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“America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to ‘the common good,’ but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance—and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.” -Ayn Rand

This year’s celebration of Independence Day was especially relevant. In a time when so many are quick to dismiss our country’s very institutions as systemically failing, I reflect on the success of America—the greatest country ever conceived.

Why has America been so successful?

There is not just one single reason for our success. One can argue that we have an abundance of natural resources. Try to birth our country on the island of Greenland, and you have a different outcome.

But the very foundation of America, and the greatest reason for our success, is our embrace of capitalism. In America, we have the right to choose, the right to own property, and the right to pursue our own self-interests. Capitalism is no longer an “experiment.”  We do not have to debate whether it’s “no longer working.”  The proof is in—capitalism, and America, is the winner.

Some will be quick to point out that we haven’t always respected freedom and property rights of all men. This is true, and it’s a part of our history that shouldn’t be ignored (nor is anyone suggesting it should be). The fact is, we have major blemishes in our history. But perfection shouldn’t be the expectation of our ancestors.

I believe those who are quick to cancel our history and argue for the intrinsic failures of our systems are really arguing for an end to capitalism. After all, if the entire organ is failing, a transplant is the only remedy.

The problem with abandoning capitalism is there is no better alternative. Capitalism is not the “lesser evil.” Nor is the pursuit of individual self-interest merely “tolerable” as a means to an end. 

Socialism says it exists for the common good, that the wealth gap in America is proof that capitalism benefits only the individual. But America is proof that capitalism—a system based on a bunch of individuals pursuing their own self-interests—is beneficial to everyone.  

Winston Churchill said, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

Wealth isn’t shared equally in a capitalist society. But the blessings of capitalism go beyond wealth. Think of the advances in technology, health care, food production, and education because of individuals pursuing their own self-interests.

As Ayn Rand said, our whole country has been moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.

Happy 245th birthday, America.