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Is Capitalism Always The Answer?

by The Happy Rock on September 8, 2009

I know that probably sounds like blasphemy to a lot of folks out there, but I am starting to feel like it is the truth. As much as I like free markets, they don’t magically solve every problem.  We all probably have different definitions of what we think capitalism is, so let’s define it so we all start off on the same page.  I am not saying this is a perfect definition, but one that is probably is digestible by all of us.

Capitalism – An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods that are distributed chiefly by competition in a free market

I am really not here to bash capitalism, as I can only think of two other system that would work better, a completely benevolent king/dictator or communism. That’s right communism, not Marxism or the cold war kind or even the Communist China type of communism, but voluntary communism. Despite what you think about those two systems and how they might succeed or fail, free markets are wonderful and have a multitude of advantages.

Capitalism in and of itself is is fairly amoral, although one might argue the natural effects of capitalism on the human condition often leads us down immoral paths. With that said, what I really want to do is start a dialogue about some holes I am beginning to see in the American capitalism. I am not going to bore you with economic theory or politics, I would rather discuss actual stories of people that are near and dear to my heart.

Mom – The Hard Working Volunteer

katrina-help-rebuildFirst, let me set the stage for who my mom is. She is a poster-child for free market success and the American dream. As a poor single mother at the age of twenty she hustled her way from nearly homeless and living off food stamps and government cheese, to waitressing, to an associate’s degree, and finally to a $60,000+ a year job in a little over 25 years. She is the type of person that realizes that she needs to get n degree and within weeks is enrolled in classes, regardless of the numerous roadblocks like money, time, and child care.  She escaped poverty , owned a home, and had a decent sum of money in the bank. The American Dream in action, with one little problem… she hated her field with a passion and only did it to get me through my expensive private school and provide for us.   What an awesome unselfish parent! My life reaped the benefits of her love and devotion many times over.

After I left home, she decided to the sell the house, quit the job, and take up volunteering. This is where capitalism started to turn its back on her. She traveled to Zambia to help out in orphanages, educated children and adults on global poverty and hunger, rebuilt after Katrina, was a community organizer in a forgotten about city,  and much more. Through all of this, she is left without being able to afford health insurance, and barely able to afford a car and housing let alone many luxuries. Why, because there aren’t profits to be made when working with poor and needy.

Now this is one of the hardest working ladies you will probably know. She isn’t the stereotype of the lazy person who doesn’t want to help themselves that people often use as reasoning for the government to not help people and for people to justify not giving their time and money.  She is ambitious, motivated, committed, and hard working and has exceptional skills that she is bringing to society.

So where exactly does she fit in? I would think as a society we would want to support people like her. People who are willing to move travel where there are needs and give their time, energy, and love are in short demand. The ones that do exist have to barely eek out a financial existence.  They have to waste their energy worrying about meeting the basic necessities of life, when instead they want to use that energy to pour themselves into people and problems that could use their full attention.  It seems like there has to be a better way.

My Father In Law – The Devoted Farmer

farmer-tractor-farm-field-skyStory number is two about a farmer from birth. He lives and breathes farming, and for those that don’t know any farmers they might work harder than any profession I have ever seen. Imagine working seven days from morning till night.   The alarm goes off at 5:00am and he quickly grabs a small first breakfast and heads out to greet a never ending list of tasks often before the sun even rises.  As much as he wants to take off on the seventh day or take a vacation, he can’t. Crops and animals don’t stop needing your attention just because it is Sunday. Work must go on whether it is in the blazing sun, bitter cold, or windy rain.  Weather can also ruin months of work in a matter of days or hours.  No rain for a week or two when the corn is first planted and it all shrivels up.   I have gained a new found respect for the food I eat after spending years visiting a farm, it is brutal.

As hard as my father in law works, he will most likely never get ahead. Corporate farms and foreign imports usually ravage any  semblance of profit he might of been able to ring out of the earth.  He is forced to hop from one thing to another just trying to keep his head above water.  I have seen him go from milking dairy cows, to raising beef cattle, to pigeons, to pigs, to raising animals for other farmers,  all in less than 10 years.

He also isn’t a business man; that just isn’t one of the gifts that he has to offer this world.  He’s a farmer with an awesome heart. He sells his sweet corn cheaper than most people because his customers are mostly fellow church members, friends or neighbors, and his dozen is more like 14 than 12.  I remember the first time I helped the family weigh and wrap scrapple to sell.  The capitalist in me struggled to watch him always round up and provide more product than he was ‘supposed’ too at prices that were already too low.  As time moves on I have come to really appreciate the heart and love for people that goes into most everything he does.    I know it doesn’t make business sense, but he can’t ignore his heart.  It is big like that, with a focus that is always on others.  He doesn’t have expensive tastes and he isn’t wasting money either.  Even with all his frugality, he won’t ever ‘make it’.

Again this is someone I would think society would want to encourage, not discourage. A man with that type of heart and that type of work ethic deserves to be rewarded not beaten down. He would be happy if he could just pick a crop or animal to raise that would fetch a fair price and rewarded him just reasonably well.  But I am just not sure that will happen in this day and age.  It seems like the  system often discourages certain skill sets that we deem not as important rather than making sure that he has a revered and useful and compensated place. What is someone like this supposed to do?

What’s The Answer?

There you have it. Two beautiful hard working people that are outcasts in a capitalist system. There are others outcasts too(the poor, the sick, and the producers for starters), but these two people are real. I can’t help but root for them, although they won’t ever ‘win’. I know capitalism doesn’t mean them any direct harm, but it isn’t doing anything to help encourage them or even the playing field. The question is what is the answer? Do we need government to step in? Do we need to focus on a guiding morality to help govern our choices within a capitalist society? Should they just get with the program and start trying to acrue as much money as possible? Should they move to a different country?  I certainly don’t have any answers yet, but I think the questions are definitely worth asking.

[Title Edit 9/9/09]  Changed from Capitalism Is Not The Answer to better reflect the spirit of the post rather than be sensational and distract from the discussion.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

ed September 8, 2009 at 10:30 am

Your father-in-law is living the American dream, too. IMO, the American dream is…you have the freedom to do what you love. In America we have the Right to a business, but not a profit. Profits are blessings from God, not a right from Government.
Your post mentioned two of the best people our Society has to offer. However, you didn’t mention the Good that Corporations do. Right now, people are being vaccinated for H1N1. That vaccine was created by a corporation with the intent on keeping people healthy. Their motivation was profit. Unfortunately, some people are motivated by greed instead of love for people. However, from a consumer perspective the results are the same.
I’d have to disagree that Capitalism turned its back on your mother. Your mother made the choice, that helping other people was more valuable to her. That is a choice that reveals the stature of her character. If she is religious, perhaps she could call herself a “missionary”, and link up with some churches/non-profits. There are a lot of people in America who want to help poor disadvantaged people and giving to a missionary is a good way to do it.

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scott September 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Wow This is not a post I would have expected from this site. I really liked this site and would always watch it to see what is new. However with you poor political commentary you have lost me and many other of your viewers. American dream is to live on your own and be what you want to be. That is an absolute possibility for all. If you do not believe so then you are underestimating everyone. The government is never a solution. Think towards the beginning of our incredible country. We had great leaders who knew that more government would create problems and it has. Why are you being so blind. Yes there are going to be poor and sick but choice is on an individual basis. Why give away that right.

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Double Eagle September 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Where to start…

First, pure communism works only on the smallest of scales because it requires each and every individual to be absolutely committed to the goals of the commune, whatever they may be. Independence is cancerous. On the large scale, communism can only exist as an oppressive system because the people critical to advancing the society (free thinkers, entrepreneurs, scientists, etc.) would flood out to somewhere else where they can freely explore their pursuits. The Berlin Wall was not built to keep people out.

Second, as Ed pointed out, your mother and father-in-law are not outcasts in a capitalist system. They voluntarily chose to focus their life’s work in a direction other than through the accumulation of wealth. There’s no “winning” in a capitalist system. There is only the ability to freely trade goods and services. If they felt that the accumulation of wealth was worth doing, they would have geared their lives toward that.

Many people spend the early part of their lives building wealth so that they could eventually leave it all behind to direct their lives to be of service to others. They secured their own financial security which led to more opportunities to serve others.

The playing field is NEVER, EVER, going to be level. Nor should it be. America has afforded your mother and father-in-law the most wonderful opportunities to do the things they feel passionate about. They march to the beat of their own drums and probably don’t regret it in the least.

You say your father-in-law won’t ever “make it”. It sounds to me like he already has. It also sounds like you have projected your own desire of accumulating wealth (for philanthropic reasons) onto your mother and father-in-law as validation of their lives. If they’re content in the choices they’ve made, then why should we feel sorry for them? Your mother scratched her way from poverty into a good career. Then willingly gave it up. I’m happy for her that she was willing and able to make that choice.

Seemingly every day, I see more examples of the government trying to “level the playing field”. It rarely works. If we don’t have it in our hearts to help others, then it can’t come from government intervention. Blind willingness to give up tax dollars to “help” others is lazy and vile. The government can not help people with your dollars as effectively as you can. Especially since truly being of service to the community should probably require an investment of time, as well. It is not possible for the government to legislate morality because this country is made up of so many sets of values.

Freedom is the greatest gift that our forefathers gave us. Some would say that they didn’t give it to us, that it, in fact, freedom springs from Natural Law, and that they only codified it in a way that would preserve it for future generations. Since then, society has spit on that gift, begging for more and more of it to be taken away, usually because we become lazy and can’t figure out how to solve problems without legislation and because we want to “help” others in ways that they don’t need help, or even because people who don’t need it demand help and we don’t have the courage to say “no”.

If anything, the playing field has been tilted because of *too much* regulation. People with money to spend get favorable legislation – unions, large corporations, insurance companies, tobacco companies, etc. We haven’t had truly free enterprise in this country for two centuries. We look at the failings in this over-regulation as failures in capitalism, and it just isn’t so.

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jwcalla September 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm

This is a pretty good, thought-provoking article.

It seems that perhaps you are picking on the wrong “ism” here though. What you have here is a fairly good critique of materialism, which is not a necessary component of capitalism. It is true that a materialistic society would judge your mother or father-in-law to be less successful since materialism stresses the accumulation of goods.

However, your article here seems to indicate — at least to the non-materialistic mind — that your mother and father-in-law are great people by every measure that actually matters. If society judges otherwise, that is a flaw of the culture.

Capitalism itself is a great system because it allows the freedom for individuals to trade the fruits of their individual gifts. It allows for each person to express his individuality.

Volunteerism, charity, mission work, etc. are choices a person makes to forego his own personal material wealth for the sake of helping others. It is a self-sacrificing effort, and we know that there is no love without sacrifice. The kind of wealth this person builds is neither material nor temporal. This person will clearly never accumulate material wealth (this is precisely what they’re giving up), but his needs should be met by the charitable (material) donations of others. This allows all members of society — even those who don’t have the ability to volunteer, or are not called to do so — to participate in the charitable work of the person.

To touch a bit on the question you raise in your opening paragraphs, about the viability of capitalism as an economic system: I do agree that capitalism in itself is insufficient to form a just society. There needs to be moral underpinnings. But even still, there can be a diminution of individual rights if the accumulation of capital permits for a distribution onto a relatively small group of individuals, such as corporations, government officials, etc. In this sense the power becomes concentrated and with it the likelihood for abuse of the common man.

I feel a good expression of capitalism would be in an economic system known as distributism. It could probably best be described as massive, widespread self-employment. But primarily it allows for an even and broad distribution of power (by broadly distributing productive goods and the means of production) while at the same time respecting the rights of man. It appears to be hard to accomplish because it relies on a cultural shift of philosophy.

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pharmboy September 8, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Just because you work hard, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to financial success. However, you are most likely to rise out of poverty because of your own hard work when you live in a capitalisic society. How could you even imagine that your father-in-law would do any better under communism?

Before I unsubscribe to your blog, I’ll say a prayer for you and maybe a prayer for our country. Hopefully, your opinions wil not be shared and spread anytime soon.

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Haggel September 8, 2009 at 8:45 pm

The US doesn’t have a pure capitalist system. A pure capitalist country doesn’t have any taxes at all. If you worked hard to make $100,000 a year then you should be able to keep that money and not let the government tax or steal 50 percent of it away from you.

So the best system is the one where there is no taxing or stealing money from the people. Communism as we know is impossible to implement without stealing money from people.

Capitalism is the answer because you have no right to steal money from another person just because you are facing some financial difficulties.

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ed September 9, 2009 at 8:52 am

Capitalism is Not the Answer! is too strong, I don’t think you mean that. Perhaps, “Capitalism is not perfect” would be better.

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Double Eagle September 9, 2009 at 11:09 am

Ed, I disagree that “capitalism is not perfect” is the best way to state that. I think “people are not perfect” captures the issue. That’s the basic problem with just about anything, and one of the big reasons why more government fails. When people do not have compassion for fellow human beings and are not guided by a moral compass, then no system will ever be 100% effective. That’s not a failing with capitalism. In fact, if all people were guided by those two things, capitalism would probably function perfectly. And other systems probably might, as well. Of course, there would also be no crime or wars either.

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Tim September 9, 2009 at 11:36 am

Wow. I am shocked by the visceral reaction to the post. Granted, this is a site that often discusses freedom as it pertains to our wealth. So of course most of the readers would be people who want increased freedom to make their own decisions with their wealth and would tend to appreciate capitalism.

But really Scott & Pharmboy? Is this elementary school where if people don’t play the game how we like it we take our ball and go home? Even though you have previously benefited from this site, one post that you disagree with sends you packing? It’s not like anyone attacked your mom. The blogger simply raised a question about the value of an economic system. Isn’t part of what makes America great that we have the freedom to exchange ideas as well as goods?

Why don’t you take a deep breath and engage some people who view the world differently. You don’t have to agree. And who knows, we all might learn something in the process.

Thanks Happy for having the guts to post something that was a bit controversial. It was helpful for me to read everyone’s responses. I enjoyed the exchange.

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The Happy Rock September 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm

@ed – If I were to ask the majority of American’s if working 80 very hard hours a week in your 50′s with no glimmer of retirement is the American Dream, I am not sure anyone would agree.

My mother did make a choice, but my point was that we as Americans should be making it easier for people to do what she did, not next to impossible. Maybe it is wrong to pin the blame solely on capitalism, my intent was to get us thinking.

@scott – I am not sure what article you read, because no where did I argue that government is the answer. I merely articulated two people’s story that are not particularly well supported within the framework of American Capitalism and society. The point was to have some honest discussion so that we can listen and learn from one another.

@doubleeagle – Voluntary communism has never been tried on a large scale to my knowledge and I personal can’t picture it.

We agree that the current system has yielded wonderful oppurtunities for both people and both have taken large advantage of those oppurtunities. The discussion I was trying to have was whether we can change what we value as a nation to help value people like this better. Maybe means shifting our cultural values rather than throwing out capitalism, I honestly don’t know the answer, that’s why I started the discussion.

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The Happy Rock September 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm

@jwcalla – I think you make a pretty good point that a lot of the critique is more about what we value as a culture rather the economic system that those values are expressed in. One question I have though is whether or not capitalism ends up being a ripe breeding ground for materialism by it very nature. Again, maybe it is the human heart that is the breeding ground the economic system is irrelevant to the equation.

You make a good point about capitalism needed a moral underpinning and the concentration of power.

Finally, I have never heard of distributism, I will have to look into.

@pharmboy – I agree that we are not entitled to a profit. The post was more about what we value as a nation and the point was that it wasn’t the type or method of work that either of the people from the post were doing. Maybe I didn’t express myself well or it was to distracting to mention voluntary communism. Maybe we all we need is a shift in what we value as a nation from big TVs and fancy cars and the economic system is fine, I don’t know. That why I was starting the conversation.

@Haggel – I agree that we don’t have a pure capitalist system, but I am not if we did it would change what I am trying to express, I suspect it would make it worse. And yes voluntary communism would probably break down, but I am not aware that it has ever been tried on a large scale. And no Russia and China are not even remotely close to what a true voluntary communism would look like.

@Double Eagle – I think you second post goes more towards where I saw the conversation going. Maybe part of the question is how do we as a nation encourage more compassion rather than more consumption and materialism? Obviously, I must have taken away from my main point by throwing mingling American values with the economic system in which those values are displayed.

@Tim – Thanks for the comment. I know in this day and age capitalism is a hot button, black or white issue that really gets peoples juices flowing. That’s why I attempted to have a more conversational tone, but I guess I didn’t do a good job.

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Savings Accounts Girl September 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

I read this yesterday – wasn’t the title something like “Why Capitalism Doesn’t Work”?

Anyway – this is an interesting topic. And people can go both ways. I think that capitalism does work, as long as the government doesn’t get too involved and people are ethical.

& if the government gets involved then, they might as well take care of the people.

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The Happy Rock September 9, 2009 at 8:38 pm

@Savings Account Girl – I did changed the title, but I do note any changes(other than grammar or spelling edits) within the posts. Here is what it says at the bottom of the post now. “[Title Edit 9/9/09] Changed from Capitalism Is Not The Answer to better reflect the spirit of the post rather than be sensational and distract from the discussion.”

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Promos Man September 10, 2009 at 11:55 am

Capitalism only works if you have a high paying job, health insurance and some savings. It seems the have-nots have some representation, finally. As the middle class now shrinks to lower middle class and so-on, a tweek to the capitalistic system with some doses of socialism may be needed. People should be careful not to mix the terms socialism and democracy. A majority of us VOTED freely for this.

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Double Eagle September 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Unfortunately, Promos Man, a majority of you also have no idea what you voted for and, frankly, don’t even understand the implications that socialism have on freedom and choice.

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Deep Thought September 10, 2009 at 5:37 pm

The dichotomy between Capitalism and Communism is a false one. As another commenter noted, Distributism is a form of political economy based upon simple concepts. Distributism is, at core, a focus upon private property and a rejection of government or corporate control of people.
One of the founding thinkers of Distributism was the British theorist Hilaire Belloc who predicted much of the last 40 years in his book ‘The Servile State’, published in 1912.

I have a series of article that can serve as an introduction to Distributism that can be found here;
Part 1:
http://andune.blogspot.com/2006/09/were-all-in-this-together-basic.html
2:
http://andune.blogspot.com/2006/09/primer-on-distributionism-origin.html
3:
http://andune.blogspot.com/2006/09/primer-on-distributionism-ii-more.html
4:
http://andune.blogspot.com/2006/09/world-of-artisans-distributionism-as.html

The excellent Distributist Review has much, much more;
http://distributism.blogspot.com/

And you can see an example of Distributism in action, the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation. Mondragon is the 7th largest corporation in Spain with offices and plants in a dozen countries. It is also a Distributist business and the world’s largest worker’s coop.
http://www.mondragoncorporation.com/ing/index.asp

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jwcalla September 10, 2009 at 10:45 pm

@Promos Man – You seem to have an unhealthy view of “democracy”. There is no right through majority vote to infringe on the legitimate rights of others. Socialism, which by force of law takes from one to give to another, is objectively morally evil. Capitalism is not because it respects the rights of others.

And I highly disagree that capitalism “only works if you have a high paying job”, etc. There is no way to defend such a claim.

It’s not the government’s job to even any playing fields or make poor people rich. It has neither the authority nor the competence to do such things.

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Scott September 11, 2009 at 12:05 am

Clearly the title was changed to save face. I am not impressed with bleeding hearts.

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The Happy Rock September 11, 2009 at 12:33 pm

@Scott – I was very clear about why I changed the title and have included the original title and explanation at the bottom of the article. There was no saving face, the title was overly sensational for an article that was not intended to be sensational or dogmatic. The title was distracting from the purpose of the post that is why it was changed. The article was meant to be an honest exploration of how we could change/tweak or system to better care for people. Those who were willing to participate in the discussion have brought up is that it seems to be more about what and whom we value as a society and a rather than the economic system itself. Materialism is a big part for the discussion.

As for bleeding hearts, it is actually really enlightening to put yourself in others shoes and see how yours and the nation’s actions, values, and beliefs effect others rather than assuming you know everything about someone because of a couple keywords or some predetermined opinion you might have of them.

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P September 12, 2009 at 8:57 am

I thought this was great article, and not many PF blogger would take upon, just see the comments.
I think, it is better to say, profit are not bad but greed sure is. Most of developed countries in western world has free health care, we in USA do not, we pay so much for everything, now obama will be punishing people like Happy Rock’s mom, who can not afford health insurance, there are many people like that. I do not think it is fair.

I also do not think it is fair that middle class and lower class people for more % of thier pay in taxes compared to rich. Yes, this country was founded on bases of freedom, but somewhere along the journey we have less freedom than ever. I will continue to read this blog, just because someone writes truth from heart on his blog.

Bravo.

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Hiro September 12, 2009 at 2:35 pm

I see your point, but I’m not quite convinced that communism will solve the challenge your parents are facing. Even in a different political system, inequalities will exist..no matter what to a some degree. Sure, the gap may be better able to control but it won’t solve the problem.

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MoneyEnergy September 12, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I don’t think the terms “capitalism”, “socialism” etc. have clear meaning anymore due to how strongly they have been taken up ideologically and as heuristics for many people (judging by comments I read on various sites). I think it’s better to focus on specific points and issues. The label socialism is a joke and obscures more than it clarifies.

I’m glad you wrote the article, because it rises above the usual dogma and tries to question frameworks. Whenever there’s a simple back-and-forth type argument it often means something’s getting missed and one needs to rise above it by being able to see how the two extremes can actually play into and support each other. I think this is going to be required more and more over the next 10-20 years for those who hope to prosper and function well in the world as it develops. The past does not equal the future.

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Jonathan@Friends&Money September 13, 2009 at 9:20 am

I am not a socialist and do not subscribe to socialism in the way that communism did, however i also feel that the credit crunch and subsequent recession has shown us that Capitalism has to be propely regulated or it has the power to be just as destructive as socialism. I think that a system that is able to be primarily based upon capitalism but with aspects of socialism is the ideal. That’s why i really can’t get my head around why there is so much opposition for a limited form of state run health system in the US. Here in the UK (a capaitalist society) the NHS has served us well for over 60 years and provides free treatment to all (although we do pay for it in our tax contribution). Does it means that we are dirty rotten communists? No way

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Haggel September 13, 2009 at 10:07 am

@ Jonathan- would you want the government to tax or steal over 50 percent of your hard earned salary? if no then you are a pure capitalist, if yes then you are a commy. The U.S is not a pure capitalist country that’s why we are having this credit crunch.

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Londo September 16, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Whether capitalism is a perfect system or not boils down to your basic belief system. If you belief that life produces winners and losers, and life is about survival of the fit, then you would be fine with capitalism’s imperfections. I believe that people organized in order form a social contract and ensure that a certain set of basic needs would be met.

Capitalism allows for the greatest amount of wealth to be created. However, since we are not a society that utilizes slave labor, although in some instances we are close, capitalism must fit within a larger context. Thus, the fact that we are the richest nation but do not have universal healthcare makes people angry.

Capitalism should reward people like you father-in-law and mother. However, when the goal is solely making money (i.e. financial instruments) and not producing things that people need, the balance becomes skewed. Value and values become warped.

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Joey September 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I like how people think “capitalism” turned its back on people. Capitalism is not a person, company, government, or anything. It is freedom from oppression, that is all. I recently was discussing with a leftist what freedom really is, and he was trying to quote FDR (of all people) about his freedom from want. Thing is, that’s slavery. If someone promises to give me food, shelter and a purpose in exchange for giving up certain freedoms, that is slavery. It’s exactly what slavery in this nation was. It was wrong then and it is wrong now.

It is nice when someone makes a decision to give up their own personal gain to help others, but that’s why those people are to be praised. They SACRIFICE. If people could go help the poor, give things away, or offer clothing or shelter to others without giving up any part of their lifestyle, it wouldn’t really take that big a person to do it, would it?

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Carry September 22, 2009 at 9:56 am

Indeed, capitalism is not a perfect economic system, but is the best we have so far. Some may say that capitalism stands behind the economic crisis, but I say that capitalism is just a tool and the outcome depends on the persons that are using it.

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ChrisCD September 23, 2009 at 1:52 pm

The problem isn’t the system it is the people. Capitalism does offer the greatest rewards, but it should be intertwined with compassion. The problem is far too many driven people aren’t inheritantly compassionate. So sadly there must be some sort of regulations. As greed has taken hold even more, regulation increases. Regulation costs money. Money comes from taxes. If only people would see the cycle and voluntarily change what they value.

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Credit Card Chaser October 2, 2009 at 12:10 am

Capitalism + non-profit/religious/charity initiatives is always the answer.

In the first example, the lady has the freedom (thanks to capitalism) to choose to give of her time and money to help others and if she chooses to then she has many opportunities to align herself with other great non-profit/religious/charity organizations in the US that can support her.

In the second example, your father in law has to freedom (thanks to capitalism) to pursue a lifestyle that he finds rewarding in ways that are not just financial but physical, emotional, etc. (hopefully or else maybe he made the wrong choice). If he decides that he wants to be rewarded in more of a financial sense then he has the freedom (thanks to capitalism) to decide to pursue a new career.

Contrast both of those scenarios with a communist type of system that regardless of how benevolent you may think the people in control are – then guess what? – the bottom line is that the lady or your father in law does not have the personal freedom to choose for themselves and make for themselves their own destiny – rather under a communist like system it is someone else deciding who should do what or in a socialist like system who should be rewarded for your hard work.

I will choose capitalism/freedom every time and in cases where there is a shortcoming then that is where non-profit/religious/charity initiatives can do what they do best.

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Gaston and Marie December 23, 2009 at 11:24 pm

The beauty of the free market system is that the market tells a person how valuable a service or product is to the community as a whole.

The choice a person has is to look at what society is willing to pay for a service or product and decide whether he or she wishes to participate at that level of income.

In the case of someone who decides he or she wishes to go to Zambia or anywhere else to “help,” the free market will tell that person IN ADVANCE what that work is worth TO THE FREE MARKET. Generally speaking unless an individual is privately wealthy or is sponsored by government, simply adding an ADDITIONAL mouth to feed in a poor area is worth absolutely nothing. I am not speaking of the intention here. I am speaking of the impartial evaluation of the Free Market.

To simply make a decision to go to New Orleans and add yet another mouth to feed, and bed to provide, and all the other services a living being requires isn’t worth very much, unless a skill that is needed is provided. For example, a medical doctor volunteering to work pro bono who has a needed skill is a wonderful thing. However, not so if that person decides that he or she will require someone else to support him or her while there.

Every one of us is a resource devourer. We need the world to support us. In turn, the free market tells us where it needs help. If we decide to do something that the free market tells us is worth zero, that, of course, is our choice. However, if then the person lives in poverty having to apply for welfare payments, that too is a choice.

The same is true with education. The free market tells the population that it needs certain skills. If a student spends his or her time sassing the teachers, and generally being a delinquent, has two children by the age of 18, and then turns around and tells us that the Free Market has failed him or her, that is laughable.

Same with the lady you are describing here. Her INTENTION has nothing to do with the free market.

If she chooses to do something that the free market tells her isn’t worth anything, that’s exactly what she will be paid for doing it.

She can work as hard as she wishes in the slums of Africa, but if she is providing another mouth to feed and needs housing and medical care, etc, she is becoming part of the problem, not part of the solution, regardless of her intention.

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maría July 27, 2010 at 8:30 am

I do not have much simpathy for bleeding hearts, but I think that when i doubt, we should always err in the side of freedom. The reasons why communism doesnt´t work, is that the individual not only sacrifices him/herself to the commuity, but loose freedom. When the expected increases in security don´t come the individual has lost freedom, privacy and ironically sometimes even security itself for nothing- that´s tirany. Contrary to what most people think, it is actually easy to give up your freedom for nothing…. THE REASON THIS SYSTEM IS MORE LIKELY to be corrupted is that individuals would not only have to be perfectly selfless, but completely respectful of human and individual rights as well, and that often just doesn´t happen!
There are other two factors that haven´t been analyzed, for instance, but for fear of being called blasphemous, we rarely do; your mother should also consider if she´s really helping, because many that want to help actually compound the problem, the “I know best” is exactly why so many of these systems, and even well-meaning people fail. I lived in a communist country, (I had a lot of trouble going away and it was hell…
There is a difference between the state helping those in need, and letting it regulate our lives. Claiming to know what is best for everyone is a slippery slope, because one falls into an “I am omnipotent” trap as well, and think you can force your ideas unto your brothers and sisters.

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