I saw a Facebook post from a friend of mine where he mentioned Democratic Capitalism. I know where this friend stands about the excesses of capitalism, but I do think at times he, and many others in Portland, look at the excesses of capitalism and large-scale corporatism as the end of the discussion. I did not want to raise this point in response to his post, because his post was in a larger context of personal responsibility in our community, specifically about foster children. His care for young people and children is admirable. However, it did get me thinking about Democratic Capitalism.
Francis Fukuyama, in his 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man,” stated that “what we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period in post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western Liberal Democracy as the final form of human government.” In a 2014 Atlantic article looking at Francis Fukuyama’s essay, there is an interesting discussion about Fukuyama’s logic and how “liberal capitalist democracy allowed people to thrive in an increasingly globalized world, and that only the steady advance of laissez-faire economics would guarantee a future of free democratic states, untroubled by want and oppression and living in peace and contentment.”
As I read through the article discussing the relationship of capitalism, democracy, and liberalism I began to recognize familiar arguments. Its examples illustrate taking advantage of a free-market system to gain as much as they can at the expense of others. This win-lose perspective is demonstrated in some areas of our society. I also see the argument, usually accompanied by quotes from Thomas Piketty, about how capitalism has only enlarged the gap between rich and poor. I also see the emphasis on economic interventionism and nationalism. The arguments found within this article are no different that what we experience now in our common spaces for discussion.
Personally, after this current political debacle I have decided to throw labels out the window. The labels of Liberal, conservative, Republican, and Democrat are almost useless now. We have become so polarized that we have lost any ability to come to consensus. So, I am working on finding common ground that I may serve those around me. For the purpose of this discussion I will describe the terms capitalism, democracy, and liberal.
Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production. Its focus is on profit by effectively and efficiently using the resources associated with the business. This is a simple definition for a complicated topic that includes, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and markets. It is a system based on individual choice and freedom to produce whatever the market demands. We can call this a free market, which is the opposite of a centrally planned market. Socialistic markets which are centrally planned have been traditional inefficient and have demonstrated an inability to create growing individual incomes.
Democracy is a system of government whereby the citizens of a particular country elect representatives to govern. It usually involves the rule of the majority through free elections. People within a Democracy are free to move where they want, when they want, vote for whomever they want, and marry whomever they want. It is a government of individual choice.
I know the term liberalism is wrought with meaning, but I like how the Atlantic article discussed liberalism. “It is, of course, true that liberty can be read in many ways. . . it is perhaps more useful to think back to the writings of Voltaire. . . and remind ourselves that liberty in its purest form – both positive and negative – can be thought of as the realization of man’s inherent dignity as a human being.”
No one can deny that the excesses of wealth distribution, consumerism, and selfishness in our society. Many decry the inequalities found in our society. Parenthetically, the paradox of Michael Moore, a multi-millionaire who at one time had several houses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, who can decry the 1% when he is one of them, is very interesting. But, we must never forget the importance of individual choice.
We must never forget the discussion of inequality, consumerism, and wealth can never occur outside of the recognition of the fact the we are a fallen race. Mankind fell at the time of Adam and Eve, and that impact continues to feed our ability to create chaos out of goodness.
I see many people around me decry the injustices of society, and do nothing about it. I see many protest this inequality and yet nothing changes. We still have inequality and impoverishment. There are some people like my friend who are led by God to do something about it, by creating internships for young people of color, and trying to get more homes for foster children. I have seen his vision and it is good.
I feel a change coming on in my life. I have no idea when, or how, but I know that complaining about capitalism is not the answer. Even suggesting some other political system than democracy is futile. But, we need to do better.
Jesus Christ said this, “Then the king will say to those on his right hand, Come you blessed of my Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25: 35-40). He said if you have done this to the least of these you have done it to him.
So, we have an economic and political system that allows us to enjoy liberty. Let us use that liberty for the good of others. Those of us who have, let us give to those that don’t have. And those who need to hear about Jesus, let us tell them through our actions and words.
And that is my thought for the day!