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Omaar
09-12-2005, 12:07 PM
What's the ethical basis behind people's apologies for Capitalism or critiques of it?

Individualism? Opposition to poverty, exploitation?

I guess if its all ideological there might be no coherent ethical justification behind some of the positions people hold.

Is there a coherent ethical defence that can be given by apologists for Capitalism?

also related ....

Should equality mean that there's a lower and upper limit to the amount of wealth an individual can own?

This is sort of a spin off I guess from the mention of exploitation in the definition of capitalism thread.

I've kept this in thought as the question seems to be more philosophical than political.

borderpolice
09-12-2005, 06:46 PM
Is there a coherent ethical defence that can be given by apologists for Capitalism?

it seems that at the bottom is this: the known capitalist states which are also formal democracies are 'better', provide a better quality of life than all other known forms of state-organisations.

what's more, it seems increasingly clear, that the question of the details of economic organisation are of lesser imporance than many think: universal education, and health care, pensions, separation between state, economy, judiciary and so on, potent science ... may be even more relevant.

But because the issues are complex, there's no clearcut argument.

johneffay
09-12-2005, 08:02 PM
what's more, it seems increasingly clear, that the question of the details of economic organisation are of lesser imporance than many think: universal education, and health care, pensions, separation between state, economy, judiciary and so on, potent science ... may be even more relevant.
I'm not sure what sort of definition of 'economic organisation' you can be using which would allow you to claim that the majority of these issues were not economic ones. Certainly the first three and the final example are all predicated upon economics.


Is there a coherent ethical defence that can be given by apologists for Capitalism?
There are loads: capitalism 'works', other systems have failed; less people starve in Capitalist countries; standards of living are higher; capitalism fuels technological development, which is a good thing per se; etc. etc. The interesting question is whether there are other systems which can be demonstrated to be both preferable and practical within the current global economy.

Omaar
10-12-2005, 11:21 AM
I guess in terms of both of the above replies, you people are saying that the end result is what's important - in a basically utilatarian way, the end justifies the means?

- isn't the fact that less people starve in Capitalist countries sort of dependent on 1st world capitalist economies exploiting developing countries? In terms of healthcare and education, don't non-capitalist countries like cuba have a good record? Aren't some capitalist countries basically at war at the moment in order to sustain our way of life?

Anyway, I didn't really want to get into a discussion about the practicalities of whether Capitalism works or not, but more to think about what the fundamental ethical principles or ideas behind people's justifications for such a system might be.

If it's a higher standard of living, should this be capped at the upper levels? What is the ethical principle behind this? - its not equality is it, its more a sort of a right to a certain right to certain standard of living. And presumably there is another underlying assumption that you get according to what you put in?

johneffay
10-12-2005, 07:26 PM
I guess in terms of both of the above replies, you people are saying that the end result is what's important - in a basically utilatarian way, the end justifies the means?

I'm certainly not saying that, but you asked whether there could be coherent ethical defences of capitalism, and I just listed a few which are sustainable.

I agree with you that capitalist countries often depend upon the exploitation of developing countries, etc. but this is hardly a problem for right wing capitalists with a nationalist agenda ('charity begins at home', etc.). These people might be unpleasant, but that does not mean to say that they do not have a coherent ethical policy.

Whilst statements such as 'everybody has an opportunity to do well under capitalism' are demonstrably false, if you base your ethics upon prioritizing your own family, social class, or whatever, it's a lot more difficult for people to argue that you are wrong. These are the more successful arguments that proponents of capitalism tend to advence.

dominic
11-12-2005, 02:55 PM
i think there should be upper and lower limits -- or at least limits to the *disparity* in incomes that people have -- such that maybe the wealthiest individuals can have at most 10-times the income of the least well off

there would still of course be disparities in prestige -- i.e., some people would still attain the highest ranks in industry, science, the arts, etc, but their reward would be honor and recognition, not money

(((((at same time, if disparities in income were limited, then people might feel more free to pursue their own views of the good more vigorously -- i.e., they wouldn't feel compelled to work so hard at boring jobs -- they'd do what they wanted to do -- and so the current ruling classes would say this could lead to dreadful breakdowns in social discipline b/c many people would opt for a purely hedonistic lifestyle, i.e., late nights, fast living, music and drugs -- i.e., many or most people would opt for pleasure over recognition as the ultimate end of their actions, or they'd opt for the recognition of their peers in nightlife and drug culture -- i'm saying this only half tongue in cheek)))))

i suppose the capitalist side of the argument would say, in reply, that great sums of money need to be concentrated in the hands of the capitalist class, b/c they make the most prudent investment decisions -- or perhaps they'd say that limits on the accumulation of wealth would interfere with the mobility of capital, which would cause "inefficiencies"

i'd say, in rebuttal, that inefficiency may be the price of greater social justice

dominic
11-12-2005, 03:37 PM
the ethical justification for a 10-times disparity b/w richest and poorest would be a simple acknowledgement of everyone's interrelatedness -- and the "decency" of limits, having a sense of proportion

so anything exceeding such disparity would go to the state -- to be redistributed to the poor or invested in public amenities

[of course this might open the door to much power concentrated in the state -- which could lead to a whole host of ills -- i.e., the medicine for the ills of the current system will likely lead to other kinds of disease]

borderpolice
12-12-2005, 11:27 AM
i'd say, in rebuttal, that inefficiency may be the price of greater social justice

there is quite a variety of wealth distribution between industrialised countries. japan, and the scandinavian countries, at least until recently. it would be hard to fault japanese economic development or swedish standards of living. that suggests that statistically smaller variances in wealth over the population is compatible with economic development.