What is the Real Reason Capitalism is Motivating?

Many people think it’s because of profit. Capitalism enables people to maximize their profits, and that’s why it’s motivating.

I think this is wrong. I think the real reason capitalism is motivating is because it is based on freedom. The essence of capitalism is not “make us much money as you can” but rather “do what you choose to do. If it’s in the marketplace, you will have to do it profitably, but as long as you can do what you chose profitably, do whatever most fires you up.”

The profit motive is not bad. But it is not to be our primary motive, and it is not what is ultimately motivating to any human being who is rightly functioning.

If the government doesn’t allow profits, or inordinately seizes them, it is demotivating¬†— not first because people are out for money above all things, but because the genuine fruits of their labors are being withheld from them.

But it does not follow from this that the chief motive in capitalism is or has to be money. Seizing people’s profits is demotivating; but what is ultimately motivating on the positive side is the opportunity to do what interests you, and do it in the best way you possibly can.

And, for the Christian, to do this to the glory of God.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    I think you’re spot-on. This can be evidenced by our modern thoughts on jobs and entrepreneurship.
    It used to be the only real consideration for employment was compensation and job security. Now, it seems that we put so many other factors as equally or more important than compensation: where we work, how long we work, flexible schedules, how we enjoy the work, if it’s fulfilling, etc.

    People have the freedom to choose employment based on the factors that they find important – whatever those are.

  • Roger Healey

    Very good point, Matt. A related point I try to make to people is that you can’t have individual freedom without having economic freedom. They are tied together. Since most of us spend a good part of our waking hours working, the ability to participate in a free market, sell our labor or ideas, have property rights, and keep most of what we earn is an important part of what makes us free. This is why most far-left schemes for running a country or economy end up enslaving most of the populace rather than empowering them.