Monday, 3 August 2020

Private Ownership of the Means of Production confers a Social Benefit

Perhaps the most difficult battle faced by the advocates of free markets it to convince people that Private Ownership of the Means of Production is not some special privilege conferring and advantage to "greedy capitalists" at the expense of everyone else, but that it serves a social function that is beneficial to all.

Private ownership makes the accumulated wealth of the entrepreneur a slave to the consumer - that is - to everyone else. We commonly understand private ownership to mean "for our own use," eg. the use of a toothbrush or a private residence, but in the case of private ownership, what is owned is almost exclusively for the use of others, placed at their service.

The capitalist keeps his wealth only to the extend he continues to use what he has accumulated in the interests of the masses, as they judge them, by churning out whichever goods and services they demand. To the extent he succeeds, his wealth will grow. This is the economy’s way of saying that he makes sure and wise decisions with the capital we have amassed as a society - not wasting them on projects that the public have no interest in paying for. To the extent he fails to do so, those factories, machines and companies that his investments represent will be sold on at knock-down rates to whoever thinks they can do a better job of managing them in the public interest. This allows for the constant re-allocation of capital to those who can best manage it, and engenders the accumulation of more capital over time. As the capital stock increase there is more wealth generation and technological advancement can be expected, and this will necessarily be largely led by the preferences of consumers, not those who actually "own" the capital.

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