The Defense and Indictment of Capitalism: Individualism, Opportunity, and Greatness through the Individual
#GTIdeology Rejoinder to June 23 Happy Hour
It seems obvious to me that how we each define capitalism — a system of creating wealth? Or, a system that unjustly (not just unequally) distributes wealth? — dictates the conversations we have about it.
The thing is that it is both of those things. There is both plenty to defend and plenty to indict.
The Defense of Capitalism
One thing that is clear is this: Every member of a (mixed — capitalism is not a market economy, but a socio-economic political system built on a market mechanism, which is why it is irrational not to blame government as part of the problems with them, rather than the solution “to capitalism”) capitalist society lives at levels of wealth and physical comfort far above what the same amount of her or his labor invested would create on its own.
A human’s natural state, whether pre-historic, pre-capitalism, or simply at the moment of birth in a capitalist society is poverty. Wealth is created. And it is created by market exchange. Not only that but market exchange increases the return of wealth on each unit of our input in the market.
Capitalism is synergistic and we each benefit from it. In that regard Capitalism makes us each economically better off in an absolute way. That is true from the bum to the boardroom and no sane and informed argument denies it.
Meaningful arguments against capitalism are arguments about relative positions in the socio-economic political system. They are arguments 1) against corrupt and greedy politicians and business people conspiring against the market, which is against the value-creating individuals creating the wealth; and/or, 2) against the social hierarchy that governs opportunity in the system.
Those arguments are both about real and relevant issues. They demand an indictment of capitalism.
The Indictment of Capitalism
“The wealthy” are not a problem qua wealth. You are no worse off in your own life because another person is rich. Nor is it a problem that the number of rich continues to grow. Nor is it a problem that the middle class is shrinking because its members are moving into the “near rich” upper middle class.
Those are good things. It should be the natural consequence of participating in a wealth-creating system, that personal wealth is created.
But it is not.
The problem is that the middle class is shrinking because the lower-middle class is not moving up into its ranks. An even bigger problem is the nearly static existence of a poor underclass. Because participating in the vast wealth-creating system that is capitalism should create individual wealth, active participation in the capitalist system should leave none in poverty.
But it does.
That the poverty is a wealthier, higher standard of poverty than the same effort would produce outside of a capitalist system is not a defense, but an indictment.
The indictment is that opportunity is not available in the same ways and in the same measure to each individual.
Of course it is hard to become a billionaire. Even beginning from a privileged social position, some will try and fail. That makes perfect market sense — it is a monumental creation of wealth requiring a massive creation of value.
What does not make market sense is that it is comparably hard to simply move from the underclass to the middle class. By definition, that should require only average effort and ability. But of course, that is not the reality. What makes even less sense are those capable of creating the social and market value to become billionaires never afforded the opportunity to consider it.
The want of equal opportunity and expectation of results for those of similar skills, motivations, and ambition is immoral. What is outright wicked is that those marginalized individuals are exploited by the grift of greedy politicians and the rent-seeking behaviors of the stereotypical greedy capitalists that the grift creates.
That is the indictment of capitalism.
Individualism verses Greatness through the Individual
To “solve the capitalism conundrum” requires that we recognize both its defense and its indictment.
We must embrace both the fact that wealth is a good thing and that capitalism is the vehicle which creates it. And we must also admit that opportunity to participate in that wealth creation is not at all equal across society.
Of course, an individual can lift her or himself out of generational poverty in a capitalist system. But it is a rank notion of individualism.
It assumes being born into that position and the substantial effort required to escape it as a prerequisite to accessing social opportunity is somehow just. It ignores the lack of such “rugged individualism” necessary of those born to affluence to access opportunity. It manifests as the notion that the underclass lacking it have none to blame but themselves.
It is a notion of individualism willing to demean, devalue, and exploit the individual, to assert that I matter more than others and can use and misuse them to my advantage. That is not Greatness through the Individual.
Greatness through the Individual identifies and encourages the value of each individual. And it recognizes what the noxious individualism denies. Capitalism is synergistic exactly because it is cooperative.
The choice is a moral one.
Where its cooperative nature is denied, the avaricious use capitalism to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Where it is embraced, the organization becomes a bastion of opportunity in society.
I intend the Skolny Organization to be that bastion. Not to merely create jobs but to create individual profit, wealth, and opportunity. That is Greatness through the Individual.
About Vince Skolny
Vince Skolny is currently launching the Skolny Organization, a family of for-profit companies, on his radical idea that greatness is only created through the Individual, with the essential purpose of impacting the world by creating and encouraging greatness through the Individual in business, life, and society.
Pronounced G-T-Ideology and comprising “7 Radical Ideas to Impact the World,” the Skolny Organization’s GTIdeology is a comprehensive ideology for business rooted in Vince’s philosophy of Greatness through the Individual.
Connecting with Vince
The very best way to connect with Vince is by hanging out with him on Twitter, where he talks about everything from marketing to March Madness, greatness through the Individual, current events, organizational development, and trending hashtags. He is unvarnished, unfiltered, and quite often unprofessional there, but Vince loves to tweet.
Follow Vince on LinkedIn to discuss the GTIdeology and its practical applications for business and careers in more detail. He posts both a Greatness in Your Career article and a GTIdeology RX article focusing on practical implementation of the GTIdeology every week. He also posts several updates every day on the GTIdeology and various tactical aspects of business.
Like Vince’s fledgling Facebook page, where he publishes daily lists, tips, hacks, and challenges for creating Greatness through the Individual and intends to build a thriving community of individuals striving to create and encourage it in their own lives, business, and society.