The Capitalism Tour

Amongst her friends and enemies, capitalism is compartmentalized as a purely economic system. The error with this approach is that an economic system does not exist in a vacuum, but results from a specific chain of moral, political, and legal principles. Change those premises and the system’s nature changes. Thus, to properly understand capitalism, one must grasp the moral, political, and legal principles which make its economic and social results possible. This is the goal of this brief tour. Click on the arrow (>) to the right to begin.

Reality is absolute

Reality is that which exists. It is the standard of the true, false, and arbitrary. Things are what they are, independent of our or anyone else’s feelings, ideas, wishes, desires, and emotions. A is A.

Reason is the individual's means of knowledge

Reason is one’s only means of understanding reality by conceptually identifying and integrating the facts of reality as perceived by one’s senses. To act rationally is to base one’s ideas, principles, and conclusions solely on the facts in a logical (non-contradictory) manner.

Reason is the attribute of the individual

There is no such entity as the social/collective mind. The act of thinking is an individual process. An individual can learn from and communicate with others; but, to do so, one must still grasp the facts of reality with one’s mind to make it knowledge. Others may physically act for someone, but no one can intellectually grasp facts for them. The individual mind is sovereign.

Reason is the individual's means of survival

Survival for human beings is not automatic. Unlike other organisms — bacteria, elephants or apes — humans must alter their environment to survive. One must use their reason to rearrange the objects in their environment to create the values — shelter, food, books, energy, medicine — one requires to survive. Whether one is alone on a desert island or living in modern society: the individual must think rationally — and act productively if life is their goal.

Knowledge and trade as the benefits of social living

Thanks to specialization under the division of labor, one can gain immense values by living with others in a proper society — namely knowledge and trade (in physical and spiritual values). Such a society operates under the moral doctrine of individualism — where each individual is regarded as an end in oneself, and not as a slave for the ends of others.

Force and reason are opposites

There are only two ways individuals may deal with each other: by reason (i.e., speech, persuasion) or by physical force (i.e., physical blows, fraud). Only by the use of force can one be: prevented from speaking, robbed, or murdered; that is, stopped from acting by one’s mind, rendering it useless as a means of survival.

Force may only be morally used in self-defense

The use of force, in and of itself, is not evil; but, to initiate (start) force is. As force renders one’s mind useless as a means of survival — one has the right to use force to defend and retaliate against those who first start the use of force.

The individual requires freedom to flourish

Given that reason is one’s only means of knowing reality, that reason is the attribute of the individual, and that one must use reason to produce the values one needs to survive, in a proper society the individual needs to be left free to think and free to act on that thinking. The individual needs freedom — from the initation of physical force.

To live in society the individual needs rights

“A right is a moral principle defining an individual’s freedom of action in a social context.”—AYN RAND

Freedom of action does not mean freedom to act by permission, which may be revoked at a dictator’s, or a democratic mob’s, whim, but the freedom to act as an absolute — by right.

The fundamental right is the right to life

The fundamental right is the right to life, from which all other rights (liberty, property, the pursuit of happiness, etc.) are but applications. The right to life means that your life belongs to you alone, leaving you free to do what you wish with your life, so long as you do not violate the rights of others.

Rights are not guarantees to the results of others

There is no such thing as the right to enslave (“the right to violate rights”). No one has the right to force others to give them food, health care, insurance, education, a house, or to force them to give up their property (wealth, money) to obtain these values. One may produce them or acquire them by reason (trade/persuasion), but never by threatening force (coercion.)

Rights are inalienable

Rights are inalienable — they may not be morally infringed upon, i.e., a thief may rob you, but morally he is in the wrong, and morally you are in the right.

The only obligation one’s rights impose on others is the policy of “laissez-faire:” for them to leave you alone, and leave you free to act within your sphere of rights. By doing so the doctrine of individual rights subordinates society to moral law, i.e., might to right.

A proper government subordinates force to moral law

Man’s state in nature, where all are allowed complete discretion in the use of force, according to the “laws of the jungle,” is anarchy — perpetual civil war and gang warfare. To place the retaliatory use of force under objective legal control, the individuals that makeup society delegate to government, their right to defend and retaliate against those who initiate force.

The state shall never be used to violate rights

As no individual in their private capacity as a citizen, may morally start force against others, neither may one in their public capacity as a public servant initiate force either. All powers of the state are delegated to it by the people, and as no person has “the right to violate rights” (a contradiction in terms), neither does the state.

The purpose of law is the protection of rights

To ensure that no despot or tyrannical majority may usurp the power of government to use force to turn its political machinery upon any of its citizens, every aspect of government action is governed by a body of integrated, codified, and non-contradictory laws.

In a proper society, the law has one purpose: to protect individual rights. Each individual lives free under law by inalienable right so long as he respects the equal rights of others.

A rule not of men, but a rule of law

Such laws hold the individual innocent until proven guilty in a court of law before an impartial judge (“rule of law”), as opposed to guilty until “proven” innocent according to the whims of a dictating bureaucrat (“rule of men”).

Government as a referee and not a regulator

The actions of government officials are regulated in minute detail with no room for arbitrary discretion as the government carries the legal power to use force. It is the government official that operates by permission, and it is the private individual that lives by right.

What does a proper government consist of?

In order to protect rights, a government consists fundamentally of three things: an armed forces — to protect against foreign invaders, a police force — to protect against domestic criminals, and a court system — to settle disputes that arise, enforce contracts, and to punish criminals, according to objectively predefined laws based on the principle of individual rights.

A constitution to protect the individual from the state

A constitution — the supreme law of a society — is a citizen’s protection against public officials who seek to imitate the private criminal’s methods of coercion to achieve their objectives.

Such a written document objectively delimits, separates, and balances the powers of government amongst its branches, so that political power – the power to legally use physical force – cannot be concentrated in any single branch or faction, with each branch being a check on the power of every other.

A free-market is the principle of individual rights applied to the economic realm

“Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.” — AYN RAND

Economically, when freedom under the rule of law is applied to the sphere of production and trade, it results in a free-market in goods, services, relationships, and ideas. A free-market is a market free from fraud and coercion by private criminals and public officials, that operates under a rule of objective law.


Market competition as a peaceful form of cooperation

A free-market is characterized by a peaceful form of competition which leaves one free to produce and voluntary exchange (trade) physical and spiritual values with other producers for mutual gain and mutual benefit (profit).

Under capitalism, such competition is a form of cooperation that recognizes the harmony of interests of all those engaged in production and trade.


Can you imagine what would be the result of a society where the initiation of physical force is banned from all relationships? It would not make every person moral, nor would it prevent every injustice. But, think what it could do?

A society of economic prosperity

It would result in a society of goodwill and benevolence, where each person sees his neighbor not as part of a gang ready to rob him in a “dog-eat-dog” world, but as a potential trader, from which one can gain material and spiritual values, to mutual gain and mutual benefit in a world with a “harmony of interests.”

A society where a life of imaginable, increasing wealth, is not just a possibility, but a reality — for everyone who is willing to think and act on that thinking — where anyone can rise as a high as their will and ability may take them.

A society of social progress

A society where each individual is judged not by their group affiliation (race, gender, religion, age, etc.), but by the content of their character, that is, as an individual.

A society where each person can live, speak and act according to their own beliefs (philosophical, scientific, religious, and otherwise) so long as those beliefs do not entail violating the rights of others.

A society where education is not a state-schooled brainwashing but becomes a mind-expanding experience.

A society of flourishing peace

A society of free-thinking and free-acting individuals, and not a society of one “collective mind,” ruled by a despot who has monopolized the title of the “voice of the people.”

And in time, a society of individuals living in harmony with reality, guided by the process of reason. This is what is possible in a society based on the sacred principle of individual rights.

What is the name of such a system?


Capitalism is the progressive ideal because it is the only social system that leaves one free to pursue — and achieve — their own happiness.

Capitalism is the ethical ideal because it is the only social system that leaves human beings free to be moral — to live by the use of their mind.

Capitalism is the objective ideal — because it is the only system that is true, both in moral theory and in economic practice.

The Capitalism Tour is based on Ayn Rand’s philosophy Objectivism. For Ayn Rand’s views in her own words, the reader is recommended to read her works — especially her revolutionary series of essays in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

Pin It on Pinterest