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Binswanger's defense of capitalism ignores absence of equal opportunity

I was very much disturbed by Harry Binswanger's defense of capitalism as I read the interview article (I did not see him speak) in Friday's Tech ["Binswanger discusses the moral basis of capitalism," March 16]. As stated in the article's summary of Binswanger's talk, he defends capitalism by saying, "Preventing a man from keeping the values that he has achieved is immoral. The only system which upholds these rights, property rights, is capitalism."

It would seem to me that Binswanger has much at stake in defending capitalism. I am sure that as a graduate of MIT and the holder of a PhD degree, he has prospered greatly in our capitalistic society. But what is at stake for him is not so much financial, as it is psychological. I am sure that what Binswanger values more highly than his financial gains is the fact that he has worked hard and has earned what he has. (Is this not precious to everyone?) And apparently he owes this opportunity to capitalism, which is probably true.

However, in order to feel that one has truly earned something and to justify it morally, one must believe that everyone has the same opportunity. Thus, Binswanger extols the "virtues" of capitalism.

I hate to rain on your parade, Mr. Binswanger, but equal opportunity to prosper does not exist in this country. You are not black, and you are not a woman, and you are not poor. How easy it must be for you to see an example of a successful black or of a successful woman, and declare that there is equal opportunity when there is so much at stake for you, psychologically, in believing that you have fairly earned what prosperity you have. How easy for you to say, "As an individualist, I say race, gender, and all other such group affiliations are irrelevant." It seems to me that objectivism does not eliminate subjectivity, it just hides the fact that it is there.

And these inequalities in opportunity, Mr. Binswanger, are the result of too much capitalism. You are right, capitalism does protect the rights and well-being of those who are successful. But capitalism pays no mind to the fairness of distribution of opportunity -- that is why we balance it with some socialism. In my mind, we could use a little more socialism to effect some equality in opportunity.

Unfortunately, there are many people besides Binswanger who have a great deal psychologically invested in capitalism. Not the least of whom are wealthy stockholders, corporate executives (have you seen Roger and Me?) and other economic leaders, and the majority of our government representatives -- basically the people who wield almost all of the power in this country. Is it any wonder why the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer?

Curtis Barnes '90->