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Commentary :: Human Rights
Capitalism: Is Capitalism The Problem Or Is It Human Greed?
05 Jan 2004
I write this article for people much like myself, idealistic and desiring a fairer, more stable world with less violence, less starvation, equal rights... you get the picture. Throughout the quest of searching for solutions I evolved from being purely idealistic, and more often than not counter productive, to finding practical applications based on successful models that have actually been implemented and utilized around the world. That’s the whole point isn’t it? Not just to fight for “something” but to actually improve “something” for the greater good of mankind.
It has been capitalism that brought liberty and freedom to the masses, to the poor, to the unequal class systems. Human greed has given capitalism a very bad reputation when in fact greed is the problem and greed unfortunately is part of human nature. Greed is prevalent in any model of society whether it is communism or capitalism. If we recognize the core of the problem we can address the issue with emotional intelligence. We can reduce the risk factor of society being punished by the greedy minority such as the Enron’s and yet still let the capitalist economy flourish to provide a reasonable standard of living.

It was the entrepreneurial spirit of the middle classes that gained economic independence beginning with private property rights in Europe that first removed some of the power of rulers. This was the first beginnings of democracy as we know it in the Western world today. Without capitalism we could very well still be living under a feudal system were peasants worked for nothing and the lords and aristocracy kept all the money. Capitalism for the first time gave the peasants a way to determine there own destiny if they worked hard and used ingenuity. It was the economic success of the middle class that applied pressure to the political system that forced the institutions to introduce fair and equal rights throughout society.

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Re: Capitalism: Is Capitalism The Problem Or Is It Human Greed?
07 Jan 2004
Gabrielle Reilly's argument seems to be that greed is an inherent part of human nature and therefore, capitalism is the inevitable result and the only alternative. No further progress is possible. Well, there are primitive communist societies which lasted for thousands of years, and greed was not the primary motivating factor. Native Americans had no concept of the private ownership of land. It was Mother Earth and belonged to everyone, including plants and animals. They worked cooperatively together and shared the food from the hunt or harvest together. They did not put their labor-power on the market as a commodity as workers in a capitalist society do. These primitive people were very unselfish and would even share their personal possessions with others or give them as gifts. Greed is much more a product of capitalist society than it is the inverse relationship.

It is not true that freedom and an improvement in living standard was caused by the abolition of feudalism. Under feudalism, there were many skilled craftsmen working in guilds, who worked for themselves and enjoyed the benefits of their labor fully. Under capitalism, these same people had to sell their labor power as a commodity and that commodity was only worth that amount of wages which would keep the worker alive and functioning for the next day's labor. The rest of the value their labor created was skimmed off by the capitalist as profit. Thus, independent workers were changed into mere appendages to machines, performing the same repetitive task over and over again. Since the longer that wage-slave worked the more surplus value was added to the product, the higher the profit. Hours of work became extremely long. Since children were more agile and adaptable for certain tasks, they were employed. No school, play or an enjoyable childhood for these child factory hands. Workers died premature deaths from overwork, dangerous conditions in factories or exposure to toxic chemicals. And Gabrielle Reilly claims this can be equated to freedom or improvement in living standards. Baloney! The thing which eventually improved the standard of living was pressure put on capitalists by labor unions and they were created by anarchists, socialists and communists, the same people Gabrielle Reilly obviously despises. As far as the serfs are concerned, it is true they had to work several days free for the feudal lords. However, there were common lands where they could fish, hunt or grow their own crops. The peasants were evicted from the common lands by the capitalists and changed from independent producers into commodities selling their labor power. It probably didn't seem like a great improvement to these peasants. Once again, the evils of the capitalist system like overwork, child labor, speedups on production lines, dangerous working conditions, hazardous chemicals, boring, repetitive labor, 7 day work weeks and premature death were not solved by the compassion or initiative of capitalists, but rather the force put upon them by labor unions and strikes.