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In the wake of the rescue of the Chilean miners some have speculated that it was the work of capitalism. However the miners were rescued for humanitarian, religious, and (government-mandated) legal reasons. Without the government sanctions against killing workers, it would have been most economical, and therefore most truly capitalist, to leave the miners in the ground.

In no way is it capitalist to donate money to charity except as advertising. The two concepts are independent. Individuals give money to charity, but when they do so, they are not economic actors. It is mostly economic for them to keep their money.

Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts on this situation and charity ?

asked Oct 16 '10 at 18:22

Michael's gravatar image


edited Oct 16 '10 at 23:09

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Yes, private charity should be considered capitalistic.

A common misunderstanding that capitalism is solely an economic system appears to be a premise of your question -- the implication being that all decisions under capitalism are based on money and nothing else. Therefore, if saving the Chilean miners had no return in dollars and cents, then why do it? If donating money to charity doesn't net any dollars and cents in return, why do it?

However, capitalism is a social system in addition to being an economic system. One implication of this is that decisions are not made simply based on money, but instead are freely made based on an exchange of values. I as an individual may value a $3000 mountain bike, but you may only spend $200 on one. Similarly, I as an individual may value a charity that works on finding a cure for cancer, while someone else may value a charity that helps victims of domestic abuse, while someone else may decide not to give to charity at all. Ironically, socialists are always hung up on dollars and cents, while true capitalists know that capitalism is about trading values -- not dollars and cents.

In the case of the Chilean miners, the amazing products created by capitalism, and simple good will among men -- which is far more prevalent in capitalist societies than non-free societies -- made their rescue both possible and desirable. Furthermore, without detracting from the previous point, and without knowing all the details of the situation, in any case there were likely other contractual obligations by the mining company to rescue their workers -- contracts with the workers themselves as well as the relevant insurance companies. It isn't conceivable that a government gun would ever be needed to force a private company to rescue trapped mining workers in any capitalist society.

See also:

answered Oct 17 '10 at 02:45

Raman's gravatar image

Raman ♦

edited Oct 17 '10 at 10:31

ah ok. thanks for that. So capitalism is not merely an economic system based on private ownership of capital.

(Oct 17 '10 at 04:30) Michael Michael's gravatar image

Right -- private ownership of capital, or more properly, property, is merely one attribute of capitalism, which is a result of its nature as a system that protect individual rights. I highly suggest reading Rand's essay "Man's Rights" and "What is Capitalism" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (I will add links above).

(Oct 17 '10 at 10:28) Raman ♦ Raman's gravatar image

"there were likely other contractual obligations by the mining company to rescue their workers" - I believe the mining company involved has filed or is likely to file for bankruptcy. Furthermore, it was Codelco, the government run mining company, that footed the bill for the rescue, and they are now trying to recover some of the cost from the company which the miners worked for.

(Oct 17 '10 at 12:26) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Would the miners still have been rescued had the government not stepped in? It's certainly possible. A US research firm has said that "the worldwide minute-by-minute coverage of the rescue has seen Oakley net the equivalent of $41m in television advertising time." The cost of the rescue was $20 million. Apparently the rescue could have been funded just on the advertising revenue generated by the television coverage of the rescue. And surely there will be at least one book and one movie about the rescue. This is without even considering all the individual donations that would come in.

(Oct 17 '10 at 12:34) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I have to say, I find it bizarre how folks gravitate to the idea that individuals operating in Capitalistic ways would be unusually likely to treat people as expendable commodities: from every third-world shithole dictatorship, to the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th Century, to the rationing in "civilized" nations' socialized health care systems and results we project like Obamacare's "Death Panels" here in the US -- we see the exact opposite. Those who don't give a whit about the Rights of Man are the ones who treat men as expendable commodities.

(Oct 17 '10 at 15:10) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image
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Capitalism is a social system which respects individual rights, including private property. Egoism is the moral system which underlies capitalism.

Since private charity doesn't involve any violation of individual rights, there is no way it could be materially anti-capitalistic.

If the charity is accompanied by a moral condemnation of those who choose (for their own good reasons) not to be charitable, then one could call the charity altruistic, and therefore, in intention, anti-capitalistic.

This is because capitalism is based on the morality of egoism, which altruism opposes.

Egoistic, capitalistic people are often extremely charitable. It's because they can afford it.

answered Oct 17 '10 at 12:20

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

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Asked: Oct 16 '10 at 18:22

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Last updated: Oct 17 '10 at 15:10