Shoots from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii – Feb. 17, 2004-How Darwinian Is the Free Market?

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“StuartHayashi Image”

For decades, welfare-statist writers like the Hawaii-based Robert Rees
have smeared free-market economics by labeling it “Social Darwinism.”


What’s insidious about this equivocation is ”’what else”’ is called “Social Darwinism.”

Other ostensive “Social Darwinist” practices include European
nation-states’ conquests over indigenous peoples from 1800 to WW2, performed
out of the belief that one ethnicity could rightfully exterminate “weaker
races” for “the species’ enhancement.”

It was also dubbed “Social Darwinism” when governments forcibly
sterilized women in the 1920s because mental illness ran in their families,
believing rights could be ethically abrogated here because crazy people
wouldn’t pass harmful genes onto future generations.

It’s obscene to loop capitalism together with ”’obvious acts of violence”’ like genocide and forced sterilization, all categorized as “Social
Darwinism,” manipulatively implying that business is murder.

But that’s what Upton Sinclair did. He titled his 1906 propaganda
novel “The Jungle” to say that competition imposed the law of the jungle —
kill or be killed — upon communities.

Reality check: Despite environmentalists’ portrayals of rainforests as
serene, carnivorous species survive by devouring other creatures. Animals
initiate physical brutality.

The ”’opposite”’ is true of free-market, human-to-human interaction.
Capitalism only works inasmuch as people behave ”’peacefully”’ with each
other, initiating no violence upon person or property.

If most consumers beat up farmers and ”’stole”’ all their harvest
instead of purchasing it, farmers would either reduce or cease their
endeavors, and everyone would starve. If the product of everyone’s labor
can easily be snatched away, people stop producing and cooperating; the
system self-destructs.

“Jungle law” equals violence, while capitalism necessitates peace.

Some entrepreneurs who prevail in free markets are jerks or crooks.
However, the point of capitalist property-protection laws is to ”’stop”’
thieves. Overall, a successful businessperson only gains many customers
because s/he’s earned their trust; s/he cannot continually rob others
without risking endangerment.

It’s physically ”’peaceful”’ people who thrive in America, and under
”’totalitarianism”’ wherein exploitative sociopaths climb their way to power
and reign supreme. Who’s meaner: billionaire businesswoman Oprah Winfrey or
anti-capitalist Fidel Castro?

Leftists erect the “Social Darwinism” straw man through putting words
into free-marketers’ mouths. They say Herbert Spencer opposed the welfare
state because he believed that, if people were poor, they were necessarily
undeserving of life and their starving to death would rid the species of
genetic deadweight.

Spencer has been libeled this way over a century. Though he ”’did”’ make insensitive remarks about paupers, he didn’t object to private,
voluntary charity. “[T]he pains attendant on the struggle for existence,”
he said, “may fitly be qualified by the aid which private sympathy prompts.”

Once one realizes that capitalism is ”’peaceful,”’ though, one can safely
observe that the system ”’does”’ have parallels with ”’actual”’ (i.e.,
”’biological”’) Darwinism.

Firms, like species, must compete for resources to “dominate.” They
“perish” if they cannot adapt to changes in their “ecosystems” (markets).
The horse-drawn carriage industry “evolved” into “fitter” automobiles.

But businesses or product lines “going extinct” aren’t the same
tragedy as human mortality. If a business “croaks,” the people within it
survive and can find work elsewhere. So much for dog-eat-dog, profit-craving

And “natural selection” applies to all life. While animal
adaptations are only congenital, human adaptation involves behaviors — some
occur through personal choice and others are social norms.

Drunk drivers kill themselves and others; safe drivers survive and
let others live too. This suggests that defensive driving is a beneficial
adaptation; people who practice safe driving and teach it to their kids are
“fitter” than those who don’t. Interestingly, this adaptation has more to
do with free will than with one’s genes.

Reality also shows which social systems work best. The Fraser
Institute has ranked national governments in five categories, from
mostly-capitalist to least-capitalist. Under natural selection, countries
in the two-most capitalist quintiles have the highest average lifespans,
highest living standard, and lowest infant mortality; the opposite holds
true for the two least-capitalist quintiles.

This form of natural selections occurs, not because people in
capitalist countries are necessarily superior to those in communist
countries, but because communism imposes conditions that hardly anyone can
bear, while capitalism is easier for most people to adapt to (including
capitalism’s well-fed detractors).

When millions die in a consistently socialist “environment,” it’s not
the people who failed their “ecosystem,” but the socialist economic-system
that innately fails mankind. The least-fit adaptation was the rulers’
expectation that their subjects could flourish under something other than
free enterprise.

Free-market economics is mostly Darwinian in that nature itself
demonstrates capitalism to be one of humanity’s greatest adaptations.

”’Stuart K. Hayashi is a research intern at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Hayashi is the founder of a news Web log, “The Fiftieth Star,” at:”’ ”’to be unofficially centered around activities at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His older editorials can be seen at:”’ ”’and he can be reached at:”’
Related articles by Stuart K. Hayashi

“Respecting the Selfishness of Others”

“What Capitalism Is and Is Not”

“In Defense of Genetically-Engineered Children” (in three installments)

“In Favor of the Liquidator”

” ‘Animal Rights’ Are Human Wrongs”

“The Propriety of Property — Part 1”

“The Propriety of Property — Part 2”

“The Economy of Life”

“The ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Supremacy Movement”

” ‘Playing God’ — A Moral Necessity”

“John Nash Biographers Defame Adam Smith’s Beautiful Mind”

“Corporate ‘Social Responsibility’ and Economies of Scale”

“Erroneous Economics from Some John Nash Followers”

“Appreciate Industrialism on Earth Day”

“More Greed, More Trees”

“Where ‘Free-Market Environmentalism’ Misses the Point”

Recommended links:

“Wealth Is Unlimited” by Mary Ruwart, Ph.D.

“Herbert Spencer: The Defamation Continues” by Roderick T. Long, Ph.D.


“Defaming Herbert Spencer?: A Reply to Edwin Black” by Roderick T. Long,


John Attarian, Ph.D. on “Social Darwinist” William Graham Sumner

“The Rise of Spontaneous Order” by Jim Peron

The Bionomics Institute: Economy as Ecosystem

“Bionomics vs. Social Darwinism”

“Sociobiology and Altruism” by William Thomas

“Taming the Animal Within” by Damian Moskovitz

“Biology: 2001” by Gregord Benford, Ph.D.

“Clone Wars” by Mark D. Eibert

The Fraser Institute’s “Economic Freedom of the World” Report

New Environmentalism: The Reason Public Policy Institute


“The Nobel Peace Prize Should Go to Those Who Really Support Peace” by Andrew Bernstein, Ph.D.

Today’s Quote:

World leadership requires that we constantly defend the principles of individual liberty and free enterprise. At every opportunity we should call out to the world that only competitive enterprise can lead to peace and prosperity. We have a glorious history of individual freedom and safety of prosperity — the absence of nationalization and confiscation by an omnipotent state. our recent excursions toward the Welfare State endanger our record — and ourselves. But if we will correct that trend, then with pride we can demonstrate to the warring world that individual liberty is the only durable foundation for peace and prosperity. – Hans F. Sennholz

”’This editorial is intended to provoke thought, discussion and an examination of issues. It does not reflect official policy of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. See the GRIH Web site at:”’

”’ reports the real news, and prints all editorials submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors, as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to”’