Capitalism is a social system based on the principle of individual rights. Politically, it is the system of laissez-faire. 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,so beloved of Margaret Thatcher.Central elements of capitalism include capital savings, competitive markets and jobs for wages.It is often assumed that it has existed, if not forever, then for most of human history. In fact, capitalism is a relatively new social system which now exists in all countries of the world.
Instinctively, I feel anti-capitalist. Though I like the idea of a ‘laissez-faire system where we are pretty much free to make our own choices, I dislike the fact that under a capitalist regime, the means for producing and distributing goods (the land, factories, technology, transport system etc) are owned by a small minority of people.Everybody else has to work for a living, effectively selling their time (hence their lives) to the ‘big boys’ that is the corporations.The’capitalist class’ (big boys) then live off the profits they obtain from exploiting the working class whilst reinvesting some of their profits for the further accumulation of wealth.This is the bit about capitalism that I find so hard to stomach.The counter argument is that it can be proved that capitalism is not a system of exploitation because it has increased the standard of living of the masses, tripling the life span of the average man, and brought wealth and prosperity to most of those who live under it.And of course if one complains about capitalism one is usually referred to Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and Communist China.
Though pro-capitalists like to offer the suggestion that “if capitalists “exploited” the masses by stealing their ‘surplus,’ as the Marxists allege, where was this ‘surplus’ before capitalists existed? If not for capitalism, many of the masses you cry about would not exist — capitalism did not create poverty it inherited it.” But in many ways capitalism surely needs poverty-as John Bird says, “Poverty is the backbone of contemporary capitalism…the nasty reality is that we all need poverty to keep our costs down.” That is why you will rarely find a billionaire praising the power of trade unions, it is in the interests of the rich to keep the worker ground down and to keep him interested in cheap consumerism.
When one is born in to this capitalist society it is of course nigh on impossible to opt out. Living independently of the state and not working is real option only for aristocrats. We all need money to live and the wealth is so unevenly distributed.There are various theories propounded as to different ways to organise society; one I like is the model which puts put both control and profit of enterprises into the hands of the workers. In some of these models, the workers are also owners, with a full stake in the success or failure of the business.Or another lovely idea is the return to a localised economy, where wealth is built by local people creatively deploying local resources to meet local needs. I like to think that these ideas would work well towards creating a fairer and happier society but many intellectuals think it is the only system thatt has been proved to work. Ayn Rand explains, “The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve ‘the common good.’ It is true that capitalism does—if that catch-phrase has any meaning—but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man’s rational nature, that it protects man’s survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice.”