Capitalism: Corrupt or Commendable?

With the Christmas season coming to a close, it is interesting to see what the celebration of the birth of Christ has brought. Many people describe this time of the year as “hectic” and people are often stressed and more than a little irritable. Not only that, but it is no secret that this time of the year takes consumerism to a whole new level. Many devout (but perhaps equally afflicted) Christians wonder if this is really what God intended when He sent His son. This time of the year makes one wonder how something so pure, divine, and beautiful could get so distorted into the ugliness of greed.

Now if we as humans can screw up something that is divinely sent, imagine what we can do to something of humanly creation. Insert economic theories and policies. Humans created economics in order to create a smooth and functional society, however,  the US in recent years, through the medium of capitalism, has distorted this relatively pure invention into a greed-inducing machine.

Before delving further into how capitalism is being used and/or manipulated for different purposes it is important to define capitalism. According to capitalism.org it is: “a social system based on the principle of individual rights. Politically, it is the system of laissez-faire (freedom). Legally it is a system of objective laws (rule of law as opposed to rule of man). Economically, when such freedom is applied to the sphere of production its’ result is the free-market.” (For all intents and purposes this is the definition that will be used for the remainder of the article.)

Capitalism (according to the definition above) is the economic system that has dominated in the US economic scene for the last several decades. Today the free market system seems to be so heavily protected that it seems to be regarded as equal to (greater than?) God Himself.  Some see it as the root of all evil, where money is the center of the universe and all else -humanity, the environment, and God himself- is less important. The capitalist is the Mr. Burns of society. He is ruthless, money-loving, self-aggrandizing, and exploitative. He has raped the world, literally in some cases, in order to gain power and wealth (what is one without the other, really?) The capitalist is the reason we have such things as blood-diamonds, genetically modified food, and global warming. He is Machiavellian. He is Rich Uncle Pennybags.

But there is another face of capitalism. It is one of empowerment, entrepreneurship, and honest hard-work. This side of capitalism does indeed still exist. One way capitalism, in the more pure, closer to ideological form, is being used for good is in poverty-stricken regions to create economic mobility for those who are most lacking in it. Micro-enterprise (as mentioned in a previous post) is the use of capitalism to help people get out of poverty. It promotes free and competitive markets, private ownership, and an answer to poverty.

Ironically, the US has been the driving force for promoting capitalism (guised as democracy) throughout the world in order to “develop” it. This capitalism is better described as “crony capitalism” which is a capitalist system that depends heavily on the bond between corporations and the government and leave little to no room for anyone other than these two entities. It seems like a difficult way to create any lasting change/development. This kind of capitalism is heavily laden with self-serving attitudes, businesses that are “too big to fail,” and a false sense of competition when business that seem to be in opposition of one another are really owned by the same parent corporation.

Capitalism is what the individual wants/allows it to be. If one wants to use it to create a free society that promotes economic mobility and healthy competition, then that is available. If one wants to use it to take advantage of those who are less fortunate, to feed their own greed, and to boost their own power that is also a possibility. It is that way no matter what economical/political system is in place. Just as communism was used for power and greed in the former Soviet Union, it was also used (if not in name, then through common values to the theory) for harmony and equality in some religious communities such as the Quakers and the Dominicans. The ideas, systems, theories, etc are not to be blamed for the destruction they create, rather the people who are wielding it are the ones responsible.