Is capitalism too messy and unfair for America?


“The capitalist has but one dominating motive, the production and sale of goods. The race or color of the producer counts but little…. The capitalist stands for an open shop which gives to every man the unhindered right to work according to his ability and skill.  In this proposition the capitalist and the (man of color) are as one,”–Scientist Kelly Miller.{1}

The beauty of capitalism, in other words, is that in its finest form all of its citizens have an equal opportunity to achieve and succeed.  A person of any given race, gender, and religion has as much chance to succeed in it as any other citizen in a capitalist country.  Do some individuals have a greater advantage in the game, due to some unfair aspects of life like nepotism, they do, but the more a country progresses towards pure capitalism the greater the number of opportunities exists for success.

If you provide your customers a service or product that they want, in the capitalist system, you receive a reward for your services.  You can then take that reward (money) and reward another person who provides quality products or services.  It’s a form of government that some consider very clean and very point blank.  Others consider it an extremely messy and unfair form of government.

It is this messiness, and purported unfairness, that has caused capitalism to be politically unpalatable to many of our current politicians.  The idea that capitalism is messy is based on the fact that while there are numerous opportunities to succeed in a capitalist system, there are also many ways to fail.  The political slogan “some may fail while others may succeed in my administration” would not play well in our current, and increasingly, progressive society, and it may not even play well in the current, most capitalist country in the world Germany.  If one were to believe the import of Kelly Miller’s message, however, capitalism may be a method for ending all the hateful –isms of a given society, and if our leaders truly wanted to end the hateful –isms—as opposed to dividing and conquering us—they would pursue Miller’s formula for a more equal, a more successful and a more harmonious society.  As some have said, however, we are in the straits we’re in today because this is the society that the leaders we elected want.

Capitalism, as spelled out above, rewards achievement and hard work, but it can also be fickle and messy, and its perception can be easily manipulated.  An individual can work their tails off and still fail in a capitalist society, and most people do not handle such personal failure well.  They take failure so personally, in fact, that they develop scapegoats.  Most people do not look in the mirror and say, “I probably didn’t work as hard as I could have, or I may not have put together a sufficient business plan for success.  I’ll do better next time.”  Most people look to extraneous forces that they believe caused their failure, and psychologists state that that mentality is actually more conducive to mental health than dwelling on failure so much that it leads to clinical depression.  It may be better for an individual, in that sense, but does such scapegoating lead to a healthy culture, and does it only leave the individual more vulnerable to a demagogic candidate that promises to make things “more fair” to give you “more opportunity” to succeed, so that your chances of failure decrease the next time out?

Capitalism is messy.  It doesn’t provide much security, say some demagogic politicians, and there are far too many of life’s losers in capitalism.  In other words, there are also far too many variables that a politician cannot control in capitalism.  Capitalism may provide, as Martin says, “Every man the unhindered right to work according to his ability and skill,” but what of the man has no ability, no drive, and few skills?  We’ve all heard politicians make such anecdotal arguments when they’ve insisted that capitalism should be made fairer, but how far do we follow them down this road?  How much fairness is fair, in other words, and when do we reach a point where we cede total control of the fairness levers to a group of politicians?  If we ever reach that point, and some would argue it’s already here, or near, what happens when that group of politicians arbitrarily sets the levels at points that please us, but keeps the recipients at a level so low that they remain dependent?  No one thinks that their favorite politician would do such a thing, but those people need to ask themselves why there is still such a high level of poverty nearly forty years after the war on poverty attempted to manipulate the levels?

Capitalism, in all of its messy glory, is the cure.  Putting an individual in charge of his own opportunities, and levels of fairness, has proven to achieve greater historical results in both opportunity and fairness.  Yet, it doesn’t care about you, it cannot feel your pain, and it won’t bite its lip when you reveal your testimonial.  Most people want someone to appeal to them, and capitalism has proven that it won’t tuck anyone in at night.  Most people don’t want to take the chances capitalism offers, they want security.  They would much rather cede control of their lives to a charismatic leader that appears to care more about them, and their children, and their daily lives, for leaders promise a greater sense of security than the merit-based capitalism does.

Collectivist leaders play on these insecurities, and they inform their groups that capitalism has not been as fair to them as it has been to other groups.  They seek to break the populous down to ethnicity, race, and gender based teams of people, and the leader appeals to these groups in a manner that leads them to believe that only the collectivist leader can resolve society’s unfairness.  If that doesn’t work, they bring up the group’s insecurities—under the guise of being real with them—and then they set the stage for a resolution that only someone who truly understands their plight can apply.

This divide and conquer strategy, employed by collectivist leaders, may be more pernicious and detrimental to a society than a member of a racist group of individuals in that their message comes from a well-respected and highly educated member of a society.  An irrational individual, with a pernicious team mentality, that shouts his divide and conquer strategies from a street corner can be ignored or dismissed by wide swaths of people, but an irrational leader can generate enough division to bring a community to the brink of destruction that only they can prevent…if they want to, and they usually don’t want to because that will break the dependency cycle that they’ve worked so hard to create for their election and their party’s future elections for decades to come.

{1} http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_Miller_(scientist)

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