being held at gunpoint, he cannot grasp reality and analyze facts according to the thug who threatens his life. Under physical compulsion, a man becomes something less than a man; his mind shuts down. He can be forced to act, his body can be compelled to hand over his wallet or work in a factory, but it is not by his choice and his process of reasoning. As the philosopher Leonard Peikoff eloquently explains, force "makes a man actagainst his judgment. The victim still sees what he sees, values what he values, knows what he knows." When he hands over his wallet to the robber, the man does not suddenly believe that it rightfully belongs to the robber—he still knows it is his property. Force negates the mind, and thereby negates reality, preventing a man from acting in accord with a fully rational morality.
The initiation of force applies in the same way in the realm of business. For example, when the government prohibits Company 'A' and Company 'B' from merging because a Justice Department attorney believes it to be anti-competitive, the management of those companies does not suddenly believe that the merger is a bad idea. When the Internal Revenue Service demands payment of capital gains taxes, the taxpayer still knows that it was his effort—the effort of a long-range mind that calculated risks, allocated resources, and managed investments—that created the wealth and that it morally belongs to him, not the public. These are instances of the initiation of force as much as that of a petty thief. Through the voluntary consent of both parties, two companies wished to merge and become a new entity. Through a process of lawful trade and sale, a man wanted to earn money on his business activity. Their action involved no force, only mutual cooperation. Yet the government in this instance initiated force against them by compelling them (under threat of imprisonment) to halt their activity. In effect, the government has detached their rational conclusions from their action. They are no longer acting according to their own best judgment, but according to that of a government bureaucrat.
To pursue his life and his values, a man must be free to use his unique tool of survival—his mind—unhampered and unrestrained. Because force is the only means by which other men can prevent this pursuit, it represents the primary evil in a social context. To have a fully free social system, a society must protect the ability of all men to exercise their own judgment, to make use of their own minds. The means of recognizing and protecting man's ability to live morally in society is the concept of individual rights.