Karl Marx obviously thought capitalism was a curse and considered that wealth should be controlled by the state for the benefit of all. But in an imperfect world communism failed to deliver and has virtually ceased to exist. Communism and capitalism are based on envy and greed respectively. In this article we will look at the plus side, and the negative side, of capitalism and ask the question, “is there a better way”?
- Is the way now clear for un-bridled capitalism to take control?
- Should capitalism be left to its own devices, or does it need to be controlled in some way?
- Could the world divided into nation states control the multi-national corporations in any realistic way?
The “blessings” of capitalism
- Large companies can spend money doing research and development which small concerns cannot do. For example, life-saving drugs and medical equipment.
- Competition hopefully keeps prices down so long as there are no price-fixing arrangements or cartels.
- The ability to take risks, which would be unacceptable for governments or non-profit organisations.
- Capitalism does produce wealth though the principal of the wealth “trickling down” is much disputed.
The “curses” of capitalism
- The quest for profit only benefits a few share-holders, not workers, consumers, or the community at large.
- Because capitalism requires continual economic growth, it will inevitably deplete the finite natural resources of the Earth.
- Where they exist, monopolies stifle competition and maximise prices
- Capitalism tends to promote inequality, widening the gap between rich and poor.
- Capitalism benefits from high unemployment to keep wages low and this can be a hidden political agenda.
- Slavery in its various forms is completely compatible with capitalism, and still exists in many countries of the world.
- Legal and illegal practises such as corruption, exploitation and violence are sometimes used to increase profitability at the expense of the society as a whole.
I once worked for a small company in which its founder stated, was “run for the benefits of its employees”. We became very profitable and I became a minor owner (15%). When the company was eventually taken over my share enabled me to set up a charity (Kingscare). So capitalism is not all bad!
But I am particularly concerned that national, and international, laws control the excesses of capitalism and protect the human race from those who would use capitalism to exploit and control. Without restraints, there is no reason why the wealth of the whole world should not be in the hands of a single person.
We need laws in place to;
- Prevent monopolies
- Stop price-fixing
- Abolish corruption
- Ensure workers earn a minimum living wage
- Encourage a system where there is work for everyone who is able.
- Prevent needless exploitation of the world’s resources
- Prevent companies moving money and profits around to avoid paying fair taxes
- Ensure a free labour market
- Prevent child labour and unfree labor (slaves, prisoners, etc.)
A better way
Many people yearn for a world where the earth’s resources are used for the benefit of all of its inhabitants. The alternative to greed, selfishness and envy is love, compassion, justice and righteousness. As individuals we can use what influence we have to bring a climate of love and justice into our relationships with employees, colleagues, neighbours and politicians.
I may be a dreamer, an optimist or an idealist, but I believe that ultimately the values of the Kingdom of God will hold sway on earth. As that becomes true, there will be no more poverty, no more famine, and peace will saturate the earth and people’s dealing with each other. There is no power stronger than love. LOVE WINS!
- A fairer distribution of wealth (georgedowdell.org)
6 thoughts on “Capitalism – Curse or Blessing”
I think we need to look at the pros and cons more realistically….Communism not only ‘failed to deliver’ – communist governments murdered and starved millions of people, impoverished a whole generation and repressed and tortured dissenters on a vast scale. Communism is form of government based not on envy but on the idea that men can govern themselves based on their own thoughts and it rejects God’s laws and standards (themselves based on the individual value on humans in creation). And since humans are sinful, the result was and is a disaster.
Capitalism is a system for moving money around to maximise investment and productivity and is not a form of government, though many governments support it. So communism vs capitalism is bit like comparing apples with cheese. Capitlism provides some benefits which you outline but because men are sinful those benefits can easily get bent into poverty and repression. A benefit of Capitalism I would add is that it is usually associated with more or less ‘free’ societies where individuals can think and do, develop and fail as they wish – and this gives an opportunity for preachers to bring truth (and error) and therefore the possibility of hearing from God.
The OT Biblical plan seems to be a free market system (perhaps even capitalistic though this is less obvious in a mainly agrarian context with family land holdings) but with strict controls to prevent inequality and repression. So I agree with many of your conclusions that we need laws to limit evil. Of course, the Kingdom of God is what I yearn for as well.
I would broadly agree with you although I think we need to be careful to distinguish the ways in which we limit the harm done by the sinful character of a fallen world and what we hope for from God’s kingdom. I wrote something on this back in April http://loveswork.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/on-being-anti-anti-capitalist/
George, this is very well written and condenses a complex topic into simplest terms. I define myself as a fiscally conservative, socially progressive person. I am a business person, but also a volunteer to help those in need. I want to help people climb a ladder. I provide that context, as I firmly believe “unfettered capitalism” is not the answer. Capitalism must have some governors to keep things fair and not permit the misuse of resources. The “haves” take advantage of the “have nots.” It has always been this way and no matter what the economic governance systems, always will be. What the unfettered capitalism crowd lose sight of is there are certain investments that must be made by a central authority, either in concert or in lieu of private investment – infrastructure, e.g. There is a book I advocate all leaders read in the US by Thomas Friedman (author of “The World is Flat” and Michael Mandelbaum called “That Used to be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How it can Come Back.” So, I advocate “fettered capitalism” and private/ public investment where it makes sense. Thanks for sharing, BTG
Thanks btg5885. I always find your comments very helpful and encouraging.
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