Another defense of capitalism

A friend of mine recently commented on Facebook:

Capitalism looks at developing countries in the same way that Britian looked at colonized countries. They were places to steal resources from. The bible tells us “not to show favoritism” and to consider the least as equal with the greatest. Here in America we waste so much we have to take other’s portion.

Since conservatives believe in not spending more than we have capital for, I wonder if they will submit that same ideology to natural resources? Only use what you can produce.

My reply:

Capitalism does not look anywhere and the reality is that while some companies have unfortunately decided to exploit the resources (which includes human capital) of other nations such a practice is not in accord with traditional capitalism because it is not sustainable in the long term.

Conversely, it is remarkable that if given the choice nations unilaterally turn to capitalism as the exclusive economic system for pulling themselves out of poverty. Take India, China, Russia, etc. as examples and contrast this with the corrupt practices found in many African nations where it is not capitalism that is at fault but the corrupt governments that do not allow free trade.

Further, conservatives who believe in spending more than we have capital for are, by definition not conservatives.

And finally, the whole concept of “use only what you can produce” is a red herring simply because in an economic system. Particularly a free-market economic system demand regulates and drives supply and supply is determined by degree of scarcity of resources. All that to say that the whole concept of “raping the environment” by taking more than we need is, by definition, false.

Simply put, supply and demand subjugates no one. Economic forces in a free-market capitalistic system harm no one.

Faulty businesses can and do harm people but markets and governments are responsible for keeping them in check. Likewise markets (consumers, aka us) and governments also play a big role in the whole free market system.

However, at the end of the day we are not dealing with a zero-sum game where if i make a dollar you loose a dollar. One of the beauties of a free market system is that everyone wins because everyone is getting something they desire.

Law of supply and demand does wonders. If the price of water/gas were to rise in proportion to the degree of scarcity that people claim then demand would necessarily be diminished in direct proportion to the corresponding rise in price.

To me:

I don’t think we are against PROPER use of resources, but in America, we want to drive gas guzzlers as long as we can pay for them, not understanding the excess consumption of gas bleeds the overall resource pool down for everyone. We want to water our lawns and wash our cars as long as we “pay the bill” not thinking that the water pool for our neighbors shrinks also. So we over consume and have to buy from the middle east. We almost run out of water here in the ATL, but we cry about our dirty cars and whine about our brown lawns.

It is a mindset that we our superior, and as long as we have the money, we make the rules. It is an anti-Christ mindset. We use more than we produce.

How can you square over cumsumption with a conservative philosphy?

My response:

As for the supposed anti-Christ mindset of “we have the money, we make the rules” I would like to point out that the Bible clearly states that A.) the borrower is a slave to the lender B.) economic systems that are based more on money simply changing hands (usury, interest, etc.) are heavily discouraged in Scripture C.) a hallmark of a free market system is the freedom of both parties such that neither party is forced to do business with the other.

As to your question of how I would square “over consumption” with my view on conservatism I would simply say that I do not believe there is such a thing as “over consumption” in the sense that we produce/consume too much in terms of raw economic output or input. Now individually you might be able to make that case in certain circumstances but I fear a big problem that comes into play when discussing an economic system is that too often people fall into the trap of defining the system (universal) by it’s individual parts/players (particulars).

For anyone who is wondering, I consider capitalism to be the best economic system we’ve come up with simply because it does the best job of accounting for human depravity and is the most fair when it comes to the unequal distribution of scare┬áresources. In sum, it is built and based on freedom which is a principle that finds it’s root in God’s own character.

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One response to “Another defense of capitalism

  1. I think there might be a difference between how each of you are thinking about capitalism–you thinking about it as strictly an economic system and your friend thinking of it as more of a worldview or complete social system.

    A good book on this topic is Amintore Fanfani's Catholicism, Protestantism and Capitalism, in which he argues that capitalism is a way of life that requires a certain spiritual orientation rather than just a system for organizing labor. As such, he sees the Catholic and capitalistic conceptions of life irreconcilable, and the Reformation as the watershed that allowed the capitalistic worldview to become dominant.

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