Capitalism

Capitalism

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B: I recently saw a sign that read, in all capital letters: “DEAR CAPITALISM: IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S US.  JUST KIDDING, IT’S YOU.”  I wonder: what kind of message would be sent if the word “capitalism” was replaced with “freedom?”  After all, that’s what it is.  Don’t let anybody fool you: “capitalism” is just a terrible-sounding name for “freedom.”

A: What?!  How can you compare the freedoms of the rich vs. the poor?  Clearly, the rich have many more opportunities than have their poor counterparts.

B: What exactly is an “opportunity,” anyway?  “A good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success,” according to an online dictionary.  The possession of wealth may give one opportunities to achieve success, yes.  Is it the only way to attain it?  Or might there merely be a way around that, which can be found through some clever and innovative thinking?  Certainly there is more to have at one’s disposal than dough; for instance, talent, knowledge, “friends in high places,” etc.  America has been called a “Land of Opportunity,” and opportunities exist because of freedom.

A: Is it true that everything is accessible in some way other than through money?

B: Perhaps not, but one of the great things about so-called “capitalism” is competition (though many would argue this is actually a bad thing).  Through competition more opportunities can be created for those who aren’t so financially well-rounded.  If there’s enough demand for it, competition will arise in any situation, including where the price may be too high for the “poorer” folk, and drive the price down to affordability.

A: And if there isn’t enough demand?

B: Then those who want it will either have to generate demand for it themselves, find another way to get at it, or give up on it altogether.  Is it necessarily bad that they may have to live life without that particular opportunity?

A: But why should they have to?

B: Those who claim that capitalism cannot solve this problem turn to the government to “fix” it.  But if government intervenes, it will have to do so at the cost of somebody else’s freedom, whether in the form of taxes or rights.  At that point, one could rightly ask the question: “Why is one person’s ‘opportunity’ favored by the government over another person’s rights or capital?”

A: If you’re taxing the rich, they can “take one for the team,” so to speak, since they don’t need as much as they have, and should be required to cover for the poor’s lack of opportunities.

B: And this takes us into a whole new can of worms: how rich is “too” rich?  How much does one “need?”  Is the opportunity in question for a worthy cause?  What other exceptions of other people’s rights should be made?  How much is needed to provide for the poor?  What kind of effect does this have on the poor?  If all of this sounds suspiciously familiar, you might consider that we talked about this kind of thing before, twice.

Do the rich have more “opportunities?”  Perhaps.  But why would opportunities considered to be rights due each individual?  Honestly, what’s stopping a poor man from going out and working until he earns the same amount of money the rich man has, thus giving him the same opportunities?

A: Ha!  The poor man doesn’t even have the opportunities to get the jobs he needs to earn that kind of money.

B: Ridiculous. There are bajillions of rags-to-riches stories.  Yes, the poor man may need to work a bunch more than the rich man.  Yes, it may take him a lot more time, and he may not have precisely the same opportunities.  But he still can have opportunities to be as financially well-off as the rich man, if that’s what he wants, by creating them himself – and even without resorting to criminal behavior.

A: What if he doesn’t?  There are probably even more “rags-stay-rags” stories.  Where is the fairness, the freedom, in that?

B: This is like our discussion about money.  Once again, we’re inherently believing that money equals happiness.  An unspoken assumption here is that people need money for happiness – because they supposedly can’t be happy without the opportunities money, or wealth, affords them.  If this were true, a very large majority of the world must be miserable, because nobody would have as many “opportunities” as the wealthiest person in the world (unless there are several who are “tied” for wealthiest).  But are all those people in the myriad of third-world countries really all that unhappy?  Personally, I have my doubts.  Anyway, how can we decide what “opportunities” people need to be happy?

One may as well go blame God for making us all different; it’s largely in our differences that wealth is made.  One person may have the propensity for succeeding at business, another the aptitude to excel at an art that is not usually, in today’s world, financially remunerated to the same degree.  Does that mean the latter is hopelessly bound for misery except government intervenes?  Of course not.  Thankfully, joy is to be found in so many other places besides within the perhaps surprisingly small range of what wealth can yield.

“Failures of Capitalism” are declared so because of people’s impatience or laziness to make extra effort to make things succeed without government intervention.  And by the way, if the economy is ever lagging in a supposedly capitalistic society, it may be because people/corporations are saddled with unnecessary extra taxes that are laid upon them: without them, they are more likely to invest in things that will build the economy.

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