In the wake of Thomas Piketty’s recent leftist drivel on why capitalism doesn’t work, every serious economist has torn so many holes in the argument that sieve, Titanic and Swiss cheese references are almost an understatement at this point. But instead of tearing to ribbons a theory that requires so many assumptions and denials of reality you might as well assume that the economy runs on rainbows and unicorns (see here, here, and here)…really all he is doing is dressing up the liberal fallacy of a zero sum game in fancy clothes to make it look like it’s not exactly what it is. I thought I would rather point out the basic complaints against capitalism are so baseless and beyond preposterous that only liberals even entertain them.
One of the core complaints against capitalism is that it relies on exploitation. That capitalism only works by the rich and powerful exploiting the lower classes. In fact this is the central argument against capitalism. People are hurting or can’t get jobs because the corporations and the politically connected are keeping them down. Minorities are kept down because they need to be used as expendable labor. The third world suffers because capitalism exploits their resources and people. On and on and on, the left relates every problem to a central claim that Group X is exploited because of capitalism.
But there are two main reasons why this is wrong. The first is that maybe 1 time out of a 1000 are the examples of the exploitation that are pointed to the fault of capitalism. The problem with dealing with humans is that they’re never perfect. The second is that, I’ll agree there are examples of exploitation in capitalism…but they are the exception…as opposed to the three headed monsters that is socialism, communism, and fascism where anything other than exploitation is the rule.
So let’s deal with the common claims of exploitation first. Big businesses are colluding with government to get our tax dollars in bailouts, and keep from having to deal with competition through new regulations that benefit only them. Okay fair point, not the only cause of economic sluggishness (you might want to look at things like tax policy, union monopolies, and over regulation of requiring to get stupid licenses to do even basic jobs as a start) but it’s certainly a contributing factor. And yes these companies and the government are exploiting people by making them pay both for products and/or services which competition has all but prevented and to pay for the bailout of the bad policies that these companies traffic in…but this isn’t capitalism. Capitalism says the government should not have control over the economy, which means no bailout, no regulation preventing competition, no protecting cronies, no picking winners and losers. Laissez Faire. What you’re seeing here is socialism in earliest stages where the lines between the government and business begin to blur. Have Republicans in some cases helped this ridiculous system? Yes. But that only shows that Republicans can be terrible at defending the tenets of capitalism, not that capitalism has failed. When socialism hurts people you don’t get to blame capitalism.
Same goes with the complaints that capitalism exploits minorities…minority middle classes were growing in the United States up until LBJ put the New Deal in place, and it was government provided education that has failed minority students, not the private sector. And how about when not here in America?. Greece is such a mess not because it embraced capitalism and economic freedom but because out of 178 nations it comes in as the 119th most economically free nation (http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking). The same goes for the third world, if you look closely the nations which are still considered to be third world they haven’t adopted capitalism and the ones that are no longer considered third world (or at least have made major strides forward) are the ones that have embraced capitalism. On any large scale where you find exploitation you find a place where property rights are not respected, where government is not limited, where rule of law is arbitrary, and where the line between government and business is murky at best—in short a place where capitalism doesn’t thrive. So please liberals give me one major example of exploitation that doesn’t involve socialism, communism or fascism (not that there is really a difference other than PR when it comes to those three).
But I will admit there is exploitation on smaller scales in capitalism. The person who is sold a defective product, the employee who slaves for their employer but is never given a raise, the company that contracts for a job and then doesn’t deliver. Arguably all forms of one person or group taking advantage of another…of course under capitalism and the rule of law you always have the ability to seek compensation through the courts or simply go to a different provider. So while as with anytime you look at the actions of millions of people interacting with millions of people you will find examples of some people thinking they can exploit others, it is not the fault of the economic system. That’s called human nature, and capitalism doesn’t claim to change that… (but it does allow for the market to respond and correct)
…but what about places where capitalism doesn’t exist?
Well we already went over liberal’s favorite example and those all seem to be due to a lack of capitalism, but let’s look on an even bigger scale. What happens when you have the government controlling the economy on a scale larger than the one you see in America right now? You see places like China and North Korea where forced labor camps are just a part of their economy. You see places like Europe which in the most socialist countries people are suffering a slow downward spiral from stagnation and decay to complete desolation. Even in comparatively free nations like Britain you see the middle class sapped dry of the wealth they earn to pay for welfare programs and any attempt to make these programs in small ways solvent results in rioting and chaos (leaving the middle class only the option of how they want their wealth taken from them). You see the child soldiers and slavery still rampant throughout Africa. You see the repression of Argentina and Venezuela…and of course, we have Russia. Oh let’s just forget about Putin’s modern insanity for a moment and take a look back through history and see what the complete lack of capitalism that Soviet Russia tried to spread the world over. The Black Book Of Communism with a conservative estimate puts the death total of communism at over 100 million people killed by communism (kind of the ultimate in exploitation) and everyone who lived lived in slavery to the state…yes Russia may be heading back to this, but not because it was a better life, they are sinking back only because for some people living in chains and not being the one responsible for your own misery or happiness is easier than the hardship of the pursuit of happiness.
It wasn’t capitalism that marched six million people into ovens, it was National Socialism. It wasn’t capitalism that created the killing fields of Cambodia, it was communism. It wasn’t capitalism that has caused any of the miseries and major acts of exploitation of the last century. No that is ALWAYS socialism, because socialism says that the individual is merely a cog in a machine to create “the greater good” and anyone can be used to achieve that end, exploited in any way, so long as “the greater good” is the reason (it doesn’t matter if that greater good, as always determined by those few in power, is achieved or not, only that we claim we are moving toward it). Socialism is the definition of exploitation in theory where everyone is to be exploited for the greater good and in practice where everyone is exploited for the few in power.
It is only capitalism that allows people to treat their lives as theirs, as the end in and of itself that it is, and to seek remedies both personal and legal when others do attempt to exploit them.
So liberals, please, next time you talk about how exploitative capitalism is, take a moment to look at whether or not what you’re bitching about is capitalism (it almost certainly isn’t) and whether your beloved progressive socialist reforms would lessen that exploitation (they never will).
Happy May Day.