Is Capitalism the Best We Can Do?


Part I of a Socioeconomic Evaluation

Good Intentions

Anyone under the impression that any society ever been formed in the history of the world was strictly for the benefit of all is either very gullible or very idealist. Human society is inherently unequal as each system establishes a pecking order of laborers-organizers to help it run efficiently. Add in the moderate success of security and surplus of goods and then survival becomes less of a priority and an element of commerce can be introduced. Long story short; today our civilizations are far-removed from caves and primitive shacks. Industrialization and technology drives the cities, states and nations of the 21st century. This is all powered ultimately by commerce, and nowhere is commerce more vital than the system of American capitalism. I am referencing an article comparing capitalism with socialism and eventually speculating a middle-ground it refers to as a “regenerative economy”. This article sums up the brief history of both economic theories much better than I could hope to while providing an optimistic, if naive, possible solution.

There’s a reason that capitalism has seen the United States’ rise as a nation. For starters, the country was founded in a vast (but not uninhabited) wilderness filled with seemingly limitless natural resources. As the population grew and the country annexed territory after territory, the full potential of labor and resources were harnessed to both accelerate the growth and economic value of the nation. Following the industrial revolution, America quickly emerged as the world’s leader in technology and innovation: the cotton gin, modern factory systems, refrigeration, automobiles, electricity, radio, television, the telephone, and pioneering medical discoveries such as curing polio, the discovery of antibiotics among countless other contributions. The U.S. helped fight and win both World Wars driven by the powerful force of its commerce and production, but mostly by the spirit of free citizens volunteering to sacrifice their lives. Rapidly developing education systems offered some the best resources in the world producing world-class scientists, lawyers, economists, and educators. Cities rose to greater heights that any ever seen; American cities saw the first “skyscrapers” built while powerful financial institutions drove growth of these urban islands from coast to coast. The “American dream” lived in the heart of every citizen and immigrants flocked to the shores, fleeing oppression, war, or just to pursue a lifestyle they could not in their own home country. Under capitalism, the United States of America rose to and is still the most powerful and influential country in the world.

    The current capitalism model adopted and maximized by the successes of the U.S. economy have far outreached most if not all of its predecessors in history. Arguably it has also led to the downfall of a common ethical baseline for socioeconomic classes. A striking similarity that western capitalism holds with so many of the systems before it is the predictable tendency for the most privileged to lose sight of their moral responsibility. To the argument of whether capitalism is good or evil, this passage correctly observes that its use or misuse is more symptomatic of personal or societal morals themselves than a system guiding their implementation.

“A social system such as capitalism is a system of relationships and cannot be moral or immoral in the sense that a person can be – only individuals can be moral agents. However, a social system can be moral in its effects if it promotes the possibility and likelihood of moral behavior by individuals who act within it. It follows, then; that there is a moral imperative to create a political and economic system that permits the greatest possibility for self-determination and moral agency. Capitalism is that system.”

Source: Dr. Edward Younkins

America Inc. part I

    From the very beginning, this country has devoted itself to the enterprises of industry and building wealth through it. The earliest settlers sought it from the indigenous tribes and went to great lengths to secure both materials and property from them. With the Industrial Revolution, the ability to generate cheap goods from the abundant resources of the country went into high gear and never looked back. Before long, the practices of making the most profit for the least amount of expense was a balancing act that the largest companies navigated with ease. The boom in production exposed a system that was woefully unprepared to protect the interests of the laboring class. Not until the late 1930’s did the country begin to enact laws to protect workers from unethical and opportunist business practices such as child labor, extra-long workdays, unfair wages and terrible and hazardous working conditions. The markets that created the Rockefellers and Morgans of the nation were also exacting a heavy toll from those who were making the owners rich. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 enforced a minimum wage and created a 40 hour work week standard. Additional laws mandated insurance coverage for full-time workers and supported the creation and leverage of labor unions to establish an equality of power between workers and owners.

Growing pains are evident even into the 21st century. Labor strikes, union disputes and even riots are common although nowhere near the unrest that plagued the late 19th century or early 20th century periods. Wages for women still illustrate a marked disparity from those of men. Minorities and women struggle with issues related to poverty caused by lack of a quality education or access to basic resources. The truth is that capitalism isn’t a perfect system but it’s a better option than many. It affords the freedom of anyone with the skill and ambition in a free society to gain unlimited wealth from a free-market system. Unfortunately it also offers the temptations that come from corruption through the power that wealth brings. The true test of morals lie in testing weakness, not strength.

1 Comment

  1. I don’t believe this system can even be called capitalism anymore. Capitalism used to mean ‘that which one has.’ Now it means more like ‘available credit’ or ‘collateral.’ Capitalism wasn’t intended to be an exclusively debt based or usury based system. The system is government sanctioned and people approved theft.


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