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I've noticed a huge backlash against capitalism in the media and on the internet for a while Why? Why are people so resentful towards capitalism when it gave them all the prosperity

asked Dec 01 '10 at 02:09

Michael's gravatar image


edited Dec 01 '10 at 11:37

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

I think (and this is not new to Objectivists) that people oppose capitalism primarily because they oppose the theory of ethics upon which capitalism rests. Capitalism must rest upon some ethical theory (since its a kind of social order where certain actions are allowed and others are prohibited). Capitalism allows egoistic behavior, thus the ethical theory that capitalism rests upon must at least sanction egoistic behavior. Many people reject egoistic conduct, for a number of reasons. For example, egoism is at odds with the prevailing ethical theory of altruism, which is advanced by religion.

(Dec 02 '10 at 02:44) Michael Labeit Michael%20Labeit's gravatar image

As well, when asked to describe what they don't like about capitalism, inevitable one hears people describe something that is not capitalism. The people who truly hate capitalism have very successfully distorted the meaning of the concept. Very few people know what capitalism is.

(Dec 03 '10 at 01:38) garret seinen garret%20seinen's gravatar image

Capitalism is a social system based on, and expressing, the fact that man is a being of self-made soul. People who wish an easier way of life than self-responsibility reject, and wish to call illegitimate, the principles that substantiate that truth.

Misrepresenting the nature of the system is a standard rhetorical tactic. Once some people misrepresent it, others react accordingly, and confusion, fueled by the destructive goals of the original ones, results.

answered Dec 03 '10 at 23:38

Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

Mindy Newton ♦

I'd like to elaborate further on the ethical underpinnings as the basis for objections to Capitalism, especially in regard to the questioner's point that these objections persist in spite of the prosperity it brings.

Many people do seem to recognize and applaud Capitalism's efficacy and wealth creation yet still have problems with the fact it leads to an inequality of riches, and in some cases a relatively small number of people may grow incredibly rich. Whether it be belief in a fallacy, e.g. that the successes come at the expense of the unsuccessful, or a more blatant desire for an egalitarian society, I believe the inequities are what lead some opponents to conclude that Capitalism, while effective at production, has unfair consequences. Some then reject it outright on these grounds, while others continue to advocate for Capitalism, thinking the "problems" can be "fixed" with a little tinkering (e.g. Antitrust Laws).

Rather paradoxically, these opponents advocate egalitarian systems, such as communism or socialism, that actually lead to lower standards of living for all, even lower than the poorest people in a Capitalist society. This reveals the ethical roots of the opposition: the belief that everybody must be equal (economically) - at any cost.

answered Dec 17 '10 at 11:48

la_phil's gravatar image

la_phil ♦

In many cases the 'envy' factor is overpowering. The leadership in the old USSR knew full well that economic liberation would improve conditions for all people, yet the fought change thinking it would reduce their elevated positions to insignificance. The 'guards' use the 'poor' simply as an excuse to hold the 'prisoners'.

(Dec 18 '10 at 02:02) garret seinen garret%20seinen's gravatar image

I answered this question in a recent edition of my Rationally Selfish Webcast. An audio recording of my response is available here on my blog NoodleFood, starting at 55:46. My basic view is that epistemic confusion often at root of wrong ethics and politics -- and that's definitely the case here.

answered Dec 31 '10 at 21:39

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Diana Hsieh ♦

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Asked: Dec 01 '10 at 02:09

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Last updated: Dec 31 '10 at 21:39