My Response to the Problem With Capitalism

I was on FB this morning and I saw an article from Fast Company entitled “Are you Ready to Consider that Capitalism is the Real Problem?” I read the article. I scrolled through the comments. One commenter said

just ask yourself. what gives you more freedom? capitalism or communism?

This evoked an emotion. I started writing and didn’t stop for a while, so the writing turned into this Medium article. Here is my response to that comment.

My Response

Imagine this was an argument about ice cream. Someone says “Chocolate is bad for you!” … and someone else says “Vanilla is bad for you!” And your response is “Chocolate gives you the most sugar.” Well, yes, but that actually doesn’t mean anything. Sugar coupled with bad lifestyle choices is still a bad lifestyle choice. I’ll take strawberry please.

The concept that there are only two ways to run an economy is mired in McCarthy era rhetoric and propaganda. The fact is there are a lot of improvements that could be made to our capitalist system that would drastically improve the quality of life of everyone involved. The problem is that those same policies would hurt large corporations. Corporations would still survive, of course, but they would be significantly less profitable.

I think a big part of the problem is how we measure economic “success”.

If I measure economic “success” by the average income, I can have 1 person with an income of $1 trillion dollars and 1 million people with an income of $1 and still have an average income of $1 million, which sounds great except almost everyone is starving.

If I measure economic “success” by how well corporations are doing, maybe all of my corporations are making money … but they’re doing this by driving down costs through reduced pay. In this situation, corporations are flourishing but people continue to get paid less.

If I measure economic “success” by the number of people on unemployment, which is time-limited, then if everyone is jobless for a long enough period, their unemployment benefits will end and I will hit 0% unemployment. Except everyone is actually unemployed.

Such statistics generally don’t give you a good picture of the economy and, yet, each of the above situations are and have been used in the past to view the success of our capitalist system. But really, we are in a mild form of the ironic conclusion of each of these cases: billionaires make up a disproportionately small percentage of the population controlling a lot of wealth; corporations have limited minimum wages and wages in general, which are not growing proportionately to cost-of-living; and our unemployment reports are a joke because they don’t measure the most important thing … how many people are making enough to save sufficient money for their future.

In reality, the commodity we were meant to measure is happiness. How happy are people with their lives. Given the increasing state of unrest in the US, I would say generally not happy. I think when capitalism was first thought about, an indirect correlation was made between money and happiness. But, in fact, we know from experience that the there is very little causal relationship between money and happiness. There are poor people who are very happy and there are wealthy people who are miserable.

Capitalism produces a culture of distraction. If I have money, I can buy things to distract me from my unhappiness. That’s not to say that “things” are bad. They aren’t. Things can be tools to allow us to accomplish our dreams, which bring us joy. But to equate money with those dreams is a stretch of logic. And this culture of distraction is actually taking over. It’s not too difficult to witness the increased, mindless consumption in America … and the increased depression and rage.

We need to consider an economic system that focuses on and encourages what’s truly important in life: individual and social happiness. Because it is very clear to me that the dollar is never going to buy that.

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