Before I proceed to discuss my intended topic, a disclaimer is warranted: I am not an economics expert, and I do not claim to be. Nor am I interested in analyzing specific details of business or finance, as I am not going to be arguing from an innately numbers-based premise.
I could care less about the mechanisms of a bull or bear market, and I don’t consider such things relevant to the validity of capitalism. There are things much more important than economics or numbers, two areas in particular: ideology and morality. Those trump the mechanisms of any arbitrary system, and so, I would like you to spare me your platitudes on any such thing.
Now, let’s start talking about the things that really matter. First, what is capitalism, and specifically, American capitalism? Well, here’s the definition of capitalism according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary: “An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”
Wait, what was that last line? “Determined mainly by competition in a free market?” Free market, huh? Does a free market actually exist in America? Well, a completely free market has never actually existed in this country, as there have always been government regulations on the economic system. Having a purely capitalist system is unrealistic, as various factors inhibit the ability of different economic ideals to, actually, coexist in their purest forms. The same thing happens to communism; a pure implementation of it would not be realistic.
So, when we say “free market,” we refer to a system where the government places regulations to ensure it is actually an equitable and fair system where anyone can conduct business. However, to say that the free market exists today would be a blatant lie. Just look at Disney, or Amazon, or Meta, or Walmart, or Nestlé or many others. Some of these are not actual monopolies, as they do not possess complete control and ownership of a resource or market but rather control a large majority of the resources or market, making them oligopolies. Regardless, they stand in the face of an actual free market.
The main claim I hear in defense of our current economic structure is something along the lines of, “It allows the individual to build up their own business independent of government control, allowing them to control their own life and support their family.”
Sadly, while that is a nice thing to believe, it does not reflect reality. There are no substantial protections for small businesses owned by the average individual, but there are plenty of loopholes and tax avoidance strategies for corporations, allowing the destruction of small businesses at the hand of those same corporations in the American capitalism we live in today.
Capitalism is no longer the capitalism that we think it is, and it’s been this way for a long time. Welcome to a world of privileged protection, where the economy allows a free market but only if you’re a vastly overgrown corporation that avoids responsibility.
So, how do we fix it? Well, we can’t. Not unless a significant amount of change occurs at the legislative level. Monopolies need to be broken up, certain laws need to be revoked that protect large businesses and, most importantly, there must be a severance of supportive ties between the government and corporations. Will that happen? With the massive social and political changes currently happening, often with the youngest generations at the forefront of these movements, there is certainly hope. Until then, I shall continue to lambast the current economic system.