Sunday, March 20, 2011

ZenTiger Capitalism is not a moral framework

Clint Heine advances some interesting thoughts around Capitalism in two posts which he attacks Lucia Maria, and to a lesser extent, NZC bloggers for imagined crimes (covered here).

It's those thoughts on capitalism though that I thought worth discussing further. Clint makes these two claims about capitalism:

1. a fundamental part of capitalism is equality.

2. Capitalists believe in equality and fairness.

Now capitalism means many things to many people, and this might be why the conversation gets off track, but I think I'm fairly safe if we agree the core tenets of Capitalism is that (a) it is an economic system and (b) the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit. The profit goes to the business owners, and wages are paid to the workers in exchange for their labour.

Clearly, at first glance you can see that Capitalists have no intrinsic reason to believe in fairness and equality. I'd suggest capitalism is more about competition, reward for work for skilled workers, and reward for owners who risk capital.

Capitalism isn't designed to advance equality or fairness. These are, at best side effects of the economic production using capitalism as it's underlying base. Those side effects are hotly contested.

The Marxists and Socialists (the left) define fairness along the lines of everyone getting the same money, regardless of skill or level of investment.

The Right might see fairness as being rewarded for effort. The right loosely see equality of opportunity as more important than equality of outcome, whereas the left look for equality in the outcomes.

Western economies have a huge variation between the richest and the poorest, but the entire population as a whole generally has a better lot in life than the third world economies, so the arguments continue.

However, when all is said and done, capitalism is not a moral framework. It is capable of great exploitation, and ownership of the means of production arguably carries far too great a benefit compared to the workers that are instrumental in producing it. There are many counterweights to these arguments, both for and against but I submit that whatever Clint is suggesting about capitalists is far too simplistic, and thus, ends up being wrong.

Marxists see the entire world through the prism of capitalist economies, and they wait with bated breath for the eventual collapse of capitalist societies so workers can rise up, kill off the bourgeoisie and owners and establish a utopian society where the State owns the resources and the workers share the profits.

A capitalist who looks in from the other direction is no better.

When you begin to see the entire world as a battle between capitalism and communism, you move away from the essence of the human and the divine and economics becomes the main criteria for evaluating the human condition, and all sense of morality is lost. These are dangerous ideologies for that reason.

Personally, I like capitalism and I like property rights. I like that people can be rewarded for their efforts, even if that creates inequality. Inequality is a good thing in some situations - it creates competition and it requires people to take responsibility for their lives and gives them a reason to work hard, which is in turn provides a sense of fulfillment. However, unrestrained capitalism will remove equality of opportunity, and property rights become meaningless to the people that are denied property in the first place. This is why we need another dimension to our lives.

And where is Clint heading with this? I'm not sure, but for some reason, he wants to attack Lucia and the NZC by suggesting we are capitalists, and yet hypocrites for not believing in fairness. Well, fairness is a complex thing, and I'm not ready to be a marxist or a capitalist as both those stereotypes don't understand fairness in the full sense.

Yet, we can see a glimpse of the criteria in Clint's society:

If tax paying members of society are judged for their private activities that are perfectly legal

Why just "tax paying members"? I was wondering about that comment, and perhaps Clint will explain that to us? What do our readers think? Are capitalists all about fairness and equality?

3 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

Equality cannot exist as there is no standard to measure it by, and this is a crucial flaw of socialism. As you say, equality of opportunity is the best that may be achieved, and it is a criterion that allows for more or less objective interpretation. Something similar applies to fairness, again there is no standard to measure it. Equality before the law and consistent application and paramountcy of the rule of law (i.e. no man is above the law or is a law onto himself)is the best that can be achieved.
I have followed your joust with Clint and must say that I was quite surprised in his stance, as an almost fanatic ACT follower. Just goes to show that ACT is essentially a left wing party in drag. Pity really this nasty debate, as Clint seems quite a nice chap. Try and keep it civil I'd say.

Redbaiter said...

Great post Zen, but I doubt Clint will ever get it. He demonstrates all the characteristics of a brainwashed Progressive whose ability to think critically, or outside the bounds of the political framework his Marxist university professors built for him, is non-existent.

Equality and seeking it has become the holy grail of the left, but it is an idea most often used as the basis to impose inequality, and/or destructive ideals that don't ever stand up to the most gentle test of logic.

ZenTiger said...

Well, I certainly agree on the comments about equality, from both Bez and Red. The only thing I'd add to this, is that the State loves talking about inequality as some disease we have, because it requires an automatic increases the power of the State to arbitrate over such issues.

The more we, as a society seek equality (of outcome), the more power we hand to the State. That will eventually bite us.

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