Despite the loud and incessant warning of doomsayers predicting the demise of capitalism, I remain unshaken in my opinion that the system is not only preferable to any others but also the best suited for humankind. As the oldest economic system known to generate wealth in an ever growing world, it is therefore imprudent, if not naïve, to predict its demise or rather wish that it happens. Though not perfect capitalism has shown an ability to reinvent itself whenever the need arises, a transformative ability that permits the system to withstand the challenges of theoretically compassionate economic systems such as communism and socialism.
From a historical perspective one cannot accurately pinpoint the genesis of capitalism. Nonetheless, it is fair to assume that the system evolves from ownership of land in primitive agricultural societies in different parts of the ancient world e.g. Africa, Asia and Europe around 10.000 years ago. From this primitive beginning capitalism evolved into feudalism which opened the way for the industrial revolution and economic liberalism. Naturally it served as a catalyst for the creation of the modern-state, the all-powerful entity indispensible for social order. As such it has become all but impossible to dissociate from a philosophical viewpoint any rejection of capitalism with structural destruction of the state, even though the concept is utterly impractical.
What is unmistakable however is that with each transformation to accommodate the prevailing reality, larger number of individuals thrive and become an integral part of the system. This remains the clearest indication that capitalism works and the constants for its success reside in human psychological traits as opposed to ruthless machinations of capitalists. Accordingly, motivation, imagination, determination and aptitude among others, which unfortunately vary from one individual to another, determine one’s place in the system. The Astors, Duponts and Rockefellers’ ancestors were no doubt peasants in Medieval Europe; today however their descendants epitomize aristocracy in its purest form. The Gates family could not have imagined that one of their offsprings, William Henry “Bill” Gates III, would become the world’s richest man, yielding more influences on the global arena than most presidents, prime ministers and kings. Could anybody have foreseen that China, with its Confucian traditions, would in the 21st century surpass the economic might of the U.S, the exact timing is the subject of speculation, and become the standard-bearer of a new brand of capitalism?
This is irrefutable proof that capitalism is versatile and could not be considered the exclusive domain of particular individuals or nations for that matter. The system’s foremost weakness is incidentally not greed, an inherent human characteristic which has been unfairly attributed to it, but the tendency of its most ardent defenders to perceive social compassion as a mortal threat. The shortsightedness of these indomitable guardians of the orthodoxy is evident, for they need to look no further at the philanthropic works of successful capitalists to understand the nihilism behind their uncompromising perspective on social compassion. Are Bill Gates, Ted Turner and Warren Buffet, to name a few of the most famous philanthropists, socialist sympathizers? One could not possibly think so because these industry moguls are the fiercest competitors in their respective fields, yet, they see social compassion as an integral part of their success.
Were Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon undeclared opponents of capitalism or adepts of socialism, a derogatory terminology in American politic? Absolutely not, their respective reforms were instrumental in preserving the US capitalist system. Had the power of the rubber barons been left unchecked, the workers without a social net, millions of African-Americans without civil rights protection and the country’s resources at the mercy of aggressive industrialists, the U.S would certainly look different today. Teddy Roosevelt’s conservationist and corporate regulations policies, FDR’s New Deal, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and Richard Nixon’s overlooked administrative reforms no doubt saved the US from institutional socialism and populism. These were visionaries, who understood the system was not perfect and needed periodic adjustments, hence deserved a lot more credits than they were given for their efforts.
As keepers of social peace, governments do not have a moral obligation toward any particular group but rather a duty to harmonize the components of the system. What is needed is the retooling of the symbiosis between capitalism and governments that enables millions of individuals to move up the ladder of success. With uniformity in aspirations, impractical in every aspect of human relations, as its core principle, moral obligation should never form the basis for government policies. Alternatively, purists need to realize that government arbitration, meant to prevent or eliminate excesses, may be necessarily if capitalism is to survive the era of overpopulation, dwindling resources and economic uncertainties, which could bring back many failed concepts in their most creative and revamped forms.
Today capitalism is at a crossroads. Blue chip companies in the U.S have become loose chips and American entrepreneurial acumen seems to be stalling, creating a state of hysteria among the system’s most fervent supporters. Intrusive government regulations do indeed stifle entrepreneurship and, thus, constitutes a liability to the smooth operation of the system. Because the market’s self-corrective ability is a myth that has been debunked by Ponzi schemes, fraudulent accounting practices and other misdeeds, saving the system requires a balanced approach to government regulations and laissez-faire capitalism, as the former is essential to social peace while the latter remains indispensable to creating wealth.
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