Wealth And Inequality: Debunking Myths About Socialism With Lawrence Reed

TWS 48 | Wealth And Inequality


When it comes to wealth and inequality, it can be challenging to have a meaningful debate or conversation, especially with somebody that has an opposing point of view.

On today’s show, Lawrence Reed and Patrick Donohoe tackle these issues and share some insights on how you can take the right approach to inspire, educate, and have a positive influence over anybody.

Lawrence is the author of WAS JESUS A SOCIALIST? Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, And Why The Answer Is Almost Always Wrong, a book that debunks misconceptions about capitalism and the free markets with regards to being a follower of Jesus. He is the former President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Wealth And Inequality: Debunking Myths About Socialism With Lawrence Reed

Thank you for tuning into the episode. Lawrence Reed is the President of FEE. He’s also written a number of books, but his book that came out is WAS JESUS A SOCIALIST? Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, And Why The Answer Is Almost Always Wrong. He’s my guest. He was on about several months ago and it was an incredible interview. He’s so smart and well-read, but also can articulate his perspective well. I realized that we’re in some challenging times right now and I hope you are thriving. I see so much opportunity all around us to do good, to build our business and to adjust things in our personal lives for the better. Hopefully, you are taking advantage of that.

Make sure you go to the website, We have a new resource section that has a lot of the programs, the book recommendations and other free courses and digital material. It’s a resource section of the website. Additionally, there’s a link to Larry’s new book, which is available on Kindle, as well as a paperback format so make sure you check that out. His organization FEE, The Foundation for Economic Education is, I hope you learned something from this relatively short interview compared to our last one but Larry has a perspective that I know that if you had it, you would think differently.

Regardless of the subject matter as well as the context, because it’s religious in nature, don’t overlook this episode because there’s a lot of good principles and values in there regardless of what your faith is. Hopefully, you benefit from it. Thanks for connecting too. Head over to YouTube. The episode is on YouTube as well. Subscribe to the show if this is your first time as well as the YouTube Channel. Also, follow us on social media. We’re posting quite a bit there and connecting with the audience. I would love to have you subscribe. I’m going to cut to my interview with Larry Reed.

Larry, thanks for joining me. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost several months since we did the last interview. It seems like yesterday. It was one of the favorites that I had in memory as I think back on some of the meaningful conversations I’ve had. Thank you for joining us. I’m excited about the conversation.

Thank you, Patrick. It’s my pleasure. I remember that program we did in January of 2019 very fondly. It’s on my website as a matter of fact.

I appreciate you helping me get the word out there. Larry, so much has changed since January of 2019. What I thought would be interesting before we get into this semi-controversial subject is to set some context. Right now, I have two teenage daughters in my house. It’s interesting the conversations you have and how much debate exists. Where I’ve gone to is not trying to prove that I’m wrong or put my fist down with authority, but it’s to understand them at a deeper level and where they’re coming from. It’s not assuming that they know what I know, have experienced what I’ve experienced.

It totally changes the dynamic of the conversation. I wanted to pick your brain briefly so we can set some context for the controversial subject of wealth and inequality, and specifically, your new book, WAS JESUS A SOCIALIST? Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, And Why The Answer Is Almost Always Wrong. It’s pretty controversial. What are your thoughts as you’ve experienced not the mainstream stance on economics, on political policy, and economic policy? Where do you stand with having meaningful debate and conversation, especially with somebody that has an opposing point of view?

You’re taking the right approach with your daughters, especially at a young age, young people who always have a little spirit of rebellion in them and a sense of idealism. If you come across as “I’m right, you’re wrong. You take what I give you and make it your opinion.” That almost never works. If you show that you’re open to a different view, but still from on your own and even take a bigger picture approach, also interested in whatever truth may lead you to, you’re in the long run more likely to have a positive influence over anybody, your daughters and anybody else. Sadly, these days, in academia, there’s not an emphasis on critical thinking skills that there was when I was a student. There are so many in academia now who act in the classroom as if they’ve got a monopoly on the proper viewpoints and on things like compassion or caring for other people. Their purpose is to indoctrinate rather than to inspire and to educate and encourage students to think for themselves. That’s very unfortunate. That is not going to serve students well in later life. It never does.

I look at the conversation we’re about to have and how much of that is being had. However, the levels of depths that the conversation gets to it’s very shallow. With the conversations, I get to have with people that, just a couple levels deeper, I believe that there is tremendous wisdom there. The reason why I wanted to start with that and this is for the audience is not to take a stance on we’re right and you’re wrong. If you have a differing opinion, it’s to say, “I recognize, understand that there are all opinions out there.” I take a stance of I may be wrong. I may be stating something that may have a different perspective and information than I have not been privy to.

That’s why I try to bring on experts like Larry so I can understand my own beliefs better and question them so that I can make better decisions. I can live a more meaningful life. I believe that the more wisdom that you have, the better decisions you’re going to make and the better outcomes that you’re going to have. Larry, let’s get into this idea of inequality. I’ve sent you some questions in advance. You take a look at the fact that there is inequality and it’s something that there are some pretty strong positions on both sides. What does inequality mean to you and maybe in the context of the book that you just wrote?

There is a kind of equality that I’m all in favor of. We all should be in favor of and that’s equality before the law. The law should be impartial. It should not render judgments against people for or against, based upon irrelevant criteria, but rather whether or not you did it, whether or not you deserve it or whatever. Economic equality is what’s in the news so much these days. That’s the kind of equality I talk about in the book. There are a lot of people who claim that economic inequality, differences in income and material possessions, material wealth is a bad thing and that it would be better if we equalized or what as far in that direction as we could, the material possessions of individual people. The problem with that is that no two people who have ever lived have been precisely alike.

Why should we expect that what they contribute to the marketplace and how other people’s values that in the marketplace should be the same? We’re different in terms of the talents that we have. If I tried to be a professional basketball player, my income from that will always be drastically lower than, fill in the blank, famous basketball player of now. We’re different in terms of the talents we have, the willingness to work. Some people work long hours hard. They think hard as well as work hard. That sometimes often reflected in the incomes later. We’re different in terms of our savings. If we equalized everybody tonight, materially speaking, we’d have inequality again by noon tomorrow because some people would save it and some people would spend it. It’s illusory to think that people who are not the same or very different in so many ways would somehow create equal incomes in the marketplace.

What do you see as the biggest pushback to that, as far as the conversations you’ve had, especially on very deep and obviously with a religious spin onto it?

Probably the biggest pushback, and it extends from my misunderstanding, would be that the problem is the system is rigged. Some people get unfair advantages. They work the politicians to get special benefits at the expense of other people. I’m the first to say I’m against that too. That’s not freedom and free markets. That looks a lot more like socialism, where you have concentrated power in the hands of politicians, and then they choose to bestow that power on their favorite friends. I’m against that too. That’s a legitimate response, but if you think that the answer is to adopt socialism, you’re only going to compound the problem because that’s the most corrupt system known to man. Lord Acton told us “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Absolute power corrupts. Click To Tweet

The more you concentrate power in the hands of mortals, no matter what the expressed intentions may be, the more mischief and difficulties and impoverishment you’re going to have. That would be probably the number one pushback. Close behind would be there’s a sense out there always has been among human beings that whatever the cause, people should still be equal. One guy shouldn’t have more than another. When you hear that the best response is to raise questions, to ask the person, why should someone who doesn’t utilize his talents fully versus another who does? Why should one person who doesn’t save and invest versus another who does? On down the line of all the differences that define us, why should all those people be precisely the same in terms of what they earn? What about consumers? Don’t they bestow your income by choosing to buy or not to buy based upon what you’ve offered them?

It’s a fascinating question because there are lots of emotions that surround it. I believe the emotion and I haven’t necessarily thought through this well enough, but how do you see the relationship between altruism and self-interest? There’s this draw for those that have to give to the have nots and those that don’t have are the recipients. Somehow that makes their situation better, but there’s also a natural kind of self-interest in everybody. It’s wired within us for self-preservation first and foremost. How do you understand or characterize the relationship between altruism and self-interest?

I thank God every day that we are self-interested. If we were purely altruistic, nobody thought themselves and only thought about others, you would quite frequently leave yourself in a position at which you can’t help others. You’ve ignored number one, you haven’t provided for yourself. You haven’t used your own talents fully. You’re not out there creating wealth as you and your unique abilities are best able to do. If you’re not doing that, how can you help others? Self-interest is by its very nature a constructive motivation. It’s the only one that goes to the point of somebody ignoring the rights of others and takes the form of say theft or deception or fraud. That self-interest goes across the line. It becomes harmful to other people. Otherwise, it’s the most important motivation in explaining the production of this planet.

Think of the guy in Brazil who is growing coffee. He’s not doing that because he’s thinking of you. He’s not thinking, “I must sacrifice and work long hours so that Larry has coffee up there in Newnan, Georgia.” He’s doing it because there’s something in it for him. Along the way, because of that self-interest, I get coffee. I’ve seen it used in different ways. Sometimes it’s meant to mean simply caring for another person and choosing to help them. Other times, it seems to be used in terms of the desire to do harm to yourself because that makes you feel better. In the process of harming yourself, give your possessions to somebody else. Serve someone else and be a doormat in the process. That’s the most destructive form of it.

I never denigrate the personal choice of engaging in charitable activity. It’s a fine motive when it comes to the heart. When it goes awry is when some politician comes along and says, “I’m going to make you give. In fact, I’m going to take it from you and give it on your behalf.” That’s not charity at all. You don’t accomplish much. The person that you’re taking it from in the end is not going to be a better person because of it. Any more than if you take somebody to the church at gunpoint, but that person is going to end up being more religious.

Segueing into the religious topic. I know that that is the framework in which you’ve written your latest book, WAS JESUS A SOCIALIST? Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, And Why The Answer Is Almost Always Wrong. First off, what motivated you to pursue that type of work rapping in the religious context to it? What did you hope to achieve with being able to get the message across?

As I explained in the book, I’ve heard this idea for 50 years that Jesus would be sympathetic to socialism. My understanding of history and Christianity always made me wonder about that. I couldn’t square it. Everywhere I looked around the world, I saw socialist regimes being the most impressive. The ones that utilize force, the ones that impoverished their people and I thought, “How could it be that a man who said even the most important choice you have to make whether or not to accept him is going to be a matter of free will? How could that same man say, ‘When it comes to everything else, we’re going to take it from me and spend it better than you can?’” I couldn’t square that.

TWS 48 | Wealth And Inequality

Wealth And Inequality: There’s a natural kind of self-interest in everybody that is wired within us for self-preservation.


When I started reading the New Testament in great detail, which I’ve done multiple times over the decades and then applying what I know as an economist and historian, it screamed at me. This is a myth that needs to be answered, too many people falsely believe it. Every time I looked throughout the New Testament, every word that Jesus uttered, I find an endorsement of things like personal choice, private property, voluntary contracts, even supply and demand. I thought this needs to be rebutted in a way that appeals to a broad lay audience. This is not a book for theologians, although I hope they read it too, it’s for anybody who’s interested in history, the facts and what Jesus said.

What’s the response been? What are the primary takeaways and the things people are learning that may not have an understanding of economics, especially the organization that you’ve done an incredible job running, the Foundation for Economic Education? Without that, what have you seen the response from those types of individuals?

There’s been a hunger out there and the fact that the book is very unique. There’s been a rush for it. Amazon’s already sold out, but that’ll be remedied shortly. I hear a lot of people saying, and I’ve done media interviews, like crazy since the release of the book. I get a lot of this. People say, “I always thought the story of the Good Samaritan was a case for the welfare state.” As I pointed out in the book, what made the Samaritan good was the fact that he chose to help the man in need of his free will and with his own resources. He didn’t tell the man, “Call your social worker,” or “Let’s get a government program for it.” If he did, we’d call him the good for nothing Samaritan.

A lot of people are amazed to learn about the parable of the talents. No socialists could tell this the way Jesus did. Jesus talks about three guys whom a wealthy man trusts a big portion of his wealth with as he leaves for a time. He says, “When I come back out, I’ll ask each of you what you’ve done with it.” When he comes back again, told by Jesus himself, he asked the first man, “What’d you do with what I trusted you with?” The man said, “You’ll be happy with me. I buried it. I have just as much for you as you trust to be with.” In the parable, Jesus criticizes that man, “What? You didn’t magnify it in any way.” He asked the second guy, “What’d you do?” He said, “You’ll love what I did. I doubled or tripled your wealth.” Jesus praises him. He says the third guy, “What’d you do?” The third guy says, “I did even better than that.” He’s the one that Jesus praises the most. In fact, in the parable, he takes the money from the first guy and gives it to the third guy because he knows how to create wealth. I’ve had a lot of surprise audience with that.

How do you associate that with what Jesus was referring to because the talent at that time was money? There was a way in which money was weighed. The word talent is representative, the circumstances we were born in, training, natural abilities, etc. How do you equate that to those who are gifted with something and multiply that versus those who are gifted with something that doesn’t do anything with it?

The same analogy would apply whatever your gifts may be, whatever your talents, in a sense of personal traits and abilities, we are all called to make the best of it. Be the best person you can be to magnify your ability to make other people happy through the wealth that you create, the examples that you said. That’s all perfectly compatible with what Jesus would say. He was approached in the book of Luke by a man who wanted him to redistribute income. The man says to Jesus in Luke 12:13-15. He says, “Master, speak to my brother that he divides the inheritance with me.” In other words, “I didn’t get a fair share. Can you maybe equalize us or give me more?” Jesus did not say as a socialist like, “You didn’t get as much as the other guy to fix that.” Instead, he immediately rebukes the man for his ending. He makes a statement that I wish every politician would make and that is, “Who made me a judge or a divider over you?” That is a powerful rejoinder against envy and covetousness as well as the redistributive apparatus of the compulsory welfare state in my view.

Larry, what’s the best way to get the book? It’s a short read. This isn’t a novel type of book.

Self-interest is, by its very nature, a constructive motivation. Click To Tweet

It’s 160 pages. You can read it in an evening. It’s available on Amazon and also the website of Barnes & Noble. Also, in our organization, The Foundation for Economic Education is It’s available in the bookstore and other places now. There are more and more picking it up all the time. It was just released, but I’m glad to say that it’s going very well.

I am preparing to ask this question so I’m hoping it comes outright. If someone reads this, what’s the best-case scenario? How would our current environment be different if people read this, understood the message and applied it?

If they did that, if they read it and thought about it and acted upon it, they would say, “I need to spend less time lobbying politicians to either get me something or give someone else something and get involved myself in the lives of those who presently are in need. I need to put my money where my mouth is.” Socialists don’t do that. There have been books written about this. Socialists and those who claim Jesus was a socialist, they look to the state to solve problems. All you have to do is look at the federal income tax and you realize a federal budget look at the line for donations. It almost says peanuts. Not even a socialist would think that the government is the best way to solve problems. Not even they will write out a check to the government for more than they’re forced to give. If they give anything, it too is to voluntary private organizations close to home that solve problems so much better than politicians do from Washington.

Right now, there is an interesting spirit of things in our country. There was a tremendous disruption. There were some economic consequences that are being felt. There were some other things from a social standpoint with George Floyd and there are other major issues arising. The idea of inequality is a variable within it all. I see definitely a misclassification and mischaracterization of the idea of inequality. As you look at your book and the experience that you’ve had, what are some of the maybe experiences that you’ve had, where someone is like, “I got it.” They felt one way. They believe one way. They had this high praise for altruism and equality, but then suddenly I started to understand principles, natural laws of the universe and understand the message that you get across in your book. There’s obviously a number of other books that articulate some very similar values and principles.

When you put things back on the individual and when you say, “You’re spending a lot of time expecting politicians to do such and such. Why aren’t you doing that yourself?” These are matters of the heart. It is a personal choice. That’s what determines where you are, not what you say. If they’re introspective enough and they look inward and ask themselves, “Am I doing myself what I want to foist on other people through the political process?” That’s been an a-ha moment. Other times I see them happening when you address particular issues that they’ve been especially misinformed on. I do a talk and have written about the Great Depression. A lot of people think because I’ve been taught this, “The Great Depression, that was the fault of capitalism and free markets. Franklin Roosevelt saves us from it.”

When you walk them through why that’s faulty from the word go, it’s embarrassingly faulty. They are like, “Why didn’t I learn that? How come I didn’t hear that? My teachers never told me there was another side.” The issue by issue sometimes can be a very effective way to produce those a-ha moments. I’m convinced that most people who may lean in the socialist direction don’t lean that way because they’ve thoroughly read to make a case for free markets. They’ve only heard the emotional bumper stickers of the left in most cases. When you present them for the first time with what the other side is arguing real facts, logic, history, and so forth, it’s like an epiphany.

Larry, this has been a great conversation. I love our conversations and you think so deeply, but also you have humility about you that resonates well. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Even though you’re semiretired, you continue to write and share it, so thank you for that. What are the best ways for people to connect with you?

TWS 48 | Wealth And Inequality

Wealth And Inequality: Whatever your gifts, talents, or abilities may be, we are all called to make the best of them.


People can go to my public figure Facebook page, where I use my name, Lawrence Reed. They can contact me through or they can email me at

Larry, thank you again. We’ll have to do this. Hopefully, it doesn’t take several months to do it but thank you for the book. Thank you again. This was enjoyable.

Thank you, Patrick.

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About Lawrence Reed

TWS 48 | Wealth And InequalityLawrence W. Reed is the former President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He is the former President of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He is the editor of the bestselling book “Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressivism”, author of the pamphlet “Great Myths of the Great Depression,” and the new book “Was Jesus a Socialist?: Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, and Why the Answer Is Almost Always Wrong.”


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The Philosophy And Principles of Capitalism with Yaron Brook

TWS 3 | Capitalism


With all the talks, debates and different perception about capitalism, consulting an expert can best take us to in-depth understanding of the concept. Yaron Brook, an internationally sought-after speaker, writer, activist and objectivist, walks us through his strong belief in the philosophy and principles and how capitalism should be attached to individual rights and freedom. He explains how we can flourish through capitalism. He also shares how a book handed to him has started his lifelong journey and reinforcement of capitalism started.

Watch the episode here:

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The Philosophy And Principles of Capitalism with Yaron Brook

TWS 3 | Capitalism

Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality

I hope you are enjoying the first couple of episodes revolving around the topic of capitalism. I have the foremost living expert on capitalism, Yaron Brook. Yaron is an Israeli-American entrepreneur, writer and activist. He is an objectivist, which we’re going to most likely talk about and what that means. He also is the current Chairman of the Board of the Ayn Rand Institute. He also is the Cofounder of BH Equity Research and is the author of several books including called Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality. Yaron, thank you for joining us. Welcome to the show.

It’s great to be here. I’m looking forward to this.

I find your background fascinating in how you came to understand what you do and why you have such a strong belief in your philosophy and your principals. Would you mind taking a moment and informing the audience of what is your background? How did you come to understand objectivism as well as capitalism? I would say a very strong opinion if those that are in our audience have listened to you or watched you before.

If they haven’t, there are tons of videos. Google my name and you’ll find a ton of content. I was born and raised in Israel in the period of time when pretty much everybody was a socialist. It was a thing to be. The Labor Party in Israel had won every single election until 1977. You were never exposed to any ideas other than the ideas of socialism. In 1977 as it happens, I was sixteen years old. I was getting together with a friend of mine. We were talking and he was spouting these free market capitalist ideas and I looked at him and I said, “Where are you getting this nonsense from? What happened to you?” He said, “You got to read this book,” and he handed me a copy of Atlas Shrugged. I read a lot in those days and I dove right into it and it blew my mind. It completely shook my world. It challenged everything I believed in from the fundamental beliefs I had about ethics, purpose of life, happiness, morality, politics, economics and about everything. I argued with the book. I didn’t want to believe it. I threw it against the wall. I yelled at Ayn Rand, she wasn’t there.

By the end of the book, I was convinced. It completely made sense to me. It was completely logical. I thought I completely understood it. I was still quite ignorant and I didn’t know it, but I got into basics. It was the beginning of a lifelong journey of discovering Ayn Rand’s philosophy, the philosophy of objectivism and her view of capitalism, how capitalism fits into that. I ultimately became a finance professor but my interest is more on the politics and economics. It’s all grounded in this view of morality, which is key to understanding her philosophy and understanding capitalism. I’ve studied her philosophy. I’ve studied economics. I’ve studied the great capitalist economists. The more I study, the more I’m convinced that the revolution that went through my mind at age sixteen was a true one and the rest of the world needs to catch up. What are they waiting for?

Capitalism is about freedom of the individual to pursue his values as he sees fit without anybody intervening. Click To Tweet

It’s interesting that your perspective continues to be reinforced it sounds by doing debates, by debating the opposite principles. You experienced it in your childhood growing up, but also you continually challenged both sides of the argument, which is profound and continues to reinforce it. How would you come to understand capitalism? When you acknowledged that word and when you look at its relevance in society and in life what is it that is most compelling and most profound?

Capitalism is about freedom. It’s about the freedom of the individual to pursue his values as he sees fit without anybody intervening where the role of the government is to protect that freedom. The founders called it individual rights. John Locke called it individual rights and they were right. These are the individual rights by the freedoms of action. Freedom of action is the pursuit of values necessary for your survival, the rational values that you need. Capitalism at the end of the day is a socioeconomic system, political system in which the government does nothing but protect individual rights, primarily property rights where all property is privately owned.

The government has complete separation of state from economics. Pure capitalism is where the government has no economic role. There is no treasury secretary. There are no regular agencies. There’s no Federal Reserve. There is no role for government. When we get together, what we decide, how we decide to exchange, what we decide to change, how we decide to produce and how we deploy our resources is completely left to individuals. As long as I am not committing fraud, as long as I’m not punching in the face, as long as I’m not committing a crime, as long as I’m not violating your rights, the government has no business intervening in the transaction between us.

The primary argument I want you to address now and this is the primary argument that we all see in society is that mankind isn’t going to do the right thing. They’re going to exploit people. They’re going to cheat. They’re going to steal. They’re inherently evil. Looking at capitalism, doesn’t that accentuate or magnify those flaws of humankind?

Let’s assume all men are evil, they’re scheming and they’re going to screw each other. Let’s take a small group of men, call them saints and have them control everything. The bureaucrats, the politicians, we know that they’re saints. We know our politicians. Even on its own terms, it’s insane. The fact is that there’s nothing to suggest in history that this is indeed the case. Look at us now. Since the invention of capitalism about 250 years ago, since the founding of this country, which is about the same time as capitalism comes together, not an accident that the two happened at about the same time. Since then, life expectancy has more than doubled. We’re wealthier beyond the most fantastic dreams of anybody living 250, 300 years ago.

Nobody could have imagined an iPhone and the fact that we’d be videoconferencing right now. All the tools that are available to us, they barely could imagine. I don’t think they imagined automobiles, flying machines that turned out to be nothing like the jets we have now. If you look at what human beings are capable of doing, of when they’re left free they produce, of how much benevolence and help and cooperation. Think about capitalism. People think about capitalism and think about competition and cutthroat competition. The fact is that 99% of capitalism is about cooperation. It’s about me hiring you and that’s a cooperative effort.

It’s about even competitors. Do you know that Apple uses Samsung product in its iPhone even though it competes with Samsung? Some of the components in the iPhone are made by Samsung. Even as they’re competing, they are cooperating. Collaboration and cooperation is the essential characteristic of capitalism. You see that on a massive scale and versus every other regime. Look at Venezuela, socialism. Theft, cheating, backstabbing, manipulating and people say, “This is socialism,” it’s really a kleptocracy. That’s exactly what socialism is. It is a kleptocracy. Every single regime that’s not capitalist, even in America, I would argue that our politicians are more corrupt now than they were 150 years ago when we were freer. I would argue that people generally in the culture are less honest. People generally in the culture will cut more corners because the government is intervening more.

Pure capitalism is where the government has no economic role. Click To Tweet

I think it’s exactly the opposite, the freer you allow people to be. People are neither good nor bad, but people have it within them to be good. When the right incentives are provided, when they’re left free, when they can benefit or when they can reap the rewards of their own action, they tend to be good. When you try to control them, when you put mother governments on their shoulder to try to tell them what they can and cannot do, they work at corners. They will cheat. I truly believe people are born neither good nor bad, but goodness is a potential in all of us. Capitalism brings out the best in people, the innovation, the hard work, the striving to improve their lives and the value creation that benefits all of our neighbors and everybody around us.

As you debate the opposite opinion because I believe there’s a clear distinction of how humans behave within an environment that’s free. An environment that has laissez-faire, hands-off and one that is centrally planned and influenced to take care of the well-being of all. What is it about the idea of freedom that drives so much disdain amongst people, especially in our quickly changing liberal perspective on things?

I hate to give them the compliment of calling them liberals. Liberals used to be a good word. What drives it is that capitalism demands something of all of us. It demands the best of us. It demands personal responsibility, but not just personal responsibility in the way a lot of conservatives deem it in a shallow sense. Personal responsibility goes deep down on all of our choices. It demands that we pursue a life worth living. Capitalism implies a particular moral code. It implies a moral code of self-interest. Capitalism basically says, “You’re on your own. Go and make the best of your life. Nobody’s going to be responsible for you. Nobody’s going to take care of you. You need to take care of yourself.” It basically encourages that so we reward success. We penalize failure. We reward accomplishment. We encourage and promote and allow for self-interest.

We all know what our mothers taught us about self-interest, about egoism or about even selfishness. Bad things, bad people are selfish. Bad people are self-interested but is that really the case? When Steve Jobs pursued self-interest in making the iPhone and he’s clearly pursuing his interest, trying to make a lot of money and building a product he loves. Is that a bad thing? Is that hurtful to anybody else? No. When great scientists pursue with passion the discoveries they make, that’s not about sacrificing for the world. They’re doing it because they love doing it. They do it to satisfy themselves. Capitalism is about satisfying our own rational values or our own rational needs. As such, it goes against the moral code that almost everybody teaches. This is why on the right among conservatives and among people on the right, they have such a hard time defending capitalism particularly as an absolute. “We need a little bit of capitalism,” they’ll tell us. No, we need capitalism. We need complete absolute capitalism because they’re uncomfortable with the idea of self-interest. They are uncomfortable with the idea of defending and promoting egoism.

TWS 3 | Capitalism

Capitalism: The fact is that 99% of capitalism is about cooperation.


We have been taught since we were this big that what’s good is to be selfless. What’s good is to sacrifice. What’s noble is to think of others first. This is what blew me away in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand asks a simple question, “Why is your happiness less important than other people’s happiness? Why isn’t your happiness the most important thing to you?” If you understand how you get happiness, it doesn’t come by exploiting other people. It comes by creating values, but why is your life less important than other people’s life? Why should you live for the other rather than live for yourself? To me, the real essence of capitalism is the morality of self-interest and that’s what the left but also the right, find disdainful. Why the left condemns capitalism and why the right, for the most part, cannot defend it or defend it so poorly.

These ideas are old ideas. I haven’t revisited this in a while in detail, but Adam Smith before he wrote The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, he talked about how we’re driven as a human being where we do have this self-interest. I wouldn’t say it starts with making sure that we stay alive. We feed ourselves, we clothe our self and we fit into society. Then it gets to the point where we’re driven to make a contribution and do things and ultimately by pursuing that, you provide for the well-being of others as a result. The intention of the left, I would say, by forcing people to give up money or to do this so that they can distribute to everyone. Ultimately, the best thing for everyone comes about by a person pursuing that self-interest. What are your thoughts around that?

This is why Ayn Rand is such a revolutionary because she fundamentally disagrees with that of Smith in this sense. Adam Smith correctly observed in The Wealth of Nations and in The Theory of Moral Sentiments that the baker doesn’t bake the bread for you. He baked the bread for himself. He likes baking bread. More importantly in the context of the baker, he’s trying to make a living. He’s trying to feed his family. He’s trying to feed himself. He’s motivated by self-interest. Adam Smith says, “Self-interest is not good. It’s not a model trait. It’s not a virtue. We tolerate it because if you add up the self-interest of all these people, you get a better social outcome.”

Ayn Rand says, “I don’t care about the social outcome. What I care about is your right as an individual to pursue your happiness, your self-interest. I care about the baker as the baker, not what he does to other people but the baker. I want the baker to be able to be happy.” For the baker to be able to be happy, he must be free. Free to make his own choices. Free to have his own ideas. Free to bake whatever bread he wants to make, whether it fits into the regulatory regime or not. As long as his customers want it and as long as it doesn’t hurt them, he commits fraud or he’s putting poison in the bread. He should be able to be free to make his bed as he sees fit and pays employees as much as he wants because I care about the baker.

People are neither born good nor bad; goodness is a potential in all of us. Click To Tweet

It turns out that if you leave people free to pursue their self-interest, the society, if you can even define that term, is better off. Everybody who’s willing to work, everybody’s willing to produce is better off. That is not the reason to defend capitalism. The reason to defend capitalism is in the sense that the founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence. You have an inalienable right to pursue your own happiness. Not society’s, your own. The only political-economic social system that leaves individuals free to pursue their own happiness is capitalism. To me, that’s the moral foundation. It’s about the individual and it works because when you leave people free, they take care of their own property. That’s why capitalism also produces the cleanest environment because private property is clean. It’s a public property that’s polluted.

When the wall came down in Berlin, what we discovered was the filthiest place on the planet was communist East Europe because everything was public property and nobody cared. Everything dumped their garbage in the public space. When you have your own private property, we take care of it. You take care of yourself. In order to make a living, you have to produce values that other people want and therefore you are helping them. When I buy an iPhone for $1,000, my life is better for that. My iPhone is worth much more than $1,000, tens of thousands of dollars if this enhances my life. I’m willing to give up $1,000 because my life is better off by doing so.

Think about that. Every transaction we go through every day when we buy groceries, when we go to a restaurant, when we buy iPhones, or when we consume electricity. Whatever it is that we do, we are benefiting more than what we’re paying. Otherwise, we wouldn’t do it. Capitalism is a system through trade, through the win-win relationships that trade creates. Capitalism is a system that everybody is constantly better off through it as long as you’re working and producing something and earning something. It’s a win-win relationship. Because I’m selfish, because I want to produce, because I want to have a better life, I’m making everybody else’s life better as well because I have to trade with them. That’s the beauty of capitalism and that’s the beauty of this morality, the small defense of capitalism.

You had gone down and talked about this notion of happiness and achievement. You talked about how people pursue achievement. Achievement gives them a notion of self-worth or confidence and that happiness. Would you define happiness in another way or is it in line with that sequence?

TWS 3 | Capitalism

Capitalism: The reason to defend capitalism is, in a sense, that the founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence.


Happiness is the sense you get about life that comes from achieving your goals and achieving your values, as long as those values are rational. I don’t think somebody who has irrational values can be happy. If your value is to bring about socialism, you’re not going to be happy. You’re going to be miserable because the existential reality of those values is going to be detrimental to your life. The values have to be rational, pro-life values. Happiness comes from achieving those values. Ayn Rand defined happiness as a state of non-contradictory joy. You have this positive sense about the world and nothing is contradicting it. Nothing is fighting it. The world is good. It doesn’t mean you don’t have problems. It doesn’t mean you can’t be sad. It doesn’t mean tragedies don’t happen to you and you could be depressed for a while.

Overall, your attitude towards your life, your standing order in terms of life is life is good. I achieve stuff I can. I can make my goals. I can achieve my values. People sitting at home, for example, one of the great tragedies of the welfare state is that it basically prevents people who receive welfare from ever being happy. It robs them of opportunity to be happy because without work at whatever level you are capable of, without the challenge, without building, creating or making something. Whatever level you can do it, I don’t think you can be happy. You have to be able to achieve values. If you’re sitting at home playing video games and collecting a welfare check, that’s out the window for you. To me, the welfare state is immoral to a large extent because of that.

I’ve thought about that a lot. I thought about with people and what they achieve. Oftentimes, it comes as a result of hardship and error or mistakes in certain areas and their ability to overcome that and learn and achieve because of it. I don’t think there’s anything that can replace that. I look at a free society and how that allows for those opportunities. It does allow people to understand what they’re capable of. I’m not sure if there’s another way to do that. I don’t think there is.

At the end of the day, you go down to freedom. You have to have the freedom to try. You have to have the freedom to experiment. You have to have the freedom to fail, but you also have to have the freedom to succeed and to benefit from that success that so that everything else is motivated. That’s what capitalism provides. Capitalism is the system that leaves you free to do all those things. That’s how you get great innovation. People try stuff out. They come up with crazy ideas. Everybody around them I’m sure said, “That’s nuts. You’re insane. Nobody can do that,” and then they go do it.

Capitalism basically says you're on your own. Click To Tweet

Sometimes those crazy ideas turn out to be crazy and they fail. Sometimes and maybe less frequently, they turned out to be brilliant and they turn out to be what changes the world. The socialism you don’t have there, socialism under any political system where the state is involved. You basically have to get permission in order to innovate. If you take any great idea in human history and you put it in front of the committee, it’s going to fail. Is Earth going around the sun or is the sun going around the Earth? The committee of the Catholic Church decided, “The sun goes around the Earth. Galileo, you’re all wrong.” They shut him up and they imprisoned him or they put him on house arrest so he could not articulate this fallacy. In a free society, Galileo is out there, “I made this incredible discovery,” and speed at which science would have developed after that would have been so much faster. We would be so much richer now. Everything got slowed down because the committee couldn’t decide if this was a good idea or a bad idea. I always ask my audiences, “Imagine if this was designed by a government committee. What would this look like?” You don’t need to even get the answer. You know what’s going on inside of people’s heads. They can see some monstrous machine that’s too big and doesn’t work and is a disaster. Steve Jobs didn’t need to get permission. He didn’t ask anybody. He just did it.

It’s stifling and it’s interesting what’s going on in our country with the government shutdown and 800,000 people not working.

I would love to see the Federal government fire 800,000 people. We as a country would be richer. We as a country would be safer. We as a country would be far more capitalist and far more innovative if we got rid of these bureaucrats. My only concern about the government shutdown is these people are going to get back pay. I would like to see them fired. I would like to see the government shrink by 80%. You could probably get rid of 80% of government officials. Keep the military. Keep a few policemen. Get rid of everybody else. What do we need them for? They only constrain our lives. They only hinder our lives. They don’t add anything to it.

Have you been to CES before in Vegas?

TWS 3 | Capitalism

Capitalism: Happiness is the sense that you get about life that comes from achieving your goals and achieving your values, as long as those values are rational.


I read about it all the time. It sounds like a great time.

It’s this whole topic. You experience the results of this topic. I was in line doing a demo for the self-driving cars and I was talking to the head analyst at Intel who is creating the technological framework for that. The biggest impediment was the government. It was approving this and approving this. It’s one of those things where it can stifle innovation at that level, but it also stifles it at the lower levels primarily the welfare state. How we’re robbing individuals of an awesome experience to figure out their life and to figure out how to overcome challenges and problems and get employment. There’s so much in a human’s mind and their ability to create and prosper. It’s robbed from them over and over again. It becomes a habit and it destroys human life. I would consider one of the biggest tragedies of our day and age.

It robs us from the productive capacity and it robs them from their productive capacity and it robs us from their ideas. Just because they are on welfare, it doesn’t mean that with the right incentives, if they wouldn’t be the next innovator, the next entrepreneur or the next somebody who created something important. We robbed them when they’re children. Think about the other great tragedy. Under capitalism, education would be private, and education would be competitive. Education would have to be good. Otherwise, I wouldn’t send my kids there. Now, we have an educational system through and through. Particularly, if you’re poor we have an awful educational system that cripples these kids. It doesn’t give them the tools, it cripples them. This is socialism in practice. We have socialism in education. What is the result? Worse than mediocrity, it’s pathetic awful.

Imagine if education was competitive. If entrepreneurs instead of thinking of the next app for the iPhone thought about the next educational product, the next school that they could create, the next chain of schools that they could build where they would drive prices down and drive quality up. Imagine if we saw billboards with, “If your son is inclined towards math, our school is great. Your son or daughter likes to paint, our school is great for you.” They compete on those things and they market and advertise them. That would be a capitalist world. That would be a worthwhile world. What we’re taking is sheer human potential and destroying it by grinding it through a government educational system. I won’t even send a letter through the post. I’d rather use UPS and FedEx. Why would I send my kid to the equivalent of the post office, which is what government education is?

Happiness should not come from exploiting other people. Click To Tweet

In 2018, we focused on John Locke’s life, liberty and property and what those principles were. One of the guests wrote the book, Free To Learn, his name is Peter Gray. He talks about the Sudbury School System and how kids are creative. They’re naturally curious about life and he robbed them of that experience by shoving curriculum down their throat.

Competition is we discover which educational system is best. There will be competition and parents might disagree and there might be all kinds of schools. We would all have different preferences and some would be more successful than others. It would be innovative and we would go through the market process of discovery which educational system was best, just like in any other field. We figure out what’s best through competitive markets. The fact that we denied this of our kids and we denied this of our society and our culture is tragic.

We could probably go on and on because there’s so much to talk about because there’s so much application to human life and our experience on Earth. Let’s end with this. As you’ve researched this and debated this and thought about this to the nth degree, what would you say are the most compelling reasons at an individual level to embrace the principles of capitalism?

The most compelling reason is that you value your own life. You want to be free. You want to have opportunities. You want to pursue your own dreams. You want to be happy. It’s difficult to be happy under socialism, certainly under communism or fascism or statism of any form. The most compelling reason to want capitalism is to want to live. It’s to want to go out there and produce, create, build and make stuff. It’s not even about the money. Although money is nice and money comes with all that creation, but it’s about the sheer fun and enjoyment of pursuing something that you love doing and doing something that you love doing. Making a difference in your own life and challenging yourself and setting ambitious goals and achieving those goals.

TWS 3 | Capitalism

Capitalism: One of the great tragedies of the welfare state is that it basically prevents people who receive welfare from ever being happy.


It’s living. Capitalism is the only system that allows you to do that fully. One of the great tragedies in America unfortunately is we think of America now as capitalist. We’re not. We’re this mixed economy with some capitalism still, some freedom and a lot of regulation and control and fascist, socialist structures imposed on us. If we could only get rid of that and we could get richer, get happier, flourish in dimensions we can’t even imagine. Everything becomes better with freedom. The odds get better. Our spiritual life gets better. Our material life suddenly gets better.

Yaron, this has been a fascinating discussion. If you Google your name, there’s a lot of stuff out there. Why don’t you cover the best ways to follow you? Best ways to learn about the Ayn Rand Institute and learn more about capitalism.

First, I recommend everybody to read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand’s books. They’re American classics. Everybody should be reading them anyway. Go pick up a copy and they’re available in every format known to man. No excuses. A lot of people are listening to them these days. Download it on Audible and take a road trip. You can find about Ayn Rand in There’s a ton of content, a ton of material there. If you want to study objectivism deeper, there are lots of videos, audios and podcasts and many years’ worth of content that’s available. Some of it is Ayn Rand herself, some who are leading philosophical students who know her ideas and study them. To follow me, there are a number of ways. The easiest is probably going to YouTube and to subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are thousands of videos up on YouTube of mine and I’m constantly producing more. I do a video show at least once a week, usually three, four times a week. There’s a ton of content being produced constantly. You can do the regular follow me on Twitter and follow me on Facebook. I do have a website,

The only political economic social system that leaves individuals free to pursue their own happiness is capitalism. Click To Tweet

As far as your books are concerned, they’re all available on Amazon or on your website?

They’re all available on Amazon. They’re all available in every format that is available. I have three books. One is called Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government, the second one is Equal Is Unfair and the third one In Pursuit Of Wealth: The Moral Case For Finance. It’s a book about the financial industry and why it’s a noble, productive and virtuous model industry. That will shock a few people. As a companion to that, I do on YouTube a talk called The Morality of Finance.

Yaron, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for your time. Everyone out there, hopefully this has struck a few chords and got you to think about capitalism, the principles of capitalism and the principles of freedom at a deeper level.

Thanks, Patrick.

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About Yaron Brook

TWS 3 | Capitalism

Yaron Brook is chairman of the board of the Ayn Rand Institute. He wears many hats at the institute and travels extensively as ARI’s spokesman.

Brook can be heard weekly on The Yaron Brook Show, which airs live on the BlogTalkRadio podcast. He is also a frequent guest on national radio and television programs.

An internationally sought-after speaker and debater, Brook also pens works that make one think. As co-author, with Don Watkins, of the national best-seller Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government, Brook and Watkins argue that the answer to our current economic woes lies not in “trickle-down government” but in Rand’s inspiring philosophy of capitalism and self-interest. Last year, Brook and Watkins released a new book, Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality, a book that shows the real key to making America a freer, fairer, more prosperous nation is to protect and celebrate the pursuit of success―not pull down the high fliers in the name of equality. Brook is also contributing author to Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, Winning the Unwinnable War: America’s Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism and Big Tent: The Story of the Conservative Revolution — As Told by the Thinkers and Doers Who Made It Happen. He was a columnist at, and his articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily and many other publications.

Brook was born and raised in Israel. He served as a first sergeant in Israeli military intelligence and earned a BSc in civil engineering from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. In 1987 he moved to the United States where he received his MBA and PhD in finance from the University of Texas at Austin; he became an American citizen in 2003. For seven years he was an award-winning finance professor at Santa Clara University, and in 1998 he cofounded BH Equity Research, a private equity and hedge fund manager, of which he is managing founder and director.

Brook serves on the boards of the Ayn Rand Institute, the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism and CEHE (Center for Excellence in Higher Education), and he is a member of the Association of Private Enterprise Education and the Mont Pelerin Society.


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