Tag: quality of life

Does Capitalism Unite or Divide People?

Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Capitalism is an economic system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. More specifically, capitalism is the free and voluntary exchange of goods and services.

Before the implementation of money, the differences between people was a matter of Nature or God. Some, by their own free will or by location, had more than others and created more than others. Some are stronger, some are smarter, some are more intelligent, some are better looking, some need less, some utilize what they have better, etc. It is the very nature of being human that we have differences between us before ever even initiating money or property, i.e. capital, into the equation. This is most likely why Marx and Engles do not provide an origin of ‘property’ or ‘property rights’ because to take away what is someone else’s is unjust and immoral, as well as least pragmatic or least utilitarian.

Prior to the introduction of capitalism in the world, much fewer people had wealth, and all struggled to get by aside from those wealthy few. A world GINI coefficient would clearly show a lopsided distribution of wealth, in the words of Communists and Socialists, and provide evidence of the daily struggles once suffered while unknown in most parts of the world today.

We live far better lives today thanks to capitalism. Abject poverty since the implementation of capitalism in the world, especially after 1980, is nearing its very end. Prior to capitalism, people had to work longer hours, work harder, children worked more, and people married for practical reasons more than for love. It can be easily and confidently declared that capitalism made way for more love and individualism, simultaneously, more than any other approach prior.

Actual Capitalism does not infringe on the rights of others, because the philosophy of it is based on free and voluntary exchange. Typically, this also implies that there is a legal system that ensures the negative Liberties, Natural Rights, of everyone. Some economists and philosophers differ on the need of a State in order for capitalism to exist.

What most people criticize as being ‘capitalism’ today, as many Communists and Socialists have espoused, is in fact NOT CAPITALISM. A State that allows the infringement of rights while protecting a company that wishes to exploit is CRONYISM, or CRONY CAPITALISM, not capitalism itself.

Remember, government, by its definition, has the sole monopoly on coercion and initiation of force. A coercive monopoly, crony capitalism, coercion through labor unions, involuntary redistribution, taxes, etc. are only continually possible through a government, not a free and voluntary market.

Envy, jealousy, theft, coerced redistribution schemes through government, etc. are what keep people apart by force. Capitalism betters the lives of everyone in the end, generally speaking. In fact, this principle of capitalism that encourages free trade, as in laissez-faire capitalism, is one point that more economists agree on than anything else, no matter the economist’s political affiliation.

  • Isn’t it ironic that Communists and Socialists always complain about so-called “bourgeoisie” living easy lives while exploiting the “proletariat,” but Communists and Socialists want everyone to live like the “bourgeoisie” by forcefully stealing with threat of murdering the “bourgeoisie?”

Capitalism has done more to unite people than divide them. The fact that we can sit here reading and writing on the internet in the middle of the day rather than hunting, farming, collecting water, or making things to live day-to-day, etc. attests to the benefits brought by capitalism. The fact that a writer such as Marx could have existed while freely and voluntarily living off the dime of Engels, a “bourgeoisie,” is further proof that capitalism has done more to unite us than divide us. Without capitalism, our focus and worry is more on the immediate rather than the philosophy brought on by leisure for the masses which is only a result of capitalism.

When people begin making copious amounts of money more than others, sure their status and quality of life differs than the layman, but the wealthy must still spend or store their money somewhere that benefits those in lesser positions. This is a key principle, as living in a wealthier society is far superior to that of living in one where only a few are wealthy. But if everyone is forced to be the same, nothing has the same worth as it does now. When everyone has the same wealth, the cost of things becomes more expensive, subjectively and comparably speaking. If all we looked at was the GINI of two countries in order to compare wealth distribution, we could compare Morocco and the US. I am confident that more people would rather live in the US than in Morocco, aside from political and social differences, and simply based on economic reasons for equality and unity. Nevertheless, the two countries have pretty similar distributions of income as seen below:

Or we can compare the US with the Czech Republic, where the average person makes more like that of their neighbor than in the US.

I can still confidently say that more people would rather live in the US than in the Czech Republic. Not only does this suggest that there is more to living a good life than the balanced distribution of wealth, but also that when we get closer to actual capitalism we live better lives.

I will admit that Socialism and Communism in their truest forms have never been successfully attempted. Likewise, Capitalism in its purest form has never been successfully attempted. However, the near-Capitalism has done more to help unify and better humankind more than near-Socialism or near-Communism. While, near-Communism and near-Socialism have done more to destroy and divide people than any other system, records that suggest close to 100,000,000 (one hundred million) deaths from the two.

Capitalism provides solutions for people, as there is an incentive to provide these solutions in the market, and working with the marketplace. Such things as technology, medicine, art, transportation, architecture, clothing, food, etc. all help to better our lives and unify us, while more competition drives down costs of production and makes things better for most if not all, in the immediate. Capitalism does more to unify us rather than divide us, while other systems, such as Communism or Socialism, do more to divide us.


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Measuring The True Quality Of Human Life

By Craig Axford | Canada

By now, most of us are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Physical needs necessarily come first, followed by the need to feel safe, loved, esteem, and finally self-actualization. These needs are typically visually described as a pyramid, with the most fundamental physical requirements of existence forming the base.

Our physical requirements also happen to be the ones that can be both most easily defined and objectively measured. The availability of food and water, for example, can readily be assessed by scientists and governments. The same goes for the availability of adequate shelter. Things like adequate educational opportunities and access to healthcare are only slightly more subjective and difficult to quantify.

But as we move into the psychological realm of life, things quickly start to get fuzzy. While everyone may be said to have intellectual and emotional needs, or even spiritual ones, everyone defines and satisfies them differently. There is no guarantee that satisfying the physical requirements of existence will lead to emotional or spiritual well-being.

However, we can assert that failing to meet the physical requirements of life will make it extremely difficult, some would even argue impossible, to meet the needs Maslow placed at or near the top of his famous pyramid. As Gandhi once famously said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

Steven Pinker and others have recently spilled more than a little ink describing the objective conditions in which we currently find ourselves. Pinker, in particular, has made a name for himself laying out the facts about contemporary existence which, when compared to life not so long ago, is quite good by just about every measure.

But however real our progress as a species may be, as a felt force in our daily lives it’s a slippery fish that often gets away. Pinker puts it this way in Enlightenment Now: The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress:

But it’s the nature of progress that it erases its tracks, and its champions fixate on the remaining injustices and forget how far we have come. An axiom of progressive opinion, especially in universities, is that we continue to live in a deeply racist, sexist, and homophobic society — which would imply that progressivism is a waste of time, having accomplished nothing after decades of struggle.

This statement can be seen as somewhat problematic in so far as it’s possible for systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., to remain even within a culture that has made incredible headway in these areas. Indeed, Pinker nowhere disputes the continued presence of these problems. However, talking about systemic problems generation after generation without also drawing attention to the progress society has made risks causing older individuals, in particular, to become somewhat numb. Without a grounding in a broader historical context, there’s a very real danger progressives might be seen as crying wolf because there’s too little regard for how the nature of our systemic problems has changed in response to various policy solutions or public attitudes over time.

In addition, progress is a cursed concept precisely because we live in the present, not the past, and the better things get the more our expectations build. Greater social and technological development too often lead to the emotional equivalent of tail chasing. However, this curse is also a blessing. A few pages later in Enlightenment Now Pinker writes:

The global momentum toward abolition of the death penalty, despite its perennial popular appeal, offers a lesson in the messy ways of progress. As indefensible or unworkable ideas fall by the wayside, they are removed from the pool of thinkable options, even among those who like to think that they think the unthinkable, and the political fringe is dragged forward despite itself. That’s why even in the most regressive political movement in recent American history there were no calls for reinstating Jim Crow laws, ending women’s suffrage, or recriminalizing homosexuality.

Having hopefully forever removed ideas like slavery and denying women the vote from our bin of “thinkable” options, acquired devices we can hold in the palm of our hands that provide access to the equivalent of many millions of Libraries of Alexandria worth of information, and enjoying many more years of health and vigor than ever previously experienced in human history, you would think we would be much happier than we are. But, alas, subjective things like happiness and fulfillment don’t have simple linear relationships with improvements in human life, rights, technology, education, and healthcare.

Even historians and anthropologists that make their living considering the experiences and difficulties faced by our ancestors find it practically impossible to take the long view. That’s because life in 2018 is fundamentally different from life in 1900, 1500, or during the reign of the Caesars. Changing life conditions means changing context.

We’ve all heard someone make the argument that kids today don’t understand the life challenges previous generations had to face. If you’re over 40 like me, you’ve no doubt found yourself increasingly making some version of this argument yourself. While it’s certainly the case that Americans are, on average, largely ignorant of history, this ignorance isn’t the primary driver behind such complaints. Parents and grandparents in other countries where the citizens are often better informed of the past can be heard offering the same grievance.

That the vast majority of our children and grandchildren can no longer imagine a world where virtually everyone became infected with the measles and mumps sooner or later, let alone a cholera outbreak or the depopulating effects of the plague, isn’t an indication of their ignorance, but of their lived experience. While we want everyone to have a basic awareness of our shared history. But the fact is, no amount of education will truly enable someone raised in the modern developed world to understand what it was like to live in a society where illiteracy and disease rather than instant access to news and an abundance of clean water is the norm.

Pinker and others are right that the pessimism they bemoan is overblown. But it’s also an example of people reacting to their circumstances more or less the way they always have. It’s unrealistic to expect someone raised with a car in the garage that’s capable of crossing the continental United States in less than two days to compare themselves to people that had to do it in covered wagons. Even if they are familiar with the exploration and settlement of North America, covered wagons and vast expanses of unmapped, roadless wilderness are simply not part of their day-to-day lives.

The authors and scholars that remind us that our politicians and the news media are blowing things way out of proportion, if not outright lying to us in order to gin up fear in advance of an election or to get us to click on a story, aren’t wrong. Violent crime is way down, war isn’t nearly as common or deadly as it once was, and we’re living longer healthier lives than at any previous point in our history.

However, these scholars do tend to minimize the role human psychology plays in our perception of reality. Even if the press and public officials were more inclined to take the long view of history and prioritize stories of human triumph rather than tragedy or failure, people would still typically take a darker view than the evidence supports. That’s because the friend or family member with cancer is not only an exception to the story that human health has improved tremendously but a close case that touches our lives in ways that defy objective analysis. A sick loved one has far greater salience than the percentage of the population that experiences illness on any given day, let alone at any given point in history. In fact, that many illnesses have become so rare makes it more tragic rather than less when a rare misfortune befalls us or someone we care about.

Politicians, in particular, have a difficult time walking the fine line between what is objectively true and salience. Anyone who stands before an audience that hasn’t seen their wages rise recently, or only just keep up with inflation, is more likely to get votes by feeling their pain and calling the stagnation they’ve been enduring unjust than by pointing out that they are much wealthier than people doing similar work a century ago.

Donald Trump has proven himself a master of dramatizing current suffering at the expense of historical reality. He understands that a family that lost a loved one to a crime committed by an undocumented immigrant isn’t going to care that immigrants, documented or otherwise, are far less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. Likewise, he knows that a crime victim’s story is something voters can relate to far better than crime data. When confronting Trump supporters with the facts, one often receives a reply that reads something like ‘one American that’s the victim of a crime that could have been prevented is one too many.’

Pinker and other contemporary intellectuals do us a service by calling upon us to place things into a broader perspective. Their function is not so much to set the record straight as it is to offer history as a counterweight to the here and now. Even if we can’t truly relate to the world humanity once inhabited, recalling that we did inhabit such a place tempers the emotions modern living inevitably brings to the surface.

Wisdom resides at the intersection of knowledge, reflection, and emotion. When we stray too far down any of those roads alone, the perspective needed to appreciate nuance and accept a little bit of uncertainty into our lives is diminished. If we are presently at risk of losing many of the benefits we inherited from the Enlightenment, it’s because emotion is currently ascendant. Fear is increasingly untempered by reflection and knowledge is derided as elitism. Reflecting a little on contemporary society’s place in history is one sure way to find our way back to a more balanced perspective.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com

Other articles you may enjoy:

Driving Another Nail Into Dualism’s Coffin
Monism, Emergence, & Bridging The Is/Ought Divide


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