I believe that capitalism is the most efficient economic system. Check that – I believe capitalism is the most efficient workable system. Just as a dictatorship is the most efficient form of government, a centrally planned economy is the most efficient economic system. The problem, of course, is that in order for a centrally planned economy to work the planning has to be perfect. We’ve seen planned economies fall flat on their faces over and over again. A market based system has feedback loops in it that planned economies either don’t have or quickly lose. (Dictatorships have the same problem.)
This does not mean that I endorse laissez-faire capitalism, with unregulated markets and no limitations on the production of wealth. A totally free market has neither morals nor ethics. Ayn Rand, the guiding light for many conservatives including Alan Greenspan and Representative Paul Ryan, believed that this is as it should be. She advocated ethical egoism, which can be simplified as each individual doing what is in his/her own self-interest — not enlightened self-interest, but pure self-interest. She opposed altruism.
That’s where I start to back away from unbridled capitalism. I don’t want an economic system that has neither morals nor ethics. Greed is good, but not when it demands what to me is unconscionable. Here is a very short list of what greed has led to:
- Child labor
- Hunting of animals and plants to extinction
- Pollution of drinking water
- Lead in gasoline (the dangers were well-known before they started doing it)
- Adulteration of flour with sawdust, and wine with ethylene glycol
- Substandard construction materials
- Counterfeit medications
- The Triangle fire
- The worst of the Irish “Great Famine”
If you think that these things should be permissible when market forces make them profitable, then I hope you find your unregulated utopia — and I hope you find it far away from me.
are these by products you list really a product of capiyalism or the people in it…
I don’t think you can make a distinction. Unless you have two separate economies, everyone has to play by the same rules. In this country there are regulatory and tax policies that don’t apply to everyone equally; that’s why our system is not the pure capitalism envisioned by Ayn Rand and her adherents.
For example, the most “equal” tax is a poll tax: each person, regardless of income, pays the same amount. The poorest person pays $1000; the richest person pays $1000; and everyone in between pays $1000. That’s as flat as you can get, but is it fair? Remember that laissez-faire capitalism has no truck with morality or ethics, so it equates “fair” with “equal.” If you can’t afford that $1000, you forfeit your membership in our society (your citizenship). A poll tax was used in just that way to remove the voting rights of the (mostly black) poor.
The regulatory and tax policies that I alluded to are based on the idea that “fair” is //not// the same thing as “equal.” That’s why we have a progressive income tax, as well as many taxes (such as a sales tax) that are not progressive. Those non-progressive taxes are generally considered “regressive”, because like the poll tax I described above they place a greater burden on the poor.
On the regulatory side we have things like anti-pollution laws. Suppose that it is profitable for an individual or corporation to buy the land upstream from your water supply and start a mine. If the runoff from that mine poisons your well, and your children die, without regulation you would have the right to sue and the mining company would have the right to defend itself.
Pre-emptive regulations are intended to put the burden on the mining company to demonstrate that they will not, in fact, poison your well. Without such regulations, you’d be presenting your childrens’ autopsies as exhibits. Knock yourself out.