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Socialists’ Cartoon Vision of Capitalism

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Someone in the Tom Woods Show Elite just shared this:

None of this is true.

I have never in my life met anyone who thinks “people exist to serve the market” and that if they cannot be profitable “their life has no value.”

Let’s start with the first part.

No capitalist I know thinks economics and production amount to all of life, and constitute the sum total of a person’s existence. What a truly bizarre thing that would be to say — which is why precisely nobody says it.

Second, what exactly is “the market”? It’s being used here as a bogeyman term, as if it’s some all-consuming entity that sucks the life and purpose out of unsuspecting victims.

In fact, the market is you and me.

The market is your fellow man.

What the author really should say (but would never portray us fairly enough to do so) instead of “capitalists believe people exist to serve the market” is “we capitalists seek to earn profits, to support ourselves, by serving our fellow man.”

“The market” is not a disembodied entity we should demonize. It’s the sum total of voluntary exchanges all of us make to improve our lives. When put that way it doesn’t sound so scary anymore, which is why our author never would put it that way.

Then we have “If a person cannot serve the market in a profitable way, their life has no value.” Again, literally (and I am using that word correctly) not a single person anywhere thinks this.

Nonprofit organizations are every bit as much a part of the market — which, again, is merely the nexus of voluntary exchange — as the corner store is. Likewise, capitalists are not required to say, “The Cathedral of Notre Dame isn’t aimed at the generation of profit, so it is therefore worthless.”

Some people have career-ending disabilities. Is there a capitalist anywhere who says “their life has no value”?

Is there a capitalist who says babies “have no value” until they own the means of production?

Or that retired people “have no value”?

Incidentally, which institution was it that sent millions of men to be brutally killed in the service of moving the front a matter of yards one way or the other in early 20th-century Europe? Was that “capitalism” or the state? Does that sound like an institution that thinks people’s lives have value?

How about the totalitarian regimes and genocides? Carried out by people who think our lives have value?

We’ve been trained to despise the market so much that the truth — which is the opposite of what’s been drummed into our heads — is invisible to us even when it’s right before our eyes.

I’ll leave the second paragraph of the Tweet to you as an exercise, my dear reader.


On November 13-14 I’ll be in Vienna to receive the Hayek Lifetime Achievement Award from the Austrian Economics Center.

I studied German for reading knowledge 20 years ago, but never learned conversational German.

People assure me I’ll be all right navigating Vienna, but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, if you’ve ever been interested in learning a foreign language, my friend’s company Rocket Languages is having a sale at the moment: 60% off the next 40 courses they sell. It’s a Halloween sale, but at this rate I doubt there will be any left on Halloween.

(I am dressing as the Tin Man, in case you were wondering.)

Enjoy: (affiliate)

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About The Author

Tom Woods

Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the 2019 winner of the Hayek Lifetime Achievement Award from the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. He is a senior fellow of the Mises Institute and host of The Tom Woods Show, which releases a new episode every weekday. Visit

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