chapter  1
9 Pages

Individualism and Rights: The Basis of the Problem

Modern capitalism is based upon a philosophy of individualism rather than community, and the moral basis of society is to be found in rights and not in responsibilities. Individuals have a “natural right” to use their property as they see fi t and follow their economic self-interest, independent of any obligation or duty to serve society. These rights are possessed by individuals quite apart from any obligation to contribute to the general happiness of society or to an overarching social purpose or public good. It was Adam Smith who, whether intended or not, made this feature of capitalistic societies into a virtue with the claim that the pursuit of economic self-interest led to the public good by increasing the wealth of nations through the production of more and more goods and services.1