In the thread about SoFA’s developing Social Justice statement, the use of the term “extractive capitalism” was picked out for discussion.
In order to avoid hijacking the thread, I suggested we talk a bit more about about economic systems, starting with a critique of capitalism here instead.
Personally, I appreciated the use of the term " extractive capitalism" in the statement because I tend to see capitalism broadly demonized without much specificity or nuance in its critique.
To me, this is problematic mostly because:
- it’s hard to fight something you don’t understand
- it’s hard to replace something you don’t understand
- it’s hard to come up with something that works better than something you don’t understand
And it seems pretty clear to me that most people out there demonizing capitalism, don’t understand it. Generally, they aren’t able to talk much about it other than by throwing around one of its various antonyms.
Frankly, as much as I embrace other economic models, often they also seem flawed or problematic in other ways.
And if not that, they are problematic in other ways.
So… for starters, I have the following questions.
1. What fundamental elements are deeply problematic about capitalism?
When I say fundamental elements, I mean not just the things about capitalism in the US that are problematic. Or not just things that are problematic about China’s capitalism. Or Capitalism in Europe. But what elements are fundamental to all forms of capitalism that are deeply problematic.
2. What are the alternatives to these things?
I imagine each one might warrant discussion in its own right, so maybe we just list and simply define them for this thread so we don’t stray too far… I’ll be excited to talk about more than just the most obvious and controversial alternative
3. How do these alternative resolve the issues of capitalism, and function better than capitalism? What are their challenges?
With those questions, I’m realizing there’s actually a more fundamental question: what is capitalism?
Here’s a definition of capitalism from Wikipedia:
Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include:
- capital accumulation,
- competitive markets,
- a price system,
- private property and
- the recognition of property rights,
- voluntary exchange and
- wage labor.
To me, agreeing on a definition is a necessary first step, so there’s a question:
0. are these seven things the key elements of capitalism? Is anything missing or miss stated?
And, then, comes the critique - which might be quite a pill for some!