The Capitalism Tour

Source: Capitalism.org

I came across this little gem while looking for a way to make sense of a comment that flummoxed me in another thread: “Capitalism is an economic construct, not a social one.”

The Tour addresses the comment in it’s first panel, but not in great depth. Instead, it merely alludes to the historical (or social) context in which capitalism evolved.

But it is an important point. Capitalism is a naturally occurring phenomenon, not an invented one. It is a reality, not a philosophy.

19 thoughts on “The Capitalism Tour

  1. Dear “flummoxed” I will try to explain my apparently puzzling statement.

    Capitalism, Socialism, Communism are all economic constructs based on ownership. If you own the means of production we have Capitalism. If the state does, we have the other two variations. The economics of competition are still in play, but communist factories can’t compete outside their own borders and provide poor quality and distribution within.

    Political constructs like democratic republics, parliamentary systems, oligarchies, monarchies, dictatorships, etc. are how nations socially organized themselves.

    Any one of those systems could adapt socialism by force or by consensus through the ballot. And autocracies can have capitalism, but often the crony variety.

    No matter what combination of economic and political systems are in play, there is the matter of what constitutes “infrastructure “. We limit it to roads, airports, rails, water and sewage, solid waste, power generation and distribution, mass communication, etc.

    I have argued that it should include healthcare, education and justice.

    It may be that our system of infrastructure be public-private as is the case with many of the services. (Obamacare is a good example.) That is the actual services are bid privately, but the cost is shared via taxes. This allows rich and poor alike to be on a more level playing field when it come to infrastructure access and affordability.

    This explanation may not jive with the right (or left) academic elites, but to the average person, like me, it seems pretty clear once the heavy curtain of buzzwords and political posturing is lifted.

    IMHO

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the explanation.

      I categorize things a bit differently. Capitalism, socialism and communism are indeed economic systems, but capitalism is the only one that arose organically as a product of conditions which preceded it.

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      1. There is a caveat to capitalism as we sell it politically.

        We say that anyone can be anything they want in our country. Anyone can be a capitalist business owner. Technically that has some truth to it. But the facts are that entrepreneurs have certain qualities that others don’t. Decades back, WSJ had an article based on surveys of what academics and entrepreneurs thought were the top qualities. They damn near matched.

        Hard work, drive, street smarts, etc were all there, of course. But so were risk tolerance, networking, sales and leadership abilities, and at or near the top was luck. Industrial societies are complicated. Probably more than needed is some cases.

        Not many people can start, run and be successful in running their own shop. Which is why we have so many more employees than employers.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Where did I say we should be socialist? Where did I say that capitalism is evil?

          My contention has been that capitalism needs social safety nets, affordable education and healthcare.

          Do you want Venezuela here?

          Liked by 2 people

        2. RE: “My contention has been that capitalism needs social safety nets, affordable education and healthcare.”

          Capitalism has never needed those things in the past. It doesn’t make sense to think it needs them now.

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          1. RE: “Like I said, just look at Venezuela. If that is what you want.”

            I’d rather have Texas, but you miss the point. Capitalism emerged from the natural world. You are claiming it needs improvements. The challenge for you is to show that your improvements would produce better outcomes than Nature does.

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          2. Capitalism per se is not necessarily something that is improvable. It either is or it isn’t.

            But social safety nets are an adjunct to be determined by the politics of the country.

            They are not mutually exclusive as seems to the fear of some. How would universal healthcare affect whether capitalism exists?

            Does a railing on a balcony outside of a high rise apartment affect its use or make it more usable by virtue of keeping people from falling to their deaths?

            Or is capitalism dependent on a desperate workforce willing to do anything for food and shelter?

            Liked by 2 people

          3. RE: “Or is capitalism dependent on a desperate workforce willing to do anything for food and shelter?”

            Why do you veer into irrelevancies?

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        3. “It’s really a lot more simple.”

          Simple-minded is more like it. There was damn little liberty for the vast majority of people struggling under capitalism until progressives forced changes that you – ungratefully – take for granted. I am put in mind of a brief but pithy poem from the pre-progressive days of industrial capitalism . . .

          “The golf links lie so near the mill
          That almost every day
          The laboring children can look out
          And see the men at play.”

          Sarah Cleghorn

          Liked by 1 person

          1. RE: “There was damn little liberty for the vast majority of people struggling under capitalism until progressives forced changes that you – ungratefully – take for granted.”

            Now THAT is simpleminded. In Europe, at least, capitalist economies emerged from the collapse of feudalism, which amounted to slavery for most people. Factory jobs were in fact liberating for workers.

            The ability to apply private wealth to the technology of producing goods unleashed a revolution in human affairs that is unparalleled in all of history for the benefits it has fostered.

            And all of that happened before so-called progressives even existed.

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          2. So let’s keep capitalism as the economic engine that allows innovation and entrepreneurship. In today’s world, education and health make for better employees. A problem we have now is getting workers with enough skill and fewer health related issues, particularly from substance abuse. Before the pandemic there were a few million postings unfilled unless we got immigrants. Which, of course, the last administration did all they could to curtail.

            Someday, checkout Jacob Riis’ photos of the immigrant labor force in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. (Don’t hold my dates too exact.) I think we can do better, and have, of course. But not without a lot of bloodshed, turmoil and strife.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. That “revolution in human affairs” was delayed until progressive forces modified capitalism from its “natural” form. The horrors it subjected people to could only lead in one of two directions – progressive reform or totalitarianism. Capitalism was saved in the West by the likes of TR and FDR. Russia and China were not so lucky.

            The collapse of feudalism was centuries in the rear view mirror when capitalism as we know it today began to emerge.

            “Factory jobs were in fact liberating for workers.”
            That is nonsense. You need to do a little research on what life was actually like for workers in the early days of industrial capitalism. Factory work offered a chance at survival not new liberty.

            If you think capitalism could survive WITHOUT the changes bought in blood by trade unions and other progressive forces you are living in a fantasy world.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. You confuse liberty and security.

            You think that child labor was ended by progressive politicians. But in fact, those child labor laws did not come along until the demand for labor by industry raised wages to the point at which a skilled workman could earn enough to support his family without his children’s contributions.

            Had they come earlier, those children would have starved. The laws came along only when capitalism made workers productive enough to enable them.

            It is capitalism, not progressive politics, that has raised billions worldwide from abject poverty.

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          5. RE: “If you think capitalism could survive WITHOUT the changes bought in blood by trade unions and other progressive forces you are living in a fantasy world.”

            You and Mr. Rothman seem to think capitalism is an ideology to be debated. It isn’t.

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          6. “You and Mr. Rothman seem to think capitalism is an ideology to be debated. It isn’t.”

            Because it is “natural?”

            And you think it is a natural law that in a community of people only a handful should own the means of production and benefit from them. It isn’t.

            There is not a progressive here who does not believe that capitalism is the best way to organize the economy. The problem is the people who think ANY kind of reform to make it function better for more people is “socialism.”

            Liked by 1 person

          7. Your “drunk history” of how child labor became illegal is LAUGHABLE. And an insult to the memory of those who fought for decades against the entrenched interests to make it happen. You always defend your ‘druthers with such “alternative facts.” It says something about what you really, really want to believe that you need to do this so often.

            In this country, child labor was not made illegal until 1938. In the UK it was 1933. In China – a country of virtually unregulated capitalism and without a progressive movement it continues to this day. Those dates are LONG after the magical inflection point that you postulate that organically ended child labor. It continued because it was PROFITABLE to a very few people.

            Liked by 1 person

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