Sunday, May 31, 2009

Capitalism's Forgotten Moral Responsibility

Communists forgot that economies rest on individual choices. Forgetting that one simple truth left Communism relegated to the trash pile of socioeconomic theories.

In the United States, Capitalists gloated over Communism’s demise and spent the last two decades touting the power of individual choice and the wonders of economic freedom. And along the way, the Capitalists became forgetful, too.

Capitalism’s advocates have forgotten that no individual choice stands alone but rather stands in relationship to every other choice by every other person. Taken together, the individual choices that drive economies form communities. The freedom to attain wealth of immeasurable portion carries with it the moral obligation to address the needs of those who cannot succeed in a system in which success is the product of competition. At its heart, Capitalism produces great wealth, but it also produces an inherent economic disparity between those who thrive on competition and those who don’t.

The American economy moves on two trends. On one track, the trend is toward greater and greater efficiency, empowerment, and access. Yet the same things that promote those qualities – technology, information, and complexity – take the economy on a second trend toward exclusion of those with less skill, less ability, and limited access to education. The kind of Darwinian Capitalism promoted today would see no problem with grinding up those who cannot or will not pull themselves up to the required level of competition. That lack of moral imperative will be the end of our capitalist system.

In the 19th Century, pro-slavery advocates used state sovereignty arguments in an attempt to defend the immoral practice of slavery, and sacrificed the Tenth Amendment doing so. Segregationists of the 20th Century used a similar argument to defend the equally immoral American Apartheid, and sacrificed what remained of state sovereignty in that effort. Now, Darwinian Capitalists are sacrificing the remains of American Capitalism to defend their devotion to materialism. Capitalism can rouse itself to remember its moral obligation, or it can die. The liberty that grants to some the means of attaining great wealth comes at the price of caring for those who cannot, for whatever reason, exercise that liberty.