Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thoughts on Capitalism

In a recent comment exchange with a friend Facebook, I made these comments about capitalism. After responding a posting about Republicans thinking President Obama was a socialist, the following came out of my head:
While I am sure we will have to agree to disagree, most of what has made this country great (and I mean truly great), wealthy and the most powerful country on Earth has been based in large part on the pursuit of the dollar. Capitalism has brought us everthing that has expanded and improved the American standard of living and the world standard of living--the train, the car, the plane, the computer, cheap clothes, cheap food, cheap energy, cheap travel, indeed every amenity of the modern life is brought to you by capitalism. Take a look around your house, everything you have is offered to you by a capitalist--from the foods you eat to the clothes you wear to the house you live; it is based on the capitalist pursuit of profit. Even things that people on the political left think are good, like cap and trade, has a part of it that is capitalism--the trading of carbon credits will make some people very rich.

But the pursuit of capitalism does not foreclose being a generous person or neighbor. Take a look at American foreign aid. How many other countries have a foreign aid budget that comprises 2% of their annual budget. Who pays the biggest dues to the U.N? When natural disasters strike, where to the eyes of the world turn? Capitalism has enabled the United States to be the most generous nation on earth when something goes wrong. Capitalism makes countries and people prosperous and wealthy; it gives them comfort at home and enables us to share our wealth. Capitalism allows for the generosity of the human spirit. Think of the most profilic philanthropists out there and I will show you a capitalist.

Capitalist who ignore those around them rarely make a profit for very long. Capitalists who don't reward the people that make them successful aren't successful. Capitalism is the most human and humane economic system in the world. Nothing has ever come close. Is it perfect? No--it is a human institution, but for every robber baron you may complain about there are dozens, if not hundreds of good, honest decent capitalists out there who have made and are making the world a better place.
The pursuit of profit is not evil.

Every exchange in the marketplace is viewed by the participants as generating a beneficial return, even an act as simple as buying a gallon of milk. I need or want some milk and a grocer or dairy farmer wants to sell me his milk. I get some milk, he gets some money--everyone benefits.

But socialism, and the socialization of America will not produce exchanges that all participants will find advantageous. I don't want to be forced to buy a product I don't want or need simply because Congress, the President and less than 50% of Americans think I should.

I oppose the health care plan and most of the Obama domestic agenda on those grounds. I don't need or want, or wish to foist off on anyone else, the government (any government) telling me what I can and must buy. I don't want my choices limited by anything other than what the market has to offer.

If you look at history, and look at every time we have had a deep recession--at the heart of it is not a market failing caused by pure market forces--but a market failing caused by government trying to prevent or correct a perceived market failing. Markets self-correct and usually very fast. That is why capitalism is a humane economic system--its failures never last long.

I cannot say the same about this recession.

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