By Jeff Thomas,
Feature Writer for Doug Casey’s International Man and Strategic Wealth Preservation
Capitalism, whether praised or derided, is an economic system and ideology based on private ownership of the means of production and operation for profit.
Classical economics recognises capitalism as the most effective means by which an economy can thrive. Certainly, in 1776, Adam Smith made one of the best cases for capitalism in his book, “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” (known more commonly as “The Wealth of Nations”). But the term “capitalism” actually was first used to deride the ideology, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in “The Communist Manifesto”, in 1848.
In an odd twist, Mister Marx was related to the Rothschilds – the world’s foremost banking family, and received substantial funding from them to further the cause of socialism. (This makes sense, as collectivism requires centralization of the state, which in turn, requires centralised banking – the goal of the Rothschilds). However, this does suggest a certain hypocrisy on the part of Mister Marx.
Of course, whether Mister Marx was correct in his criticisms or not, he lived in an age when capitalism and a free market were essentially one and the same. Today, this is not the case. The capitalist system has been under attack for roughly 100 years, particularly in North America and the EU.
A tenet of capitalism is that, if it’s left alone, it will sort itself out and will serve virtually everyone well. Conversely, every effort to make the free market less free diminishes the very existence of capitalism, making it less able to function.
Today, we’re continually reminded that we live under a capitalist system and that it hasn’t worked. The middle class is disappearing and the cost of goods has become too high to be affordable. There are far more losers than winners and the greed of big business is destroying the economy.
This is what we repeatedly hear from left-leaning people and, in fact, they are correct. They then go on to label these troubles as by-products of capitalism and use this assumption to argue that capitalism should give way to socialism.
In this, however, they are decidedly wrong. These are the by-products of an increasing level of collectivism and fascism in the economy. In actual, fact, few, if any of these people have ever lived in a capitalist (free-market) society, as it has been legislated out existence in the former “free” world over the last century.
So, let’s have a look at those primary sore-spots that are raised by suggesting that collectivism will correct the “evils” of capitalism.
Prices are driven from the top down
This is unquestionably the case in the aforementioned countries, however, it is not so under capitalism. Under capitalism, each producer tries to get as much as he can for his product, but, as others are also creating the same product, those with the lowest price are the ones who will succeed. Therefore, the consumers effectively set the prices, based upon what they’re willing to pay. But in any country where cronyism exists between big business and government, regulations can squeeze out the competition, allowing a monopoly for a given product. The definition of this marriage between business and government is “fascism.” The government makes it increasingly difficult, through regulation, for the small producer to compete with the larger producer (who gives kickbacks to the government.)
Capitalism only benefits those at the top
Capitalism benefits those who produce the most, but it also benefits all others, as they have a free choice to purchase whatever products they wish, at a price they’re prepared to pay. If the producer demands too high a price, consumers instead buy his competitor’s product, putting him out of business. The consumer is therefore in charge of the price of goods. A producer only rises to the top if he produces the most affordable product (as did Henry Ford, 100 years ago, with his Model T. Through the free market, he lowered his price repeatedly and, in so-doing, put America on wheels.)
Capitalism impoverishes the masses
The free market offers more goods to more people at lower prices, which enriches the lives of all consumers, no matter how rich or poor. In so-doing, it raises up the masses over time, providing them with more and better goods, education, health care, etc., enabling them to rise out of poverty. By contrast, over-regulation and entitlements enslave those same people to poverty.
Capitalism can only work if it’s heavily regulated
The whole idea of the free market is that it’s free from interference by others – most importantly, governments. If left alone, the free market will produce the goods the public are most willing to pay for, which results in an ever-self-levelling of products and prices. As soon as regulation enters the picture, the free market is compromised. What exists today is not a free market, as Adam Smith would have recognised it, but a bloated, dysfunctional socialist/fascist/capitalist mongrel of a system. Of course it doesn’t work.
“Fascism is capitalism in decay”
Quite so. Regulation is a cancer that slowly eats capitalism until it morphs into fascism.
“Do not their leaders deprive the rich of their estates and distribute them among the people; at the same time taking care to preserve the larger part for themselves?”
Socrates to Adeimantus
What was true, ca. 400 BC in Athens is true today. Fascism (or corporatist cronyism) results in 99% of the population coming under the diktat of the 1%, which is made up of government leaders and corporate leaders, working in concert, to the exclusion of all others. This is, in fact, the opposite of a free market.
“The creation of new wealth is the only functional weapon against poverty”
New wealth comes from the bottom up – it’s as simple as someone building a better mousetrap, or building the old one more cheaply. In such a market, both the producer and the consumer benefit.
In a fascist system, the wealth gravitates to the top, eventually choking out the middle class and expanding the poorer class, and that’s just what we’re witnessing today. The solution is not to go further in this direction, as Mister Marx was paid to suggest, but rather to try something new…or at least new to anyone living under the fascist system. Although it still retains some capitalist overtones, it is unquestionably not capitalism.
A last word – capitalism does exist today, but it lives in select countries that have not yet given in to over-regulation. In those countries, the average person thrives and has opportunities far beyond what’s allowed in the former “free” world. Should the reader conclude that his present country is unlikely to go in the direction of capitalism, he may choose to vote with his feet in order to prosper the way his ancestors did 100 years ago.