In my last post, I gave a defense of capitalism against a common critique (it’s exploitive, it’s evil, etc.) but I didn’t really talk about what it is. Capitalism is what happens when people are free to make the most of what they have. People have skills, education, money, land, etc. and they want to use those things to better themselves. That’s capitalism. It is something that occurs naturally, it isn’t something you can legislate or put into action from on high. A government can do little but impede it. Capitalism is a “ground up” as opposed to a “top down” phenomena. Clearly, free trade is involved in this too, they are related, but not exactly the same thing.
Here’s the thing about capitalism, what it looks like will vary depending on what system it is in. What many people decry as capitalism is really the effect of being in a system where influence is being sold. There is a big difference between crony capitalism and free market capitalism. Here in the US, companies routinely get special breaks, incentives, and outright subsidies from the government. Strangely enough, people tend to get angry with the companies instead of the system that allows them, encourages them actually, to purchase that influence. Why get angry at the people asking when you cold get angry at the people selling the influence? Cronyism is a feature of a government with too much influence.
Capitalism happens regardless of what system is implemented in the government. The uglier the capitalism is, usually the stricter the government control of it is. The overall impact of capitalism will be better the more freedom there is. Black markets usually breed violence as they run up against government authority. With true free markets, violence just isn’t worth it. Free markets also allow people to improve themselves as they accumulate capital. That capital may be in the form of money and the things you can get with money, but often times it takes the form of improved skills. This is why easy entry into the job market is so crucial. Developing skills is the surest way to increase pay. If you have no skills, or very few, you are going to have to start at the low end of the pay scale. As you develop more skills, capitalism will allow you to parley them into better jobs. Having a large pool of skilled workers will allow countries’ overall wages to climb.
Capitalism is something that is done by individuals trying to make the most of what they have. INothing wrong with that. n my view, anything that tries to limit that is the true evil.