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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Capitalism isn’t the Bad Guy

The 2016 election has some of the most polarized candidates we’ve seen in years, ranging from socialists to the most outspoken conservatives. It’s an exciting time for college students, as young voters, to navigate the democratic process—many for the first time—and to learn more about ourselves as we discover where our own political views align.

That process can be rough, however, for the uninformed voter. Students can start to make the process easier by looking at history to determine what works and what doesn’t.

As you probably know, the U.S. is a capitalist economy. Supporters of capitalism argue for improving the education and skills of the poor and middle class to make them more productive, with the idea that this gives them a better opportunity to share in wealth.

Those who favor redistribution of wealth—or socialism—oppose the capitalist economy, arguing the U.S. system of capitalism is politically rigged. They say moving up within this system is not realistic, and that the better answer lies in redistributing the wealth from the top.

As Bernie Sanders, a self-professed democratic socialist, gains in popularity within the Democratic party, it will logically be necessary for Hillary Clinton to move further left toward the “redistribution” emphasis to compete for the heart of her party. With two popular candidates leaning further from our existing capitalist system, as voters we need to ask: Where could they be taking us?

One of the dominant arguments taken up by those opposing capitalism on the far left is the “inequality gap” between the income of the top 10 percent and the remaining 90 percent of Americans. They emphasize comparing the lifestyles between the two groups—a they-have-yachts-and-we-don’t sort of thing.

But capitalism has accomplished a lot for Americans in the last century. One of the fundamental principles supporting capitalism is that free people, working in a free society, work harder and create more due to the existence of personal incentives.

The competition of the free market maintains relatively low prices. Free-market capitalist economies, like the U.S.’s, have become some of the most productive suppliers of human necessities by efficiently allocating resources through supply and demand, as opposed to other economies without similar levels of competition.

Thanks to the flourishing of capitalism, even the poor of our nation enjoy a significantly more comfortable lifestyle than they, or even the wealthy, did a century ago. The same transition can’t be seen in countries without free market economies.

David Schmidtz, a UA Kendrick Professor of Philosophy, writes that “people in the bottom [income group] are spectacularly well-off compared to those who occupied the bottom [income group] (or the top) a century ago.”

An article published in 2013 by CNS News reported that 97.8 percent of households below the poverty line have refrigerators, 96.6 percent have stoves, 80.9 percent have cell phones and 96.1 percent have televisions. And if they happen to miss their favorite show, 83.2 percent of those below the poverty line have a recording device to catch that show later. These are the people below the poverty line!

There is a principle among believers in free market economies: “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Given the experience of America evidenced by comparing our poor with the poor from other non-capitalist countries, the statement rings true. The lowest tide in America is a relatively high tide around the world.

It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, the benefits of capitalism are felt by all.

In a “Better-life index” published by The Economist, the bottom 10 percent of the U.S. enjoyed a better life than the top 10 percent of Communist Russia. Forbes magazine writes that “a representative ‘middle class’ household in Russia, two working parents and a child, could have an income of anywhere between $15,600 and $39,000.” That means a majority of middle class families in Russia’s economy would fall below the U.S. poverty line — around $20,000 annually for the same size household.

Yes, in America, there is an unequal distribution of wealth and the blessings that come with it. Some Americans enjoy a very luxurious lifestyle in our capitalist system. Others live more modestly. Either way, the same capitalist system that gives some Americans the opportunity to live so lavishly is also what has elevated the standard of living for the bottom 90 percent of our nation.

Winston Churchill once said: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

While it’s easy for young voters to become sensationalized, drawn to whichever candidates arise most often on our Facebook feeds, it’s important to stay informed. History is more indicative of how our nation could thrive in coming years, and examining our capitalist economy can show us why.

Follow Wyatt Conoly on Twitter.

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