By Gabriel Elbert
There was an image that you may have seen floating around on Twitter in early July. It was a picture of a street crowded with signs for fast food, gas, hotels, coffee, and other establishments. “What’s more depressing than capitalist architecture?” was the caption—the tweet intended to portray that “capitalist architecture” as some dystopian scene. 1 In reality, that photo is an illustration of the contrary.
Think about the purpose of advertisement and branding. Signs and logos are used to attract customers. Why is this done? In the free-market system, where consumers have choices, businesses must compete against each other to earn your money. It’s a necessity, or the businesses will not survive. The more crowded the marketplace, the more choices potential customers have.
The free market consists of customers making rational decisions for themselves (typically evaluating product quality, utility, and price), and businesses which must sell to that reason. Each establishment must make the best case they can as to why they deserve your business. That photo is the end result of this system, and it is evidence of an economic system where individual choice is fundamental to its operation. Choices are a form of freedom: freedom of the mind.
Let’s consider the alternative, a system where no choice exists, where there is no other option for goods and services besides what the government provides or forcibly redistributes. Take a look at “architecture” in places where people live with no choices. Buildings are often stark, cold, and grey. What’s the point of creativity or ingenuity, when there’s no incentive or when the government dictates economic planning? Collectivist ideologies stifle the individual human spirit. When the mind is not free to think, oppressive regimes can control citizens. While impressive structures may exist in countries where collectivism is the foundational ideology, how much of a choice in the matter was given to the people that built them? Command economies are called command for a reason. People sacrifice liberty and ownership of themselves for the good of the “collective.” This is one reason why socialist states have failed time after time. We can’t escape our human nature and desire to be free in mind or body.
The free market is far more well-suited to working in harmony with human nature. We’re selfish creatures, and we look out for our best interests. Only through capitalism can a person better their own life and simultaneously better the life of another. I’ll trade you my dollars for the product of your hard work because I value what I purchased from you more than the money I gave up to receive it. It’s all about choices and mutual exchange. If I am able to make a rational decision about what to do with my property and money or the things that I produce, I will generally be happier.
That cluttered image is a reminder that a free market gives us the ability to make decisions for ourselves, as individuals, about how we use our talents, money, and minds. We should celebrate choice, not condemn it. The alternative is far more depressing.
Gabriel Elbert is a freedom-loving patriot and a proud American. He is the son of a Colombian immigrant, and is incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that living in America provides. You can find him at college football games on Saturdays during the fall (Go Buffs!), and exploring the Rocky Mountains all year round. He is a passionate believer in individual liberty, and is excited to share his thoughts with everyone on the YAAS platform!