Who Gets What, Why, and Whether
Capitalism -- awesome or awful? I say neither. It may well be the best system around, but it is far from a perfect operation. Having taught in colleges of business administration for over a quarter-century, I am well aware of the reverential awe in which this system is held by many of my colleagues. It's enough to put me in mind of a popular song, the last line of which might be paraphrased "and you don't mess around with the market."
In this chapter, I argue for a reasoned view of capitalism and its attendant market. In this book, the terms "the market system" and "capitalism" will be used interchangeably. One author points out, however, that they should not. According to Robert Heilbroner, the market system is only one component of capitalism. 1
While it's desirable to acknowledge the blessings of the market, we must also acknowledge its blemishes. It has been suggested that one of the blemishes of capitalism is the view of human nature it presupposes. In Looking Backward: 2000-1887, Edward Bellamy has a speaker give the following report to people in the year 2000 on the views of those in 1887:
It was the sincere belief of even the best of men at that epoch [ 1887] that the only stable elements in human nature, on which a social system could be safely founded, were its worst propensities. [The speaker was referring to greed and self-seeking.] 2
Chief among the faults, and the focus of this book, is the lousy job the market (or capitalism) does of allocating wealth. The results are far from just.