On Our Capitalist System

Image“Our system of property rights has been devised out of much hard experience for the purpose of confirming the liberty and independence of the people. It cannot be limited or destroyed without limiting or destroying the opportunity of the people…

“Our system does not put property rights above human rights. We regard our material resources as a means to a higher life. We undertake to protect property rights for the sole purpose of protecting human rights.

“No one should deny that there have been abuses of property. We have had thieves and swindlers since the world began. But that is no reason for discarding a sound system. Guilt is personal. If a bookkeeper by accident or design falsifies his ledger we do not condemn the rules of arithmetic; we try to reform the bookkeeper. The trouble with him was that he did not observe the rules. Because we sometimes suffer from ignorance and dishonesty is no reason for changing our system of property rights. We cannot make the exception the rule. We must make the offenders observe the system. Besides, the great mass of the people are honest and the great mass of business transactions are scrupulously correct.

“There is always a temptation in time of adversity to think anything would be better than that which we have. Naturally we ask ourselves why, if our system is sound, it does not work better. The answer is that our system has worked better than any other that was ever devised. Under it we have had more progress and more comfort than ever came to any other people. Even in our present distress we are better taken care of than we could be under any other system. We are wise enough to know that there is no system of property rights that is proof against human folly and greed. We cannot expect perfection. We do expect improvement. But that is no reason why we should agree with those who would persuade us that all our hard-won victories were mistakes which we ought now to abandon. Our greatest hope of success materially and spiritually lies in the continued support of those political and economic institutions which were established by the Constitution of the United States” — former President Calvin Coolidge, excerpt of “Everyman’s Property,” Collier’s, July 23, 1932.

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3 thoughts on “On Our Capitalist System

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