Let me begin by explaining what capitalism is and isn't, first, what it isn't. Capitalism isn't big business getting favors from the government. That's facism. When Hitler came to power in a democratic election (so much for democracy), rather than put all the businesses such as BMW under government ownership, which would be socialism, he simply told businesses what to do. He controlled them through regulations even though they were still left in the hands of private ownership. I'm definitely against facism, unlike most US presidents.
So if it's not facism or socialism, what is capitalism? Well, first let me digress. Let's say that our dear friend Doood has a shiny new bicycle and I want it. There are two ways I can obtain it. One is, I can make him an offer. I could say, "I'll give you $500 for it." I could say, "I'll walk your dogs for the next 4 years." However, if Doood doesn't like any of my offers, he keeps the bicycle. That's the free market way. The other way I could obtain it is if I point a gun at him and say, "Give me your bicycle or I'll shoot you in the face." In the same manner, I could get a bunch of my friends together and we can all vote that I should have his bicycle because I need it more or I look better riding it or whatever and then we all point our guns at him and make the same threat, "Your bicycle or your life." That's not the free market way. That's theft.
So, what is capitalism? Capitalism is the free market and the free market is simply the aggregation of all voluntary trades. If I make you an offer and you accept it voluntarily, that's part of the free market. If I mug you at gun point, that's not part of the free market. If capitalism is the free market which is nothing but voluntary trading, why would anyone object to it? Well, there are still a few objections which I'd like to address.Objection 1: Capitalism is exploitative.
If capitalism is simply the free market which is simply voluntarily trading then that means voluntarily trading has to be exploitative. How could that be? If we're both self-interested rational creatures and if I offer you my X for your Y and you accept the trade then, necessarily, I value your Y more than my X and you value my X more than your Y. By voluntarily trading we each come away with something we find more valuable, at that time, than what we originally had. We are both better off. That's not exploitative. That's cooperative.Objection 2: But, but… wage slavery!
If you want to live then you have to work. That's nature's fault (or God's fault if you're a Christian). Either way, you have to work to survive. Nobody is obligated to keep you alive. You have the right not to be murdered, you don't have the right to live. So, if I offer you a job, that's still a voluntary trade, my resources for your labor. If you don't like the trade then you can reject it and go survive through your own means or simply lay down and die. It's harsh but fair. Otherwise, I'd have to take care of myself and everyone else which is unfair. Requiring me to provide you a living is actual
slavery, much worse than nonexistent wage slavery.Objection 3: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Historically speaking, this is nonsense. For the last 800 or so years, there has been a steady increase in the quality of life for everyone, not just the rich. What's more, the rich get rich by making the poor better off. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc, make their money by giving us awesome services and technology. My family has lived in Alabama for generations, not exactly a cultural nexus, and my ancestors were indentured servants. Yet, I've been able to fly first class all over the country, eat all kinds of exotic foods, been to concerts, plays and all kinds of shows. I have a wardrobe full of clothes, all kinds of electronic gadgets, two cars, etc. My parents and grandparents weren't able to do that. I'm better off not worse. If I were living 200 years ago I wouldn't have any of that. I'd probably have a single set of clothes and little else. The life expectancy at the dawn of man was 18 years at birth and by the dawn of the USA it was at around 45. Now in capitalistic countries it's closer to 70 and some of us can expect to live as long as 100 years. The rich get richer and the poor get richer. We are all better off. We live longer and healthier.Objection 4: Free markets are oppressive, racist, sexist, etc.
Actually, free markets force those kinds of behaviors to come at a cost. If a black woman's labor is worth $8 an hour but because I'm a racist, sexist, pig I only pay her $6 an hour thereby making $2.00 profit for myself, I run the risk of some other greedy capitalist pig to offer the same black woman $6.01 an hour to undercut me and make $1.99 profit. This same kind of greedy profit-driven behavior will continue until the black woman's wages approach what the market value is, $8 an hour. There is no place in the market for anything other than profit seeking and that will require greedy capitalist pigs to ignore their personal feelings of racism or sexism unless they want to be put out of business.Objection 5: Free markets don't care about the environment.
As long as humans value clean water, clean air, pristine land and so on and as long as said land is privately owned and doesn't become a victim of the tragedy of the commons, there will always be a cost to pollution and the market will punish it accordingly. If you dump toxic waste in my river, you owe me money, either in damages if it was without my permission or as payment to offset the value of the environment that you're destroying. Companies that find ways to avoid pollution won't have to pay these extra costs and therefore will make more profits. Companies that can't work around pollution while eventually be driven out of business by companies that can.Objection 6: Free markets destroy art and culture by making people more materialistic.
Again, historically speaking, this simply isn't true. In the Baroque period of music, when most composers were employed by a king, church or some form of government, they were greatly censored and limited in the ways they could express themselves. It was only later when composers such as Mozart could work independently in a free market that they found greater freedom. The Romantic period owes a debt to the free market for making this happen. Also, capitalism has contributed to the emergence of entire new genres of art such as interactive video, video games, etc. I have an entire recording studio in a single machine that can sit on my desk. These days anyone can express themselves through art. Art and culture has expanded, not shrunken. Of course, some philistines might sneer at YouTube videos being considered a form of art but that's their problem not mine. Anyone that can watch this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuU00Q3RhDg
and claim that it's not art, has no humanity. This video is a product of a free market composer being reinterpreted using commodity audio/video equipment, computers, editing software and a service making it available to millions. This is capitalism and art at work.Objection 7: Monopolies!
Abusive monopolies don't arise in free markets. There is only one way to bar new entries into the market and that's by law. The abusive monopolies that exist are products of government interventionism. Even if there is only a single company providing a good or service the mere potentiality that someone could enter the market is enough to keep them in line. If they were to start charging absorbent prices it would provide incentive to new companies to enter the market and undercut them. Even if they started buying up companies they would have to do so at a loss and it would only provide even more incentive for new companies to enter the markets. All abusive monopolies are the result of laws, not markets. You can't corner the market in anything and charge whatever you want. All attempts to do so have failed.Objection 8: Let's talk about the poor again! Nobody would feed them.
So the argument is that unless we have laws that enable us to point guns at people and force them to empty their pockets for the poor, nobody would ever help the poor. The question you need to ask is, if that were true, how could any such laws get established in the first place? Why would anyone vote to have a gun pointed at them if they weren't also willing to do it without the gun? The mere existence of laws designed to help the poor is direct evidence that people want to help the poor! Charity is part of the free market. It's simply a free trade where one party asks for nothing in return. It's moral, ethical and would still exist in pure capitalism. In fact, it would exist better in pure capitalism because people would be able to direct their funds to the poor better. They would have a choice of charities and if some charities did a terrible job, nobody would donate to them and they'd go out of business. In the end, the best charities would remain and that would in turn help the poor more efficiently.Objection 9: Some things are too important to leave to the free market.
On the contrary, the free market punishes poor performance. As a business, if you sell pizza that kills thousands of people a year, you lose money and eventually go out of business. As a government agency, if you kill thousands of people, you lose nothing and you get to keep doing a terrible job. The free market punishes bad behavior and weeds out incompetence. Not so with the government. You might say that you can vote people out of office but it's really hard to vote on specific issues. If there are two candidates and you like half of one person's policies and half of the other person's policies, there's no way to vote for just the policies that you like. You have to take the good with the bad, whereas the free market allows for fine grained control. If you want only 10-speed bicycles then you only buy 10-speed bicycles and the market responds. If the government builds roads and manages them poorly, nothing happens. If free market companies build roads and manages them poorly, they go out of business and the businesses that remain are necessarily doing a better job than the ones that went out of business. The market again acts to weed out incompetence. Central planning, be it facism, socialism or communism, doesn't have this mechanism.Objection 10: Capitalism promotes greed and all we'll end up with are greedy corporations.
This is scraping the bottom of the barrel. All humans are greedy. When you go to the grocery store or shop for a new TV do you pick the TV that is the cheapest for a specific quality level or are you generous enough to pay extra to the seller? Of course you try to get the best deal. That doesn't make you a greedy asshole. It just makes you intelligent. It's just plain stupid to pay more than you have to for anything and it cuts both ways, as a producer and a consumer. Greed is good, when it's done intelligently.
So, in summary, capitalism is the only moral system since it's based on voluntary actions rather than violent or coercive ones (yes even if everyone votes to rob one guy democratically that's still violent and coercive). Even if moral considerations aren't enough, for instance you're some kind of inhuman utilitarian, then the efficiency of free markets should convince you. Central planning simply can't respond to human desires the same way that free markets can. If the central planners decide to make 100 bicycles and 200 sneakers and it turns out that people wanted 200 bicycles and 100 sneakers, that's just too damn bad. There's no way to signal that to the planners that's as efficient
. I say efficient to acknowledge that syndicalism (if it could work) could respond to human desires but only at the cost of massive inefficient bureaucracies. Capitalism, the free market, voluntary trade, is still the best option and the only moral one.