Morals & Markets

Paternalism, Infantilism & the Welfare State

May 28, 2024
"A free society depends not only on rational philosophy, capitalist economics, and rights-respecting politics but a psychology of mental health rooted in self-esteem and its corollaries (self-confidence, self-responsibility, self-reliance). Many people are anxious, angry, and even phobic about living in a free, vibrant, dynamic culture. Preferring security to liberty, they lose both."

Capitalism, For & Against: A University Seminar

February 27, 2024
“For the past five years at Duke University, I’ve conducted a popular seminar which assesses both the pros and cons of capitalism. In this session, I recount the seminar’s origins, share the syllabus, review the readings, and convey some student reactions. My introduction reads: ‘Capitalism is a formidable and durable social system worthy of scientific, objective study. Only three centuries old, it has both proponents and opponents, each wielding strong and weak arguments. In this seminar, we investigate, analyze, and debate the nature of capitalism and assess the validity (or not) of various pro-con claims.’”

A Capitalist Approach to Immigration and Borders

November 29, 2023
A free society welcomes manageable flows of goods, capital, and people over its borders, whether incoming or outgoing. A state is defined as the institution with a monopoly on the legitimate use of retaliatory force within a specific territory – and the last feature requires fixed and protected borders. An indispensable job of a legitimate government includes managing the borders, setting liberal terms, processing the flows, and interdicting dangers (hostile actors, transmissible diseases). America’s most capitalist era (1865-1915) coincided with the “Ellis Island model” and we need that again, instead of the false choice of “open borders” (with no processing) or “closed borders” (with despotic-type walls).

The Nefarious Purpose of Central Banking

August 22, 2023
Central banking is not—as most economists claim—a benign institution that ensures our economic and financial well-being. It is central planning applied to money and banking and as such it proliferates statist regimes, to the detriment of liberty and prosperity.

AI: Promise and Peril

May 23, 2023
"AI is just a fancy name for automation—which is the embodiment of advanced human intelligence in tools and machines—and like all technology it should be welcomed, not feared, curbed, or banned. History shows that fire, the wheel, the gun, electricity, nuclear power, and many other technologies have been enormously beneficial to humans; that they’ve also been misused by evil actors only means we should prevent evil, not invention."

From The Vault: Why American Can't Win Wars Anymore

May 19, 2023
"The U.S. won the “Cold War” but hasn’t won a “hot” war since World War II. It’s been 0-5 since 1945. Korea. Viet Nam. The Gulf War. Iraq. Afghanistan. Why? The U.S. has had a large, strong economy, the best weaponry, and superb soldiers; yet it loses to far-inferior foes, costing thousands of American lives, trillions in American wealth, and a large measure of national pride. Instead of being guided by national self-interest, U.S. foreign policy embodies the alleged “nobility” of self-sacrifice (altruism) and thereby appeases and emboldens enemies. Presidents and military leaders (“top brass”) have accepted much of the anti-Americanism preached for years at universities and even in military academies. This can be fixed, but it’ll require a moral revolution – a case for both realism and egoism in foreign affairs." View Full Transcript Episode Transcript

From The Vault: The Religious Marxism of Critical Race Theory

May 12, 2023
“Critical Race Theory”(CRT) claims that contemporary America is systemically, institutionally, and structurally racist. In the same vein, President Obama in 2015 told NPR that in America “the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and discrimination in almost every institution of our lives is still part of our DNA. We are not cured.” In fact, only America’s South was systemically racist–-and not after the 1960s. CRT is not new but reflects an odd amalgam of false theories: Marxism (“inherent conflict”), Christianity(“original sin”), and determinism (“no one can choose to be color blind”). CRT demands that Americans become more race conscious than they are. Reason and volition are the antidotes to CRT (and racism)."

From The Vault: Should College Be Free and Student Debts Canceled?

April 21, 2023
Join Senior Scholar and Professor of Political Economy, Richard Salsman, Ph.D., in fresh episodes of Morals & Markets "From the Vault." These episodes were from early episodes of Morals & Markets from before it became a podcast. Tune in to this episode from back in May of 2021 in which Dr. Salsman discusses the idea of free college, President Biden's proposal for student debt forgiveness, and what thoughtful students think about it: “For decades U.S. public policy has subsidized college tuition and professors’ research while guaranteeing a burgeoning pile of student loans,” says Salsman. “Now politicians and pundits of every persuasion demand tuition price controls or free tuition plus ‘forgiveness’ of student debt. Is there a link between the first set of policies (subsidies) and the second set? What are the moral, economic, and political arguments for and against making college “free” and canceling student debt? Is it possible both sets of policies are morally unjust, economically destructive, and politically coercive?”

From The Vault: Environmentalism & Capitalism

April 14, 2023
Join Senior Scholar and Professor of Political Economy, Richard Salsman, Ph.D., in fresh episodes of Morals & Markets "From the Vault." These episodes were from early episodes of Morals & Markets from before it became a podcast. Tune in to this episode from back in April of 2021 in which Dr. Salsman discusses anti-capitalist aspects of the environmental movement: “Initially called the 'ecology' movement, proponents seemed merely to want cleaner air and water, for the benefit of humans (while denying that capitalism alone delivers it),” explains Salsman. “Before long, the movement became ‘environmentalism,’ with the premise that ‘nature’ has intrinsic value (apart from man) and man is non-natural (not part of nature, hence expendable).”

From The Vault: The Encouraging Spread of Academic Programs in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

April 7, 2023
Join Senior Scholar and Professor of Political Economy, Richard Salsman, Ph.D., in fresh episodes of Morals & Markets "From the Vault." These episodes were from early episodes of Morals & Markets from before it became a podcast. Tune in to this episode in which Dr. Salsman discusses PPE Programs at Universities: "Until recently, the social sciences in academic - philosophy, politics, and economics - have existed in narrowly-specialized silos, detached from each other (and from reality). Thankfully, in recent decades an interdisciplinary approach has evolved, in the form of "PPE" programs, with studies that conform far better to the real world. The best and brightest students are drawn tothis integrated, non-paritsan approach and profit by it. In this webinar, Dr. Salsman, who teaches in Duke's PPE program, discusses the origins, content, spread, and future of these programs."

The FTX Scam: "Effective Altruism" In Action

January 24, 2023
FTX, an exchange for cryptocurrencies, was fraudulent almost from its start in 2019. Its recent bankruptcy reveals that it robbed millions of people and billions of dollars, then spent most of it on Democrats. FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) veiled his fraud with "effective altruism," a pseudo-ethical scheme from academic philosophy, the opposite of egoistic profit-maximization. Altruism is beloved, wrongly, as an ethic of goodwill to others. SBF knew he was perpetuating a fraud - first ethical, then financial: EA, he said, is "this dumb game we woke Westerners play where we say all the right shibboleths, so everyone likes us."

Why The GOP Lost The Midterm Elections

November 29, 2022
The GOP received more votes in recent House elections (50MM vs 44MM) but its widely expected “red wave” didn’t materialize. After two years of Democrat incompetence, corruption, and vice – with inflation at a 40-year high, no economic growth, rampant crime, border anarchy, civil liberty assaults, bans on fossil fuels, publicly-subsidized genital mutilation – Republicans won only a bare majority of House seats and have lost a seat in the Senate. Why? Poor GOP candidate quality? No. Election fraud? Not enough. Abortion issue? Possibly. But the simplest explanation might be the best: a majority of American voters prefer irrational, anti-capitalist policies.

The ESG Virus - Morals & Markets

October 25, 2022
ESG is a fast-spreading policy pathogen deployed by environmentalists and other anti-capitalists to infect every aspect of life, but especially corporate and political governance. ESG prioritizes “environmental, social, and governance” goals to dilute and pollute positive forms of governance, especially the shareholder model in economics and rights-based constitutionalism in politics. The necessary antidotes to the ESG virus include rationality, justice, the profit motive, and capitalism.

Collegiate Cronyism with special guest, Atlas Society Founder, Dr. David Kelley

October 12, 2022
Cronies who receive political favors include not just corporate “fat cats” but colleges and college students. President Biden recently decreed a unilateral cancellation of student debt (up to $20,000 per borrower) which would cost roughly $500-750 billion. Aside from the question of whether Biden, Congress or some agency is empowered to cancel debt, is the policy just or unjust? Practical or impractical? What about those who didn’t go to college, didn’t borrow for it, or have serviced their debt? Why is student debt so high? Why is Washington involved at all? What does Biden’s policy imply about the national debt? After all, if Washington can unilaterally forego money it is owed, why can’t it do likewise for money it owes to others?

How Markets Elevate Our Morals - Morals & Markets

August 25, 2022
It’s now commonplace to hear it said that markets “corrupt our morals.” This sentiment derives from the false premise that the selfish pursuit of our interests, values, possessions, and happiness is low, crude, vulgar, and immoral. The supposed “higher” and “nobler” things lie beyond our selves and beyond this earth. In fact, markets – whether the construed as the exchange of material or intangible values – count on and reward civilized attitudes and behaviors. Markets are humanizing; they embody rationality and objective values; they enshrine justice; they entail reciprocity; they invite us to present the best within us; they teach us lessons; they also ostracize and penalize those who try to practice the main vices (lying, cheating, mooching, and looting).

Why MBAs Are Not Pro-Capitalist with Dr. Richard Salsman

July 29, 2022
It’s widely but falsely assumed that financial-economic capitalists are necessarily pro-capitalist ideologically. Why is this so? By now, “woke” CEOs are widely recognized (and hailed) for being anti-capitalist, including by violating their fiduciary duties to shareholders. The graduate degree of “master’s in business administration” (MBA), which is on the resume of one-third of Fortune 500 CEOs, is a main cause of the woke CEO trend. In prior sessions we’ve discussed the fascistic nature of the “stakeholder” model of corporate governance; in this session we discuss how and why MBA programs preach this and other ideas that erode capitalism.

Stakeholder Capitalism Is Fascistic

June 23, 2022
The model of so-called “stakeholder capitalism,” a contradiction in terms, is fast replacing the model of shareholder capitalism (a redundancy). The stakeholder model entails scores of pressure groups (including politicians and regulators) dictating what corporations must do, especially if the doing is less rational, less profitable, and averse to shareholders’ goals. A related designation, “ESG,” is a budding American version of China’s Social Credit System. Whereas capitalism entails both private ownership and control of the means of production, fascism entails private ownership but public control; the latter is the essence of stakeholder-ism.

Are Economic Sanctions Ever Defensible?

May 26, 2022
Many nations recently have imposed economic sanctions on Russia. Is this proper? Effective? In “The Roots of War” (1966) Ayn Rand argued that “the essence of capitalism’s foreign policy is free trade—i.e.,the abolition of trade barriers, of protective tariffs, of special privileges—the opening of the world’s trade routes to free international exchange and competition among the private citizens of all countries dealing directly with one another.” But she also opposed U.S. trade with America’s sworn, mortal enemies (e.g., U.S.S.R.). In this session we’ll discuss if/when economic sanctions are justified and their typical effects (for good or ill). Like protectionist measures, sanctions often hurt the imposer more than the imposed.

Egoistic Foreign-Military Policy

April 28, 2022
Just as rational egoism is the only proper ethic to guide an individual’s life, it’s the only proper ethical guide for a state’s relations with other states. The essence of America is its liberties, its rights, and its capitalist system; consequently, the self-interest of the United States lies in preserving those values, neither sacrificing nor surrendering them, especially not for so-called “humanitarian” (altruistic) motives, merely to help victimized foreigners. The U.S. must rationally identify its allies and enemies, then act accordingly. It must never provide national defense for other nations that mostly pretend to be sovereign. Rational egoism justifies neither pacifism, isolationism, nor imperialism. America cannot preserve her essence or institutions, nor again find a way to fight and win only the right wars, without following the egoistic principle. She must be a moral paragon for the world, but never its policeman.

How The War On Fossil Fuel Fuels War

March 24, 2022
"Increased global reliance on increasingly expensive oil and gas from Russia has fueled its foreign aggressions. As was true of the oil-rich Middle East despots in the 1970s, Russia’s biggest ally has been environmentalists who, being anti-capitalist, oppose precisely the energies that best power capital infrastructure: fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Instead of advanced economies using these abundant, cheap, safe, and reliable energy forms, environmentalists prefer reliance on medieval, pre-industrial forms – wind, water, sun – knowing that capitalism would perish by their widespread use."

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