January 18, 2012 by galudwig
A post from last month on the blog insanekender.com accuses the capitalist system of exploitation, and worse. Read the article for his arguments. This is his conclusion:
In conclusion this system leaves you with the dichotomy of either being a cheap exploited whore, or exploiting another human and treating them like a cheap whore. Can someone tell me why this system is so great again?
I don’t have much time, but I wanted to post a quick response here and tell you in short why it is so great, or at least, why I think the author is wrong.
But first, a part of the post I do agree with.
I think insanekender is right when he says that capitalism goes against the intrinsic nature of humanity. The one constant in the whole of human history, save the last century or two, is violence, forced labor, oppression and misery for the overwhelming majority of the population. Voluntary interaction between individuals is not something that is inherent in nature and can be called an anomaly. Liberty, respect for property rights and the freedom to form social relationships with one another based on mutual benefit are the fundamentals of the “capitalist” system and the social order, and certainly, this is the very opposite of force and the undying, harsh reality of competition in the natural state.
Next, we must clearly differentiate between the current system in place in most countries around the world on the one hand, and the spontaneous order of voluntary human cooperation on the other. The former is not capitalism (but “crony-capitalism” is a useful term), the latter is, but has never fully been tried. When I say capitalism, I mean a system based entirely on a free market, not one where the most powerful corporations in an industry lobby for legislation to regulate and set up barriers to entry for new entrants in the market, where companies vie with one another to draft patents with which they block access to new innovations, and where the government decides the winners and losers in the system, bails out banks which take excessive risks and is the supreme god and master of our property, our time preferences and our media of exchange.
Now, this post is already becoming much longer than I anticipated, but here are some quick disagreements with the author. Feel free to reply, as through reasoned debate we can arrive to deeper underlying truths.
1) You claim that work produces unhappiness. You are right in the sense that labor has a certain disutility. On the other hand, if the benefits (the purchasing power which comes from the wages) would not outweigh the costs (the disutility of labor), then people wouldn’t work. In other words: if work did not render people more happy than they would be without it, they would choose not to work in the first place.
2) If essential resources become more scarce, in a capitalist system, this will mean higher prices, which creates incentives for the search for substitutes, product and process innovations and increased exploration for said resources. In comparison, a command economy would most surely fail much more catastrophically when faced with a lack of essential resources, because these mechanisms would not be in place.
3) Your point about capitalism limiting innovation due to a lack of access to resources applies to any other conceivable economic system as well. Someone must invariably own the resources, whether it is an individual, a group of individuals, a group of gangsters, the state or representatives of the people. I am not claiming capitalism is the perfect system which will bring about a utopia for everyone. I am merely saying that more freedom in economic affairs is better than less. All other possible economic systems are based on violence and monopoly. “Capitalism” is the opposite of this, and has been hugely successful in increasing the standard of living of the masses. You can not deny the enormous historic increases in productivity directly attributable to the accumulation of capital under more capitalist systems.
4) It is true that “capitalism” rewards the “opportunist” (the term “entrepreneur” would be more apt) who took the initiative and expended time and resources to produce a certain good. But others are rewarded as well. Those who work for him or her gain. Those who buy the product gain.
5) The “power” that corporations have is the direct consequence of them serving us, the consumer. If we were to stop buying their products, their power would wane. Only by being better than others at serving others can an individual or group of individuals amass wealth in a capitalist society. In contrast, “democratic government” is dependent on short-term, temporary political alliances between politicians who derive their power from the violent seizure of property from the individuals in society who actually contribute to it. And again, this applies to the current system as well.
Uh okay, so much for this being a short post. I must get back to work.. I’m sure you don’t agree with a lot of my arguments, insanekender, so feel free to respond. It wasn’t my intention to single out your post and break it down point by point, but I just read your post and felt that it needed a rebuttal..