Capitalism and Interventionism
Earlier this month, Representatives proposed a Bill to the House for consideration. This bill will approve an arms sale to the United Arab Emirates. This sale will bring $3.5B in exchange for 37 Apache Attack Helicopters and supportive equipment and hardware. My question is this, at what point does Capitalism become Interventionism?
On one side, our companies benefit financially from the sale and so does the government. At the same time, our relationship with the UAE is strengthened as we bolster their security with our weapons. On the surface, it seems to be a win/win deal for the US. However, what if these tools of war were used to oppress rather than defend? While we may view the sale as a commercial transaction, those whom it would be used against would have a less favorable perception. It is easy to say that, had we not sold them weapons, they would not have been able to do so. While we are not responsible for the actions of others, there does exist a social contract amongst humanity, one that enables us to intervene to prevent them when we deem them harmful to others.
Dropping back to a smaller scale, a clerk sells a rifle to someone, that person ends up a shooter on the national news. Or a liquor store sells a customer alcohol and they end up involved in a multi-car collision. Indeed, these were the actions of the individual, true they were supplied with a method via commercial transaction which led to the event that unfolded. Many, after such an event has transpired, rally against the stores for supplying the goods, against the manufacturers for producing them, but in their grief, in their rage, they miss a key element, intent.
If we are the seller, and we have knowledge of the intent of what the buyer intends to do with the product we are selling, then we may choose to refuse to provide them with the product. It is at the point of sale in which intervention enters the capital transaction. The customer could easily be one of many who would take the alcohol and go home and drink responsibly or bought the rifle to go and continue supplementing his food supply as his forefathers had done. It is the right, not the responsibility, of the seller to refuse service if they feel that the buyer has ill intent in their purchase.
As individuals, we can choose how big of a part we play in our social contract with others, providing that we do not force our will upon others. While we can choose to refuse service to someone that we may feel held ill intent in the use of our product, we cannot stop them from getting the product or a similar one from somewhere else. We can talk to them, converse, and perhaps bring about a change in their intent. I am under no illusion that we will see intent upon the faces of our customers, written for the world to see, nor do I foresee a high success rate in the following communication. However, we cannot ignore those that we do see.
It is a fine line walked between Capitalism and Interventionism. To ban everything that could do harm restricts our free will, creativity, and individualism. However, to ignore our social contract creates the very distrust that leads to those restricting laws and regulations. Capitalism cannot exist without society and society cannot exist without a basic social contract. We instinctively give each other trust, without knowing anything about each other. We see those in need and feel the desire to help them. Help them if we can, but it stops being help when it causes harm to others, dependency, or even comes with strings attached. It is a fine line to walk.