No, it’s not Capitalism.

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On the Book of Faces, we had this:

Unlike Capitalism that has no faults? (Well I mean other than, slavery, oppressions, destruction nature in the name of profit, waste of natural resources, killing citizens, false imprisonments, withholding healthcare and eliminating the middle class. But other than that, capitalism is flawless)

First, we need to define terms.  Capitalism is an economic system of voluntary exchanges with prices determined by the free market.  “Voluntary,” in this instance means coercive force.  It’s not coercive force if someone offers terms that you don’t like, even if you really, really want what they have.  And if it involves coercive force, it’s not capitalism.

So, with that said, we have:

Slavery is not capitalism. It cannot be capitalism since capitalism is the system of voluntary exchanges (of labor, skill, material goods etc.) with individuals having control over their own property.

Oppression is not capitalism. See “voluntary exchanges”. Even if somebody chooses not to make a particular exchange with you (see “voluntary”) that’s not oppression. Oppression requires force. Force is either criminal or government (which some will claim is another way of saying the same thing; I don’t go quite that far). It is not capitalism.

Destruction of nature is not capitalism. If you own property it’s your property. You get to decide what constitutes “destruction” or not. Likewise other people get to decide what constitutes “destruction” of their own property. Yes, there is such a thing as the “Tragedy of the Commons” but note that word “commons”?  That’ something that’s not someone’s property.  It’s by definition something held in common.  I.e. Socialism.

There are some issues with what Milton Friedman called “neighborhood effects” (somebody does something with their property that affects your property–and so people who are not party to one of those voluntary exchanges can experience costs, or benefits, arising from it–“External costs/benefits” as Sowell put it in Basic Economics).  And those neighborhood effects/externalities can lead to loss of worth of other people’s properties without their being involved in a voluntary trade for it.  And, yes, there may be a role for government in protecting against that.  But, as Sowell notes in Basic Economics, and elsewhere, just because the government can sometimes do better than the free market, doesn’t mean that it will.  As Friedman points out in Free to Choose, while we all want clean water (to use one example) does it really justify reducing lead in wastewater from 1 mg/L (about 1 ppm by weight, the EPA limit for waste water) to a few PPM (permissible for drinking water) or to parts per trillion when the resources used to do that could be used for other nice things we’d like to have?

But, you know, far from being a symptom of “capitalism” it’s also endemic to Socialist systems. See Aral Sea, Yellow River Pollution, and just who’s dumping the vast majority of the trash in the ocean.

Waste of natural resources is not capitalism. See “voluntary exchanges” and “control over one’s own property”. Just because you disagree with a use does not mean it’s a waste. In Capitalism, the natural resource would not be used unless the people to whom it is traded (see “voluntary exchanges”) do not value it more than the people who own it in the first place. And they wouldn’t trade for it unless they can use it to produce something someone else values more than they do. Once again, that whole “voluntary exchanges” thing.

Indeed, “waste” is another way of saying “opportunities for profit not realized.” In the 19th century, gasoline was a “waste product” of kerosene production and was just dumped into the local waterways (ouch).  John D. Rockefeller and his company figured out how to use that gasoline to power the refining process, waving the waterways and making kerosene a whole lot cheaper.  In the process he made a ton of money.  And since the primary use of kerosene was in lamps and the primary competing material was whale oil, reducing the cost of kerosene reduced the profitability and quantity demanded of whale oil.  Rockefeller may have been responsible for the survival of several species of whale long before the founder of Greenpeace was even a dirty thought in his father’s mind.

Or consider the coal tar produced as a waste product of coking coal for ironmaking.  Someone decided to see if some use could be made of the tar rather than just dumping most of it.  One of the early results was aniline dyes, including a color called “mauve” which was so popular the “Mauve Decade” was named after it.

Capitalism provides every incentive to minimize waste and find ways to produce value even from the waste.  And one man’s waste is another man’s resource.

Killing citizens is not capitalism. I’m failing to see how you can even think that this has anything to do with voluntary exchanges with prices controlled by the free market.

It wasn’t capitalism that slaughtered over 100 million of its own people over the course of the 20th century.  Not talking those killed by enemy forces in war, but people killed by their own governments.

False imprisonments is not capitalism. See “voluntary exchanges.”  See also “gulag,” “reeducation camp,” “Dachau,” “Buchenwald,” “Cultural Revolution,” et al.

Withholding healthcare is not capitalism. Voluntary exchanges. You are perfectly at liberty to make whatever voluntary exchanges for healthcare that you wish. If, instead, you choose to spend the resources you could have used for healthcare for something else, well, that’s your choice. I am not obligated to cover your poor choices. Is health care expensive?  Yes.  And it’s made more so by various government controls and regulations that are the very opposite of capitalism.

And as for withholding healthcare? Ask Charlie Gard or Alfie Evans. Oh, wait, you can’t. They’re dead. Their government not only withheld health care but forcibly prevented them from seeking it elsewhere.  Private health care and health insurance can only decline to pay.  It takes government to actively prevent you from seeking alternatives.

Eliminating the middle class is not capitalsim. But even if it were, the “shrinking” of the “middle class” is because people are moving up out of it. And even the poor of today, at least in the mostly capitalist United States, experience wealth that all Rockefeller’s millions could not have bought him a century ago. My roughly “middle class” lifestyle would have been pretty damn rich compared to my parents upper-middle-class life back when I was in middle school.

So, bluntly, all of those “criticisms” of capitalism are substantially without merit.  Indeed, except for “Destruction of nature” they are completely without merit and in that one they are no worse that socialist systems.

Put simply, nothing has done more to improve the lot of the people as a whole than voluntary exchanges with prices determined by the free market…than capitalism.

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7 thoughts on “No, it’s not Capitalism.”

    1. 1) They’ve never been taught the actual dismal record Socialism has when it’s in power. The Killing Fields? The Great Leap Forward? The Holodomor? They have no idea that any of those ever happened.

      2) But for the few who have somehow slipped through the cracks and learned about these things, the excuse is as always “But That’s Not Real Socialism!”. Even though that’s what they boldly claimed to be doing. Even though other Socialist nations praised and supported and guided them. Even though professed Socialist in other nations heaped praise and support on their actions- until long, long after it became quite clear that another People’s Republic has turned into another destroying monster.

      3) “But Sweden! Denmark! Europe!” they cry in response. Those nations are Socialist, and it works! In this case, one can honestly retort “that’s not real Socialism”. That their little high tax, high government service system appears to work is because of a current combination of factors. Not having to spend money on national defense is a big one.

      4) And there’s the just plain silly dramatics of youth, where every small crisis is The Absolute Worst Ever. They really don’t grok how good they got it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 1) I’ve actually run across a few of the Tru Believers that think those are hoaxes.

        2) They say they’ll do better this time, as if the speaker in question isn’t a mere minion, but someone who expects to be in power and therefore ‘shapes the world’

        3)All those places aren’t socialist, but the socialist, globalist Left attitudes are bringing about ruin to their nations. Sweden has a bombing problem as well as an actual rape epidemic perpetuated by those they brought in for cultural enrichment. Something that the media in the West has been very very complicit in keeping from the rest of the world.

        4) Yeah, and as an example of that, raped women in the aforementioned countries saying they deserved to be raped because they were white. Jihadwatch, Gates of Vienna or Peter Sweden should have examples still, if you’re able to access the sites.

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  1. Adam Smith called it not “capitalism” but “the system of natural liberty”. Smith’s term shines a bright light on the motives of those who hate “capitalism” and reveals that they hate nature and liberty.

    Want to boggle the mind of someone who hates the free market? Point out that there is only one alternative to the free market, the slave market. Be prepared for the boggled to try to naively argue that they’re only for nice slave markets, not the bad ones.

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    1. I like to point out that the thing Adam Smith described is not some Pie-In-The-Sky Utopian daydream, but a description of what people everywhere actually do.
      Even the Communist True Believers will act in their rational self interest to better them and their families.

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