Top ten arguments against capitalism and how one can answer them


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Slides from talk helt for Ayn Rand Society - BI Nydalen, Oslo, Norway, 27. October

  • 3) your third point is complete nonsense. the tobacco industry in the 50s, the asbestos industry once asbestos was confirmed as being awful, every business with an immesnely profitable product and huge amounts of economic power that suddenly found out their product's actually killing their customers proves your point wrong already. when cigarettes were proved to be harmful, the tobacco companies lied and cheated and went on wars to try to suppress, deny, and discredit the information. the history of this is easy to find. the average small or medium size business, if it misrepresents can be sued - but there are businesses that are just 'too big' for the average person to fight, like when people in small towns near oil drilling or fracking sites find their tap water poisonous and undrinkable (as is very common), their lakes polluted, etc, and they just don't have the money to keep a court lawsuit up whereas the oil company in question has billions (another example, by the way, of why a wide rich/poor gap is bad, and another example of how extreme economic power can be abused). the amount of rip-offs that do happen now under what you say apparently is not capitalism wouldn't just go away once there were less restrictions. 4) this already happens today. why would repealing laws that are in place to prevent this (that people who lose money over are already trying to get rid of so they can just do what they did before again) suddenly improve this? industry is the biggest contributor to global warming. capitalism is basically the cause of it. how would it suddenly solve it if there was no regulation or government incentive? the rest of your arguments are filled with the same fallacies of 'people will always act ratoinally according to my definition of rationality and not their own', 'i don't understand why extreme economic power could be abused', 'i don't understand the reality of being poor', and your point about healthcare is the most ill-informed, naive, idiotic thing i've read. i mean: * if the welfare state guarantees healthcare, then how will some people be so poor that they can't get healthcare if they're guaranteed it? *there is already substantial work going on to make it easy to produce medical goods and services. they are already widely available. the problem is that in america, there is not a welfare state, people are not guaranteed healthcare, and they're too poor to afford it, so they can die. this happens. it happens regularly. there are thousands of stories you can find about it easily if you honestly spend the time on it. the problem isn't the services aren't widely available, the problem is that people /can't afford them/ (which is another reason why a wage gap matters) *what charity? who's obligated to provide it? why do you think you can just say 'there'll be charity' and then sweep all the people who in the modern world don't get that charity now under the rug? what makes you think that less government will suddenly result in more charity (especially when it can't be a tax deduction anymore)? where can these people get that charity now, and if they can't, why would it suddenly appear? this isn't something you can just poorly answer, people are dying, or in suffering over this right now, because of american capitalism. i don't see why your hypothetical capitalism wouldn't just make this worse. one of your counterarguments to people in rural situations not being able to earn as much as people in the city basically amounts to 'lol who cares'. that's not a good counterargument. you just say that it's a good thing without defending that it's a good thing. the argument says it's a bad thing. you concede the argument and just say 'it's not a bad thing, because ' i don't feel like dealing with the rest of your arguments because your ability to think carefully and analyze the issues is so low level it's amazing that you have phd near your name, which i think goes to prove against the idea of private enterprise automatically being a meritocracy given the poor quality of the arguments. if you think i'm being undeservedly rude, i'm only being as rude as your arguments were being condescending and obnoxious
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  • 2. the gap between the rich and the poor will increase. you don't deny that. your thing about the one dollar and the 10 dollars doesn't actually make sense. i don't mean that the argument is invalid - mean the sentences don't make sense. i can't find an argument in them. i'm assuming on a bit of good faith that you did not actually write down something as simplistic as 'would things be worse if everyone had more money???? of course not.' without taking into account the fact that if the rich had 10 dollars all the prices and stuff of the essentials - the stuff that poor people really care about and are essential to these arguments about it - would be completely different, that who are these rich that suddenly have 10 dollars, that - i can't figure it out. i can't find the point you're trying to make, except that if everyone has more money then that's not worse than everyone having less money. you seem to be convinced that the argument puts forth that quality of life is sensitive to economic difference. quality of life would be affected, but not by something so irrelevant as different bank balances. out of context, no, of course those different numbers can affect each other. but in the real world, money is power. the rich can buy advertising to spread their message and views, can buy PR firms to defend their companies image and slander another one, can buy private security firms to protect their goods, can buy islands, etc, and all the poor can do (and all your arguments show an absolutely serious and laughable ignorance of the realities of being poor) can do is barely make the rent and rely on cheap and disgusting groceries. in other words, the wider the gap between rich and poor, the greater the disparity of power in the society, the more control the rich have over everything. you know, like in the modern world. as for one person's wealth not affecting other people's, of course they don't - if they're just sitting there. if they're being spent, there are a thousand different ways they could. nobody asserted that the rich were breaking into poor people's homes and taking bread off the tables. but modern businesses today still get much of their profits from swindling their poorest employees by paying them wages that are far too low to live on, cancelling basic benefits, and etc, and that's where the wealth gets sourced from. not to mention, the rich getting rich by 'production' completely ignores the people who get rich without producing anything of value at all. real estate investors just move deeds around and occasionally rent out houses that would be rented out no matter who rented them. stocks traders? compound interesters? etc?
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  • poor arguments 1) to exploit is not to force, it's to make use of the situation, full use of it, in a way that's probably a bit underhanded. if that part of your argument rested on redefining exploit into force and then saying 'capitalism does not allow force, therefore force will not happen in capitalism, therefore there is no exploitation in capitalism', then it's a failure. workers cannot 'simply change jobs' in the modern economy and i doubt in your hypothetical capitalism it would ever be that way either. you have to be hired by an employer, and if they decide not to hire you, you're unemployed. finding jobs is definitely not easy in the modern economy to say the least - a lot of people are very anxious about leaving or losing their job since if they have no job to go too they'll go without money, and starve, not be able to pay for healthcare, etc. why else would so many people stay in jobs they hate? because they don't have much choice. as you say, 'beggars can't be choosers'. good working conditions of course do attract everyone, and then it's up to the employer to decide who the best workers are. but another business strategy is instead of focusing on quality products to market to people willing to spend extra for extra quality, is to mass produce cheap crap that's super affordable and that some people will choose for the savings and other people will choose because they have no other choice. a similar strategy in just snapping up the people who don't have many other options, cutting a bunch of costs at the expense of good working conditions, can and does happen in modern businesses all the time. i fail to see why your hypothetical capitalism would make it suddenly go away. even then, a clear method and incentive to do one thing does not guarantee that business owners will do it - the assumption of rationality doesn't always hold, and it's a very limited analysis that holds they'll always do the choice that maximizes a limited number of values. historically, when there were less union powers, less industrial relations laws, less protections, etc, business owners exploited their workers more. it actually caused riots. why would removing these protections and legal courses of action suddenly make workplace exploitation - which definitely still exists - suddenly disappear? the notion that 'well, the beggars who aren't choosers (read: the vast majority of the american population that you seem to be ignoring) should've taken their education more seriously' is morally repugnant. 'because you weren't able to take a disinteresting, poorly constructed education system seriously when you were a teenager, and made bad decisions as a teenager, you shouldn't complain when you are exploited under capitalism - it was motivation for you to take your education more seriously.' this doesn't even take into account people going into differing job paths (since career choices are more complex than 'which path will make me less of a beggar and more of a chooser'), health problems and family problems that will inevitably happen (and happen more often when poor under capitalism), etc.
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  • All the answers are wrong and/or incomplete and/or full of biases/fallacies. Just 'Wow'!
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Top ten arguments against capitalism and how one can answer them

  2. 2. Goal of this talk  A 45 minutes talk cannot, and should not, convince anybody on such a complicated topic  Those who are interested can find more complete arguments in the books that are listed on the last slide  The full understanding of the theoretical and practical case for capitalism requires years of study  Those who advocate the welfare state should adopt the same standard! There is no reason to think that it is easier to understand the welfare state than to understand capitalism 2
  3. 3. Discussions  An argument is put forth in a discussion  A discussion involves two (or more) people who want to identify a truth  If two people come to an agreement, and if they are right, they are both winners: one has learned that he was wrong, the other has convinced the other. The world is round. No, the world is flat. 3
  4. 4. Discussions  But often, identifying truth is not the goal.  Sometimes, it is possible to obtain agreement by using fallacies.  Coming to an agreement using a fallacy has two losers. One still believes a falsehood, the other was convinced of something without sufficient reasons.  Common logical fallacies are “straw man”, “argument from popularity”, “argument from authority”The world is round. No, the world is flat. 4
  5. 5. Discussions  Straw man example  “The US has a worse health care system than Norway; therefore, capitalism would give us a worse health care system”  The best way to counter a straw man is to identify what something really is.  In capitalism there are no public hospitals, and this is not the case in the US  Therefore, the US’s political system is NOT capitalism; therefore the conclusion is wrong. 5
  6. 6. What is capitalism  All property is privately owned  The government is there to protect individual rights  To ban initiation of force in human relationships  Three primary parts  The police, to protect against domestic use of force  The military, to protect against foreign use of force  The courts, to resolve disputes among men without using force  Complete equality before the law 6
  7. 7. What is capitalism  A complete separation between religion and state and economy and state  Religious freedom  Economic freedom  Freedom of speech  A night watchman state and not a nanny state  A night watchman is someone you call if there is a problem  A nanny is someone who constantly watches and interferes with all your actions 7
  8. 8. What is capitalism  A constitutional republic  Constitution: A definition of what the government can and cannot do  The people elect the president and the congress  The congress can make laws  The president can ensure that the laws are enforced  The supreme courts decide if a law is constitutional  Separation of powers – invented by Montesquieu  The only power individuals can have is economic power  Political power is reserved for the government and thus limited by the constitution 8
  9. 9. What is capitalism  Hospitals and schools are private  The government does not seize money in order to give to the people  The money you make, you keep  Money will be issued by private banks – no central bank  Hang up a name-sign on your door and you have started a company  If you are in need, you ask for help from others  Individuals will take up insurance to protect against unforeseen accidents 9
  10. 10. Arguments against capitalism  the top ten arguments  no particular order  you will probably have heard them before  if your favorite one is not here, we can take it in the Q&A period 10
  11. 11. Labor exploitation  Under capitalism, employers will exploit their workers by giving them low wages, long hours and bad working conditions  To exploit is to force, force is not allowed between people in a capitalist system, it is the primary role of government to protect against the use of force!  Workers can simply change jobs  Good pay, normal hours and good working condition will attract the best workers  “Beggars are not choosers” – a motivation for you to take your education seriously 11
  12. 12. Economic inequalities  Under capitalism, the gap between the rich and the poor will increase.  Is it better if the poor has $1 and the rich $10 than if the poor has $10.000 and the rich $500.000? Clearly not.  This is not a problem: economic difference is not an indication of quality of life.  One person’s wealth does not affect another person’s.  The rich get rich by production, and not from stealing from the poor. 12
  13. 13. Unsafe food and medicine  Under capitalism, we will get unsafe food and medicine because greedy businessmen will try to make quick profits without caring about the safety of their customers and because there are no government organization to certify food and medicine.  It is not profitable to poison or kill your customers.  If you misrepresent what you are selling, you will be sued.  Goodwill is worth a lot, greedy businessmen wants goodwill.  New businesses will have to build up trust over a long time. The slightest mistake will cause the media to go berserk, and they have to start a long process to rebuild their reputation.  Private certification 13
  14. 14. Pollution  Under capitalism, greedy businessmen will pollute rivers, forests and the air we breath.  You will only be allowed to pollute your own property, and that reduces its value, which is not greedy  all property is privately owned  stopping global warming requires voluntary cooperation 14
  15. 15. Monopolies  Under capitalism, companies that become monopolies will be able to keep prices high and restrict competition by lowering prices or taking over other companies.  A monopoly is a company with exclusive rights to operate in a market – the government can only protect individual rights, and not grant such right to any company.  Keep prices high by keeping prices low? Either they are high or low.  One is free to deny being taken over.  If a company has 99% of the market, and the customers only wants stuff from that company, then what is the problem? 15
  16. 16. Discrimination  Under capitalism, people are free to discriminate based on handicap, gender, viewpoints or skin color.  A consequence of the principle hat human relations are voluntary.  People are responsible for their own actions and choices.  Since difference in gender and skin color does not matter, it will not be profitable to act as if they do.  There is legitimate reasons to not hire an anarchist as a watchman or a communist as a factory manager. 16
  17. 17. The poor  Under capitalism, some will be so poor that they cannot go to school or get the healthcare they need.  This may also be problem in the welfare state. The welfare state only guarantees these things as long as there is wealth to tax.  Making it easy to produce goods and services is the best guarantee of making them widely available.  There will be charity available for those who simply cannot afford it. 17
  18. 18. The countryside  Under capitalism, people cannot get the same offers if they live on the country side than if they live in the city.  True, but that is their problem, and not the problem of those who do not want it.  It is a feature and not a problem of capitalism that people get only what they are willing to pay for. 18
  19. 19. Irresponsible behavior  Under capitalism, people will do stupid things such as taking narcotics, gambling away their money and medicate themselves wrongly, because there is no restrictions on these things.  People do not stick a knife in their eye just because it is legal.  Who are to decide what should be illegal?  In the welfare state, the very people who, assumedly, are so stupid they cannot take care of themselves.  You are the best person to decide what is good for you. 19
  20. 20. Instability  Under capitalism, society will be unstable because businessmen will do anything in search to satisfy their own short sighted greed.  Swindling is illegal  The government does not have unlimited power  Changes are more predictable  One is free to trade with anyone one likes – do not trade with people with a dishonest agenda.  Being short sighted gives you a bad reputation and low economic power  Your ability to affect anything goes down. 20
  21. 21. Top ten arguments against capitalism 1. Labor exploitation 2. Economic difference 3. Unsafe food and medicine 4. Pollution 5. Monopolies 6. Discrimination 7. The poor 8. The countryside 9. Irresponsible behavior 10. Instability 21
  22. 22. Literature  Ayn Rand  Capitalism: the unknown ideal  Atlas Shrugged  George Reisman  Capitalism  Vegard Martinsen  Frihet, likhet, brorskap: Kapitalisme i teori og praksis  Jean-Baptiste Say  A treatise on political economy 22
  23. 23. Arguments against the welfare state  How do you explain to a person who has never done anything wrong that he has to pay for the irresponsibility of another person?  What can a person do if the government is forcing him to act against his best judgment? (if he disagrees with the majority)  How can rewarding bad actions and punishing good actions help promote good actions?  Which principle delimits the welfare state? (unless we have this, the government will expand without limits) 23
  24. 24. Thank you 24
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