Like all ideas, capitalism itself is neither good nor bad. It’s just an idea — a foundational notion of how a society might live, using capital as a motivator for innovation. Capitalism, by its nature, looks to the future. It depends on tomorrow being better than today — it needs new ideas, new inventions, new ways of doing things constantly churning in order to succeed. Money chases ideas because a good idea can make someone rich but also benefit a wide swath of humanity because capitalism has also innovated how to mass produce, market and distribute that good idea.
The trick, as always, is who is at the helm of the idea. Who’s driving it?
Capitalism plus greed — unfortunately the easiest combination of all — produces chaos and corruption and blight. Greed — the compulsive getting of money (or anything) for its own sake — though it seems to run alongside capitalism — actually is an impediment to it. Greed kills innovation. It’s rarely the greedy people who do any of the actual innovating. But damn if they’re not first in line when the money starts flowing. And damn if they don’t refuse to budge when it happens.
We associate capitalism with conservatism — the getting of huge piles of money seems like something old people, landed people, already-wealthy people, greedy people would associate with happiness. But conservatism never thinks about the future. Conservatism wants to conserve — just like it’s name says. It wants to conserve the past (what else?) and the present (because the present still contains elements of the past). Innovation poses a direct threat to that way of thinking. How could it not? Innovation innovates because it sees problems in how we do things now. How can we improve upon past ways? How can change them?
See the problem for conservatives?
The truth is, capitalism and progressivism have far more common purpose than capitalism and conservatism. Crony capitalism is greed perverting markets. It isn’t actually a form of capitalism, it’s a distortion of it.
The more fair capitalism is, the better it is — because it gives more people the chance to both innovate and benefit. That means regulating it. Over-regulation can stifle capitalism as much as corruption does — there is a fine balance. Ain’t nothing perfect in this world — not if humans are involved. Let’s stop thinking it exists.
Social democracies resting upon the Rule Of law (so that everyone is indeed treated equally before the law) and a reasonably regulated capitalism would give more people the chance to live better, happier, healthier lives.
Regulated capitalism puts more money into peoples’ hands. When more people have money — a healthy, functioning middle class — they spend that money on goods and services — the basis for a consumer driven market economy. They may even save a buck or two. Our version of capitalism here in America hasn’t done that. As we know — it’s done the opposite. The rich have gotten way richer, the poor can’t even afford to go to a hospital if they have Covid-19.
And — ironically? That fact is what makes the pandemic so much worse here in America. Our health system is a giant billboard advertising everything wrong with crony capitalism. It’s not a health CARE system, it’s a health INSURANCE system. The first question we ask anyone walking in the door isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” That’s wrong every which way you look at it.
Think of all the people who lose their houses, go bankrupt, destroy their family’s finances for generations all because they got sick. That doesn’t happen anywhere else but here. It’s because capitalism sits inside our health “care” system — where it does not belong. Capitalism can innovate myriad ways to do health CARE better, more efficiently, more effectively.
That’s if we use capitalism — this idea — as a tool. To help as many human beings around the globe as possible. Capitalism has been good for mankind. It has made life better for us as a species. We’ve prospered under it. That’s just historical fact speaking.
It’s caused profound misery too.
But — if we’re fair — little of that was capitalism’s fault.