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Acton Notes - President Message

Dear Friends,

Here is an item that has been circulating the internet for some time now. Assuming you have two cows, this is how you would describe the world’s major economic systems: In socialism, the state takes one of your cows and gives it to your neighbor. In communism, the state takes both of your cows and gives you the milk. In capitalism, you sell one of your cows and buy a bull.

And herein lies the fundamental superiority of capitalism. First, notice that only capitalism possesses the ability to create wealth. Socialism and communism (essentially the same in this regard) do not have this capacity; they can only redistribute pre-existing wealth. Returning to our example, no matter the pattern of distribution, the most these systems can produce is the milk of two cows, which is not very satisfying when you have an ever-increasing demand for milk. With capitalism, you not only get milk, but also, bulls being what they are, a larger and larger herd and, thus, more and more milk as time goes on.

Second, notice that socialism and communism—again, essentially the same here—are founded on an ultimately immoral presupposition: the state has the right and obligation to forcibly seize your possessions. When individuals do this, we rightly call them thieves and thugs. Governments that do such ought to be called the same.

Happily, the idea that capitalism is, in practice, the most efficient economic system is gaining defenders day by day. This must also become the case with the idea that it is, in principle, the morally superior system. In the coming months I will be presenting the case for this moral superiority of the free market. Such a project lies at the core of the Acton Institute’s mission, and I thank you for the support that allows us to do it.

Sincerely,
Rev. Robert A. Sirico