Capitalism is a social system that tries to legitimize itself as one that, unlike all others, is based on what human nature really is, not what we'd like it to be. Capitalist ideologues claim that it is human nature to place self-interest above all other concerns. Adam Smith, capitalism's first and perhaps most well-known ideological defender, famously argued that only the capitalist system allows an "invisible hand" to ensure that the net result of everybody acting just in their own self-interest results in the betterment of society for all. The baker makes bread just to make a profit; ditto the shoemaker and the candlestick maker. And, behold! it results in people having the bread and shoes and candlesticks they need.
"Greed is good," say the defenders of capitalism. Were it not for greed, we're told, the baker and shoemaker and candlestick maker would have no incentive to make their wares, and we'd all go shoeless and hungry in an unlit world.
Economic inequality is also good, in fact necessary, we're told, and because the only reason people work hard and smart is to get richer than others. In a society where everybody who contributed reasonably to the economy shared with each other according to need as equals there would, according to the capitalist view, be no reason for people to work and hence the economy would stop producing things.
The belief that greed is human nature, which it is good for society, and that inequality is natural and necessary are the beliefs that make our present social structure seem legitimate. It is a social structure in which money is power. Economic inequality inevitably means political inequality too. One person, one vote may be the theory, but in real life it ends up being one dollar one vote, as politicians respond less to the concerns of their constituents and far more to the concerns of Big Money. It is Big Money that funds politicians' campaigns, decides how the mass media will treat them, and provides them with cushy jobs when they leave office. Also, it is Big Money that can relocate a business that is a major employer if it doesn't get legislation that it wants.
'You May Not Like It, But It's Just Human Nature'
Those who rule our world, whose chief aim in life is the greedy pursuit of money, and who enjoy power and privileges that money makes possible for the very rich in an economically unequal society--this capitalist class of people justify it all with a Big Lie. The Big Lie is that selfishness is the primary human motivation, always has been and always will be because it is simply human nature. Capitalists argue that there is no difference between the motives and values of ordinary people and those of the richest families in society. The only difference is that the rich ones were more successful than the others.
Defenders of capitalism use the Big Lie about human nature when they tell us that there is no point in trying to create a better world that is more equal and democratic. Even if we succeeded initially, they say, it would just revert back to the same inequality we have today because human nature would remain the same. People would compete against each other, there would be winners and losers, and inequality would re-emerge. Greed, inequality, and competition for self-interest: it's all just human nature. The wisest thing to do, say the defenders of capitalism is to recognize the fact, and turn it to the best advantage by letting Adam Smith's invisible hand work its wonders in a capitalist society.
Big Facts Refute the Big Lie about 'Human Nature'
Human nature is not the same as capitalist nature, no matter what the capitalists want us to believe. Human beings create cultures. Cultures embody values about how relations between people ought to be. Being selfish or sharing is a behavioral choice determined in large part by one's culture.
Conflicting cultures have developed, especially conflicting class cultures. Classes of human beings have arisen that dominate, oppress and exploit other human beings, and they have created a culture that legitimizes and even glorifies their oppressive relation to others. But these oppressive classes that survive by taking economic wealth from those who actually produce it are numerically small. The majority of human beings whose labor produces all the wealth of society have developed a very different culture.
The culture of the people who produce the wealth of society is different because we are a social species; we produce the things and services we need for survival and for our comfort and enjoyment only by cooperating with others. Cooperation requires mutual trust. The reason why the Golden Rule is universally honored as the basis of morality (as discussed here ), and the reason why it is therefore incorporated into every major religion, is because it is the basis for establishing the trust that cooperation and hence human survival requires.
There is a class culture that says to be selfish. And there is a conflicting class culture, enshrined in the Golden Rule that says to share.