Self-Preservation, Personal Responsibility, and Classicalism

Since the dawn of time, man has been given choices as to what he is to do regarding needs and wants. For instance, choices had to be made among the hunter-gatherers whether to gather food for the winter or relax and rely on current stockpiles. Kings have been given the choice to defend their kingdoms against opposing armies or be ruled by a foreign tyrant. Even today, we are given choices between working or going on welfare, applying ourselves above and beyond to a task or simply doing what is told of us, and becoming better versions of ourselves and working our way up the job ladder or living life paycheck to paycheck. In all of these instances, our choices boil down to work or leisure, ruling or being ruled, and doing what is easy versus what is difficult. Most importantly, these choices all have to do with self-preservation, and all require personal responsibility, which is perhaps the most important quality we possess, and is one of the reasons capitalism continues to work so well.

One concept that humans are born with that aids in learning personal responsibility is self-preservation. Self-preservation is simply a person’s instinct to look out for their own interests rather than the interests of the collective community. An ideal that describes this concept on a sociological scale is individualism, or the principle of caring more for the interests of the individual rather than the interests of the group. Self-preservation also dictates people’s ethics; whether they work hard to attain their wants, whether they are assertive to others, or whether they are confident about themselves. While self-preservation is a principle derived at birth, there are varying degrees of it in everyone. In order for the principle to grow stronger and have a greater influence on your life, you must nurture it as such.

Personal responsibility is not a trait that we are born with; it is a trait that is taught. If Harry is never taught how to be responsible, he will be handicapped in attaining the knowledge necessary to be successful in the world. He will never take personal management seriously, and will be at a disadvantage to others not only in his personal life, but in his professional life as well. Harry will make poor decisions with his finances, choosing to buy his wants before his needs. Instead of paying for college, he will buy a new computer, a new iPad, or what have you. Personal responsibility is a necessary principle for children to learn, and they must learn it from their parents, whom they will definitely take more seriously than a teacher, if they are to fully grasp the concept.

Classicalism, otherwise referred to as Austrianism, is a free-market, laissez-faire take on economic activities. Classicalism is the principle first taught by economist Adam Smith, and was later adopted by the Austrian school of economics. Classicalism, Austrianism, and free-market capitalism can be used synonymously to express the same ideals of liberty in the market, especially liberty of choice.

Now that we have defined our necessary terms, we can begin to discuss what self-preservation has to do with classicalism.

We have heard over the years about the evils of classicalism, of free markets, of the apparent shortcomings of laissez-faire principles in American and world history, mostly from academia. We have been told that these principles are mean-spirited, cold, calculated, and even evil, and that capitalism itself is to blame for all of the poverty in the world. One of the biggest lies is that there is poverty in the world because people are simply unable to help themselves climb out of poverty, and it’s because of the capitalist system rather than their own lack of self-preservation and personal responsibility. We hear these things being shouted from the “high” pedestal of academia, but we should all be aware that lies will always be lies, no matter how many times you say them. What we should watch out for is when people begin to believe them because of how often they are told the same lie.

Academia’s answer to the problem of capitalism is always socialism, and it would follow that they would find themselves at this answer, for in their own analysis of the system, they grossly underestimate the power of self-preservation. In fact, they try to ignore that part of the human consciousness. The reason is because it completely ruins the argument of classicalist shame. Take, for example, success stories of free blacks after emancipation. How about families that, over generations, worked their way up from impoverished immigrants to some of the most successful people in the world? Self-preservation and responsibility aided these people, not the government. These things really did happen over history, and the stories are uplifting and motivational, testaments to the American Dream, but we never see them explained in academia for obvious reasons. Their answer is government, and will always be government, so long as they ignore the human spirit. As long as they ignore basic human principles such as wanting to live, wanting a better life not just for them, but for their children, the left will always arrive at more government as the answer to our problems.

Throughout history, humans were not allowed the mobility that is available in classicalism and free-market capitalism. They were ruled by kings and monarchs, oligarchs, and the like, without being able to move themselves out of one class and into another one. In capitalism, class mobility is possible, and self-preservation is the engine that allows the capitalist system to succeed. If humans were not actively trying to better themselves and their lives, capitalism would be yield much worse results. It is because of self-preservation and personal responsibility that classicalism is able to bring a family’s generational poverty to a halt. No other system in the world can tout such feats, and that’s what angers academia and the anti-capitalist crowd.

The truth is that socialism underestimates the human spirit and the natural desire for self-improvement. Classicalism is the only system in the world that encourages people to express self-preservation and personal responsibility to better themselves and their family. While socialism tells us that natural instinct to better ourselves does not exist, and the only natural instinct is greed, classicalism tells us that all of these instincts exist, and they can help us succeed. Classicalism is not for the few, but for the many, and whoever can listen to their heart can succeed in a classical society.

Author: Matthew White

Founder and editor-in-chief of The Everyday Republic.

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