CRITIQUE OF CAPITALISM
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY was dominated by two opposing ideologies: communism and capitalism. Mrs.Thatcher, one of the great apostles of capitalism, claimed, “There is no alternative.” He shows that not only is capitalism incapable of solving the problems of humanity, but in fact hunger, pollution, the breakdown of social fabric, human unhappiness and many other problems are caused by capitalism. In his view there is no such thing as good capitalism or compassionate capitalism or capitalism with a human face. Without beating about the bush he states that capitalism is bad, bad, bad! Sir John comes from a capitalist background, and is a coach for many business leaders. All past efforts towards a free-market economy, world trade, globalisation, industrialisation, the pursuit of high living standards, unlimited economic growth and every other form of capitalist endeavour have benefited only a small minority; the big players. As far as the vast majority of people around the world are concerned, capitalism has brought loss of livelihood and destruction of their environment. Even more drastically capitalism has failed in terms of the natural environment. Capitalism is rapidly destroying soil fertility, biodiversity and the atmosphere. So capitalism founded on the ideology of unlimited economic growth and industrialised mass production is not only unsustainable – it is blatantly harmful. Now, if neither socialism nor communism nor capitalism, then what? We need a new system for the age of ecology, a system which is embedded in the care of all people and also in the care of the Earth and all life upon it. We need a system which replaces our capitalist worldview with a naturalist worldview, and which shifts our society from capitalism to ‘naturalism’.
Why “Compassionate Capitalism” is kind of a scam. What if a new brand spoke to the consumer’s unique personal style, home decor, and ethos? Henry sets out to start this brand, “Flush,” and opens a store next to the old one, offering rolls in hundreds of different stylish prints. In order to make the switch a no-brainer for the consumer, Flush sells its rolls for a dollar, too. Of course, Flush will heavily promote its charitable business model to consumers. The new store is an unqualified hit! You and every other customer of the old store switch to Flush. After five years of this, a major paper company buys Flush for $20 Million, all of which goes to Hygiene since he owns the entire business. The philosopher Slavoj Zizek and others have persuasively critiqued these partially-charitable business models for falsely exonerating consumers from their participation in global inequality. What’s less acceptable to me is that models of “Compassionate capitalism” very likely produce more value by selling the suffering of their ostensible beneficiaries than the value they pass on to them. Returning to our Flush example, it’s clear that Henry Hygiene is offering consumers at least two good reasons to buy his product: 1) it’s stylish and 2) five cents of each sale go to poor kids. A hundred percent of all incremental value created for a business by charitable business models should be donated. There is a simple solution for compassionate capitalists: don’t advertise a charitable model. Do you agree that “Compassionate capitalism” is bogus? Or are you happy that poor kids benefit every time you buy shoes from Tom’s or specs from Warby Parker? And should Mother Teresa buy any car she damn well pleases? Weigh in below, and let’s settle the matter once and for all.
Practical Christian Finances
How best can we protect the well being of the disadvantaged under free market capitalism, without supporting some social policies? Harmony and prosperity sounds lovely but it’s not easy to adequately opportune all participants. The major problems with free market capitalism are greed and lack of integrity, as well as governmental intrusion, not the Biblically based principles of capitalism. We have already spoken extensively in these blogs about greed so let’s talk about the government’s role. Can governments be trusted to take care of the poor? Their track record is not good. Consider the Roman government into which the Christian church was born and prospered. Plato’s statement, “a poor man should be left to die if he could no longer work,” was symptomatic of the societal and governmental thought of the day. Those in government feel they are the best at taking care of the poor; better than the churches, private individuals and private organizations. The problem with government programs that help the poor is that they tend to keep the poor “Poor”, if I can say it like that; and sadly, dependent on the government. Wealth is such a powerful factor in public health that study authors reported that in a single year, more than “Half a million child deaths in the developing world” were attributable to the poor economic performance of the previous decade. So yesgovernments have a role to care for the poor, but they will never lift the poor out of poverty. They now give close to $3 billion annually to help the poor with public health around the world. So one private foundation is giving a third of what the entire US government is giving and with a “Business savvy” attention to results that cannot be matched in the government sector.