Heartless and Rapacious Capitalism

Capitalism, as a socio-economic system practiced today, adheres overzealously to its tenets, which are: (1) private property, (2) self interest, (3) competition, (4) market-based, (5) economic freedom, (6) consumer sovereignty, (7) laissez faire.

American economist Milton Friedman, a zealot of the free market economy, said that markets work best when unfettered of rules, regulations, heavy taxes, and trade barriers. He opposed social or any market-interfering democracy. As Adam Smith said in The Wealth of Nations (1776), the invisible hand of the free market guides people to act in the public interest by following their own interest. In other words, let the poor collect the crumbs whenever they fall from the table of those who control markets. So the dictum: Let the poor be at the mercy of the rich. May this socio-economic order remain forever!

Friedman believed in the limited government, whose sole function is to “preserve law and order (as well as) enforce private contracts, (safeguard private property and) foster competitive markets.” He opposed an egalitarian society, government providing essential services, workers free from bosses, citizens from dictatorship and countries from colonialism. He preached that public wealth should be in private hands, accumulation of profits unrestrained and social services curtailed or ended. He opposed subsidies, import quotas and tariffs.

Thus, the zealots of free market economy such as Friedman perversely promoted economic freedom as a be-all-and-end-all, and profit-making as essence of democracy.

Critique of Capitalistic Socio-Economic System

What is apparent in the capitalistic system is, there is no democracy and no government of the people, by the people and for the people. Government is not obligated to fulfil its minimum constitutionally-mandated function to protect the rights of all people, to promote the welfare and shared prosperity of all people and to provide equal opportunities for all people. Capitalistic system promotes a government of corporations (or the rich), by corporations and for corporations.

When the zealots of the capitalism “continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world”, they are essentially expressing “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system”, and ignoring the real fact of their greed and indifference towards the poverty-stricken majority. In the pursuit of profits, capitalists explore the globe in search of dirt-low wages and as little regulation as possible, and ignore their moral and ethical responsibilities. With the concentration of wealth in a select few, the gap between the poor majority and the wealthy few is widening alarmingly. It is the bigger picture, the wellbeing of society as a whole, where capitalism is failing miserably. With the overemphasis on the foundational tenets, capitalism has become heartless, rapacious, fearsome and boundless as the primary factor of planetary deterioration.

Pope Francis says, “Just as the commandment “Thou shall not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shall not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape…It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.”

The Pope continues, “To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

The capitalistic socio-economic system is unjust at its root. The toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its destructive influence and to undermine any social and political system. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallised in socio-economic structures, which can not be the basis of hope for a better future.


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