Greed Despoils Capitalism.
Some businesspeople are greedy and do not have a conscience, however Wilder believes that capitalism does not necessarily require greed. According to Barbara Wilder in her article, “Greed Despoils Capitalism,” ethical business practices are the only way that everyone does not come away a loser from business. Wilder believes that Adam Smith, the father of Western capitalism, would be outraged and disgusted by the unethical business practices that corporations have shown in recent years. Ethics, dignity, and character are associated, in an ideal world, with wealth and capitalism. Democracy and capitalism are philosophically mingled, and the American Dream itself depends on capitalism to thrive. Capitalism thrives through the people, regardless of the system at large, and the businesses and jobs that are created by a capitalistic system provide wealth for all. When big business CEOs are unethical, it is not the fault of capitalism, but rather a direct dismissal of the values of capitalism. The economy of the future must be based not on greed or fear, but on integrity and care for all humans.
“The True Spirit of Enterprise.”
While hugely successful entrepreneurs have often been criticized as ruthless, greedy, and unethical, some economists believe that the successful entrepreneurs of American history, such as Ford or Carnegie, are a symbol of the freemarket system. Many people believe that capitalism is inherently corrupt, and that the spirit of enterprise is equal to the spirit of greed. However, Don Matthews, in his article “The True Spirit of Enterprise,” asserts that enterprise is about creativity, building, discovery, and innovating. Economic growth and development cannot exist without individuals creating wealth. The greatest American business leaders have been diverse, unique individuals, a sign that business and enterprise in America is diverse and available to all. Without capitalism we would not have cars, railroads, or computers in America today.
“The Rebel Sell: If We All Hate Consumerism, How Come We Can’t Stop Shopping?”
The behavior of the consumers in a free market system has a far-reaching effect. In the article “The Rebel Sell: If We All Hate Consumerism, How Come We Can’t Stop Shopping?” Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter discuss the complicated free market system. Anti-consumerism has been a very popular philosophy among people of all walks of life, but statistics show that people keep being consumerists and continue indulging in consumer goods. Anti-consumerist movies like “American Beauty” and “Fight Club,” and publications such as “Adbusters” are all very popular, but they also are part of the consumerist system. These are critiques of mass society, which appear to be anti-consumer, but actually enforce consumerism. The theory that capitalism requires conformity to succeed has been very popular, but these authors claim that it is just a theory that does not hold ground. Competitive consumerism is actually what creates waste. Legislation that would put a damper on the brand-wars that encourage competitive consumerism would be ending the fact that advertising is considered a tax-deductible expense.
“Economies of Meaning.”
David Korten shares his belief that the values of the free market system are not necessarily consistent with “the good life.” Business policies and practices undermine justice and economic stability for the majority of the population. The American economy is not serving both our materialistic needs and our ethical and spiritual ones. Sacrificing the best interests of others, and the community and nation itself, is what gets the wealthy more money and success. Political agenda supports this corrupted society. There are many myths that contribute to this basic philosophy. There is a myth that growth in aggregate economic output is a valid measure of human well-being and progress. In actuality things like gun sales to minors and needing to clean up oil spills generate economic activity, but they are not beneficial to human progress or well-being. There is a myth that technology frees us from environmental restraints on economic growth. However, the increase in economic output has burdened the environment, and the finite resources are reaching their limitations. There is a myth that an open and unregulated “free” market is the fairest and most efficient way to allocate society’s resources. However, a market economy responds only to those with money, and does not respond to those without any money, which is not democratic at all. There is a myth that the only alternative to a free market economy is a state-planned command economy, but even in America during post-WWII, a democratic process designed a framework of rules for the market. There is a myth that trade agreements are about trade, and that open economic borders are beneficial for everyone, and that economic globalization is a consequence of immutable historical forces. Most trade agreements are about the rights of corporations, and greater rights for corporations means fewer rights for individual people. Large corporations own the government by paying off politicians and writing the laws, which is in direct paradox with the values of democracy. There is also a myth that corporations would benefit everyone by providing prosperity, jobs, and a cleaner environment if the government would simply stop interfering with them. However, corporations are designed to control economic resources and protect the powerful from the consequences. Low wages and poor working conditions and cutting corners on environmental protection are inherent in the design of corporations. There are alternatives to a global economy, which is fostering inequality. These alternatives would strengthen local economies.
Thesis: Economists will defend capitalism and the free market system as democratic and beneficial to all people. However, competitive consumerism has a negative effect on society, and there may be alternatives to the way the system currently stands that would have more benefits for every person, not just the wealthy.
I. Capitalism is criticized for being greedy, but ideally it can represent ethical business practices with integrity.
A. Adam Smith
1. Father of Western Capitalism
2. Would be outraged at the modern greed and corruption
B. Capitalism is democratic
C. Values of Capitalism
1. Capitalism should thrive through the people
2. Unethical practices are a dismissal of these values
3. Successful entrepreneurs are symbols of the free market
II. Competitive Consumerism
A. Anti-Consumerism Philosophy
1. American Beauty
2. Fight Club
B. Consumerism still embraced
1. TV shopping
2. Online Shopping
3. Anti-consumerism movies and publications are part of consumerism
C. Competitive Consumerism is the problem
1. Keeping up and surpassing others materialism
2. Consumerism does not require conformity
3. Curbing advertising breaks for big companies
III. The current system does not benefit all people
A. Myths that idealize capitalism and the economic system
1. Economic growth reflects progress
2. Technology ends environmental restraints
3. Free market is democratic and beneficial to all
B. Capitalism and the system are not as ideal as they are believed to be
1. Harmful events can cause economic growth
2. Economic output has harmed the environment
3. Market responds to those with money and ignores needs of the poor
Heath, Joseph and Potter, Andrew. “The Rebel Sell: If We All Hate Consumerism, How Come We Can’t Stop Shopping?” Chapter 12: Free Enterprise. 544-552.
Korten, David. “Economies of Meaning.” Chapter 12: Free Enterprise. 553-558.
Matthews, Don. “The True Spirit of Enterprise.” Chapter 12: Free Enterprise. 539-543.
Wilder, Barbara. “Greed Despoils Capitalism.” Chapter 12: Free Enterprise. 536-538
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