Political Economy

Is the current version of capitalism perfect? Probably not. How could capitalism be improved?

A few facts to begin:

A perfect economic system would match the work in category 1 with the people in category 2, thus greatly reducing the number of people in category 3. Category 3 is rather large at present. Capitalism is not perfect.

But even capitalism's staunchest defenders would not suggest it is perfect. Rather, they would suggest that capitalism, like democracy, is "the worst system, except for all the others." Which is perhaps true at the moment.

But I refuse to believe that contemporary capitalism is the best possible economic system. Capitalism was a human invention. Capitalism has a great many flaws and shortcomings. Humans can invent something better. That 'something better' will probably incorporate large parts of contemporary capitalism.

Advocating some grand revolution and recasting of society upon communistic or anarchistic principles seems impractical at best, apocalyptic at worst. I cannot even begin to imagine the train of events that would lead to the realization of such a revolution. It seems incredibly far-fetched.

And yet I have become more and more interested in communistic and anarchistic texts as of late. These works, as flawed as they might be, are the product of very intelligent human beings trying to understand the shortcomings of capitalism. Add to these recent environmental critiques, then the shared-culture inventions of the open source and creative commons movements. Those four strands of political economy provide a potent mass of ideas to draw upon.

The United States came to define itself as a capitalist nation, in response to its enemy, the Soviet Union. But more fundamentally, the United States is a free country, rather than a totalitarian one. I would gladly revise capitalism, if it meant greater freedom.

At the moment, American Liberalism emphasizes public education, the preservation of Social Security, and the resistance of workers via unions. Even if this liberalism were to succeed completely, this would be an an incredibly piecemeal response to capitalism. There is no vision of Utopia, no high ideal to pursue. Rather, they would only mitigate the harmful effects of capitalism's shortcomings.

As a country, the United States espouses high ideals. And not just high ideals - ideals so high they are unattainable. Yet the pursuit of them is what counts. Current American Liberalism does not tap into this incredibly powerful American trait. Obama, it should be remembered, did not campaign on the platform of more-of-the-same liberalism. Which is why he was so electrifying.

Ideally, the revision of capitalism should be able to articulate better than contemporary capitalism just what is so effective about contemporary capitalism. Then it should go on to articulate what is ineffective about contemporary capitalism with equal vigor.

Capitalism as an ideal is not synonymous with greed. It's so much greater and grander than greed.... Warren Buffet might be the place to start. He is a capitalist, who understands what is so beautiful about the idea of capitalism, and, from that understanding, oftentimes criticizes contemporary capitalism when it perverts its high ideals.