According to Elizabeth Warren, capitalism necessarily means exploitation:
· “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea - God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Warren suggests that the creator of capital doesn't really have a right to his capital, because the capitalist had taken advantage of the labor of others.
However, creating wealth can also be an act of love. What if I decide to work 14 hours a day and sow 50 acres with tomatoes instead of my usual 30. I will have to hire two unemployed neighbors, and the extra tomatoes going to the market will lower the price for everyone! Doesn't sound too evil, does it?
Let's now add another aspect of capitalism. It empowers. It motivates and marshals our energies into something wholesome - creating things that others want and need.
In contrast, when the government assumes responsibility for our welfare, we are disempowered. We no longer need to work or to be enterprising. We become devalued, even within our nuclear families. The bread-winner is no longer essential, when the State provides. The children are no longer essential to provide for their parents, after the State assumes responsibility for them.
The community also becomes irrelevant and therefore disempowered once their care-giving role has been usurped by the State.
What is the alternative to capitalism - the freedom to pursue capital? The elimination of this freedom! But how? Through costly government control! For what purpose? Empowerment or dis-empowerment?
Is capitalism an evil? Does it foster greed, materialism, exploitation, and avarice or is it one of many ways that our baser instincts can find expression?
In "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," Max Weber argued that capitalism is not the cause of these evils but one of many ways that our evils can be expressed:
· The impulse to acquisition, pursuit of gain, of money, of the greatest possible amount of money, has in itself nothing to do with capitalism. This impulse exists and has existed among waiters, physicians, coachmen, artists, prostitutes, dishonest officials, soldiers, nobles, crusaders, gamblers, and beggars. One may say that it has been common to all sorts and conditions of men at all times and in all countries of the earth, wherever the objective possibility of it is or has been given. It should be taught in the kindergarten of cultural history that this naïve idea of capitalism must be given up once and for all.
In light of this, socialism and communism do not eliminate our dark impulses but merely channel them in different ways.
Let's return to Warren:
· "But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Indeed, we are our brother's keeper. We have been given and so we must give, but how? Through government coercion? The Bible insists that giving should be done freely and not through coercion:
· “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
When giving is coerced, it is not cheerful. It might not even be helpful.