Capitalism is not a system invented by greedy people to get more money.

It is not the primary cause of the “economic crisis” looming large in the minds and T.V. sets of most Americans today.

It is not the reason Americans are materialistic.  It is not the reason the rainforests are shrinking or the polar ice caps are melting.

Capitalism is an economic system based on certain anthropological principles worked out in the home and marketplace.  Those anthropological principles include: human creativity, human dignity, human sin (or sickness or greed, depending on your theological commitments), man as a political animal, and human value creation.

Capitalism is not a system invented by greedy people to get more money.

It is not the primary cause of the “economic crisis” looming large in the minds and T.V. sets of most Americans today.

It is not the reason Americans are materialistic.  It is not the reason the rainforests are shrinking or the polar ice caps are melting.

Capitalism is an economic system based on certain anthropological principles worked out in the home and marketplace.  Those anthropological principles include: human creativity, human dignity, human sin (or sickness or greed, depending on your theological commitments), man as a political animal, and human value creation.

While capitalism and free markets sometimes reward greed and immorality, proper and limited regulation of greed and malpractice can ameliorate the vast majority of those disparities and injustices that are unable to be corrected by market dynamics themselves.  But, given the current maelstrom of fear surrounding the bankruptcy of major financial institutions at home and abroad, I worry that capitalism and free-market systems will unjustly bear the brunt of the terror and the only possible solutions will be ruled out in a reaction seeking to try something new for newness’ sake.

Politicians talk about government bailouts and newer and more invasive regulations, while pundits and idealogues turn once again towards socialism and the only real and viable economic model, threatening to give America a health-care system as defunct as Canada’s and a society that provides little incentive for individual creativity or risk-taking entrprenneurship.

Despite the fear alternating with deprecation of capitalism coming from the interviews on all the major news media outlets, I remain fascinated by the marked ability of capitalism and free-market economies to effect great and good change in the world. 

Ever since I was asked to cover the Acton Institute’s four-day University, the economic sector of American life has captured my imagination and attention and I find myself spending more time in front of that previously mind-numbing section of the magazine rack that sports titles such as The Economist, Business Week, Forbes, and MoneyBusiness Week isn’t the only money-news publication to take notice, but their Meet the Antiprenneurs offers a pretty good expose of the power activists are able to wield through free-market businesses.

Often [antiprennerus] are the so-called dark greens and very dark greens, who marketing experts say are borderline obsessed with environmental issues and feel the need to preach about their lifestyle. In addition, some 37% of people age 18 to 30 prefer to use brands that are socially conscious, with more than three-quarters of that group citing fair labor practices and two-thirds listing environmental factors as chief concerns, according to New York youth marketing company Alloy Media & Marketing (ALOY). Alloy says the youth market has nearly $200 billion in buying power.”

‘If you want to change the world, you have to change capitalism into a more grassroots phenomenon, and that means pulling down the megacorporations,’ [AdBusters co-founder Kalle Lasn] says, speaking with hints of his native Estonian. In the past decade, he says, ‘A whole new wave of small business is really strutting its stuff in a powerful way around the world, and it includes everything from ethical principles in running business to fair trade to a large and growing movement of people who just want to buy local. Lasn says this movement is gaining strength as people become exasperated with what he calls the traditional ‘complaint-based’ politics of the left—whining lots and doing little. Antipreneurs, he says, actually make a difference by promoting products that have a low impact on the environment or are fairly produced.”

Notable in this co-opting of free-market business models by individuals and groups concerned with social action is the symbiotic relationship that often develops.  Generally speaking the same individuals who are concerned with “buying green”, carbon footprints, sweat-shop working conditions, and labor abuses on foreign soil are also out-spoken critics of capitalism and free-markets.  However, in finding a voice through business that voice ends up being softened and moves more individuals away from radical socio-economic “solultions” and towards an acceptance of a market system that supports their lifestyle and their cherished causes.

The Antiprenneurs have realized that wealth and charity are not diammetrically opposed to one another.  Capitalism allows individuals to support causes that matter to them and enables good and fair business practices to thrive when not being foisted upon an unresponsive and uncaring public by government regs.

One of the worst things that could happen as a result of the current economic crisis would be an increase in governmental regulation of the American market.  Such regulations, while intended to limit the power of the mega-corporations have, at a minimum, the trickle-down effect of limiting the freedom and vitality of all businesses, large and small.  Greater regulation usually hampers the start-up entreprenneur and the individual concerned with providing an authentic and local service to her community since she does not have the resources to compete with the big businesses that, while limited by governmental rules still manage to have the capital required to stay ahead of the latest limit on business practice and policy.

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Posted by Tex

2 Comments

  1. Hey Tex, what a great article. I can tell that you paid attention at the Acton University. :-) I wonder too how it all ends up but it seems like the US are heading into more regulation and more involvement of state in economy.

    God bless,

    Martin Kolesar

    Reply

  2. Thanks for a very thoughtful piece. It was interesting to read after having just discovered an easy way that people can help capitalism pull others out of poverty. OptINnow.org is a Web site where we can donate seed money for small business loans to people in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America that help these business people raise themselves and their communities out of poverty. When the loans are paid back the money is used to fund other loans. It’s a great idea, I think.

    Reply

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