A children’s TV show starring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and other Disney characters demonstrates that socialism can’t claim the moral high ground over capitalism, a business school professor argues.
Jason Brennan, a professor of strategy, economics, ethics, and public policy at McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, spoke on the topic of “Fake Socialism vs. Real Capitalism” at The Heritage Foundation.
“Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” a computer-animated series that originally aired from 2006 to 2016, reveals that capitalism is better for more of us than socialism is, Brennan said during the April 4 event.
The show, which focuses on problem-solving and now airs on the Disney XD channel, features Mickey and other characters who operate in a “robustly capitalist” society, he said:
They are committed to a principle of social justice by which they ensure that the background economic conditions make it so everyone leads a good life. And if anyone starts to slip through the cracks, through no fault of their own, they all voluntarily come together to help that person, and no one would ever free-ride on their generosity. They do this without any kind of state reinforcement and state redistribution, because they are such good people they don’t need that.
Brennan’s book “Why Not Capitalism?” is a response to “Why Not Socialism?” by G.A. Cohen.
Brennan’s book argues that socialism does not have a monopoly on morality.
“Capitalism has been a tremendous achievement over the past century,” Brennan said. “In the beginning of the 20th century, 95% of people [in the world] lived in extreme poverty and now it’s down to about 10% percent.”
He summed up the socialist vision with these words: “If only we were good, we would be socialist.”
“Socialism commands the moral high ground over capitalism, even though capitalism works,” Brennan said.
However, he contended, if people were perfect, capitalism still would be the preferred system.
“For me, the problem is the level of virtue, it’s not the institution themselves,” Brennan said, whose lecture was part of a Heritage speakers series called “Free Markets: The Ethical Economic Choice.”
“If you prefer socialism with angels to capitalism with normal people, that doesn’t tell us whether it’s the angels that [are] doing the work or the socialism,” Brennan said.
Some people believe socialism is morally better because of assumptions they make about the nature of markets, he said.
They say “moral market societies and market transitions are inherently repugnant,” and “the kind of relationship you have with somebody when you buy something from them is in itself kind of foul and disgusting.”
Brennan’s argument had an impact on Therese Antonio, a Virginia resident who attended the event.
“We’re all flawed individuals, including the socialist,” Antonio told The Daily Signal. “And once I really began to really look at what flaws are like, I can see how socialism would fall short because we do not live in a perfect world.”