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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:

  • Slavery
  • 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.