Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Capitalistic Capitalists

What does it mean to be a capitalist? Is living in a capitalistic society sufficient and necessary for being a capitalist? How does capitalism differ from one country to another? I'll try to briefly answer these questions in this post.

I live in a democratic society. I have enough money to live by my own. Am I a capitalist? Do I have the right to claim that poor people are not capitalists just because they don't have money? Let me approach these issues in a commonsensical way. I'm inclined to think that the reason why "normal" people (by "normal" I mean people that do not need to benefit from social care services) don't "have" money in a capitalistic society is two-folded: on the one hand, they are not adaptable because they lack the abilities necessary to integrate themselves in a capitalistic society, a society primarily based on communication (as the flow of capital needs to fluctuate and permit exchanges); on the other hand, the number of jobs available to most of the possible employees is too small to allow these people to work (that's what some of them would complain about). An extra important reason is the nature of the capitalistic society itself: it is one thing to talk of an ex-thirdworld-society that became capitalistic overnight and totally another thing to talk of a society that is traditionally democratic and capitalistic. They differ not only in respect of the amount of capital and its flow - the structure of the society that became capitalistic overnight is frail and has plenty of "holes" in it that enable free-riders to gain power and be oppressive in many ways (as education is less important than money in a society where savage capitalism lurks, dissatisfaction is imminent: uneducated and sneaky people find their way to the high ranks and impose their values on others by claiming that it's the only possibility to avoid tyranny - unless people are aware of it, this struggle for power is degenerative and produces painful effects among the middle-class representatives - presuming this social class was not abolished meanwhile).

I come back now to the "money-capitalism" topic. Am I a capitalist if I have money? No. Why? I can be a thief and have money, I can be a ridiculous charlatan and have money (may I be excused for this bracketed comment...), I can be a person with disabilities and have money, but nobody would say about me: "that guy who has plenty of money is a capitalist". True, I'm a capitalist in virtue of the fact that I live in a capitalistic society. But my belonging to this society that is acknowledged as capitalistic is not sufficient. I might have lived in a jungle that pertains to USA. Suppose I had my own business in a jungle and lived in a small tree-house like Tom Sawyer. It would seem awkward for others to think of me and, even more, label me a "capitalist". In some respects, though, it is necessary to live in a democratic society to be a capitalist. You can't live under a communistic regime and be a capitalist. But you can live under a democratic regime and have a communistic mentality. That's one of the reasons why democracies are superior to any other types of society. However, democracy is not to be equated with capitalism. Democracy is only a platform for capitalism and the shape of capitalism depends on the structure, organization and development of the democratic society (laws, enactments, law-enforcement and cultural background).

Do I have the right to claim that poor people are not capitalists? I do have this right, in virtue of the democratic freedom of speech. But is it reasonable? You can think of people playing Russian roulette. The risk of death is high, but it's their choice to play it. The right thing to be asked now is: was it poor people's choice to be poor? If it was, then there's no reason for them to complain about it, since they assumed some risks before choosing their own life-style. If it wasn't their choice and instead some unexpected event (financial crisis or an earthquake) caused them to become poor, then they have the right to complain about it and request for support from the authorities. What does choice have to do with being a capitalist or not? Well, if you have a choice, then you live in a democratic society. If you don't like working extra, you have the choice to quit your job. If you don't like the speed of your Internet, you can change your service provider. But it's more difficult to change the government if you're denied basic rights. However, in my humble opinion, one of the "most wanted" values of capitalism comes from the democratic platform on which it was placed: the ability to choose from very many possibilities. Therefore you are a capitalist if you encourage choice and possibilities, rightful competition and a decent level of wages (that would not force you to appeal to banks for a loan because you don't have enough money to pay your rent, for instance; that would not force you to risk your health because if you don't work after hours you can't pay your child's food). A capitalistic society that doesn't meet these minimal requirements is not capitalistic, even if it is democratic. These kinds of capitalistic societies did not benefit from a proper application of capitalism on a democratic platform. Robbery and theft massively occurred and blocked the enactment of a properly understood capitalism.

It is rather a banality that capitalism differs from one country to another, from one state to another (as concerns the U.S.A., for instance). Some laws are beneficial for capitalism in a democratic society, some laws are detrimental to it. The context in which laws are enacted shapes the enactment of laws. It is a difficult task to elaborate laws compatible with a certain society or state. Only a brilliant mind can intuit and "see with perspective". Unfortunately it's not only the mind that has to work out these decisions. How can politicians respect a population that doesn't care about choice and has no valid criteria for choices? And what does "valid" mean in this context? As easy as it can get: compatible with human rights and democracy

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