Society problems

Society’s problems aren’t all about capitalism

Published: 01/14/2022 13:42:13

Modified: 01/14/2022 13:41:21

A recent letter to the editor titled “Capitalism Causes Destruction” (January 8), which stated, to quote directly from the article, that “global holocaust and planetary destruction” can be attributed to capitalism and capitalism alone , made me realize that this would be a good opportunity to discuss the claims made in the article, which many of us who consider ourselves progressives seem to share.

It might have been easier to just toss the ideas out of the box and move on, but they seem like ideas worth looking into. The letter writer seems to occupy a growing faction of progressivism that holds an unachievable standard of societal perfection. Rather than working toward progress and then recognizing when progress has been made, these perfectionists view social structures through an idealistic lens, where any flaws or shortcomings are deemed objectionable.

It may be helpful to view some alternative economic systems to capitalism, of which the letter writer might be a supporter, through his own idealistic lens. It is well known that communist regimes that took place during the 20th century, including Cuba under Fidel Castro, China under Mao Zedong, and most notably the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, also resulted in the deaths of millions of people. as one of the most powerful idea suppressions seen in the history of the world. Far from ideal, to say the least.

That is to say: the communist experiment has already been conducted, and the result was something none of us would have ever hoped for. The initial idealism that animated many of these countries has turned into what could be considered one of the greatest collective violations of human rights of modern times.

Despite the result of the communist experiment that has already been conducted, many people, most of them well-meaning, continue to present it as a credible alternative to the free market system used in the United States. Citing the many problems plaguing our country, such as poverty, income inequality, mass incarceration and environmental degradation, these people characterize capitalism as a machine of mass exploitation.

I’m not here to endorse capitalism, nor to deny that the United States is flawed and deals with a multitude of issues — including, as mentioned, poverty, income inequality, and environmental devastation. It is, however, wrong to claim that these questions are fundamentally capitalist questions. As history has shown, they will occur, at least to some extent, under all forms of governance. It’s easy enough to determine that no society has ever been completely free of these problems, while a little harder to determine whether capitalism plays a role in their aggravation.

I believe it is important for the government to regulate companies that threaten the common good. I also recognize that the United States could do more to establish a social safety net for those living in poverty – to me, this is an undeniable truth.

But it must be said that if the rich got richer, the conditions of the poorest in the world improved simultaneously. One of the eight Millennium Development Goals proposed by the UN was to reduce absolute poverty worldwide by 50% between 2000 and 2015, with poverty defined as less than $1.90 a day. This objective was achieved in 2012, three years ahead of schedule. This speaks to the fact that improvements in global living standards are indeed underway.

To those, like the letter writer, who are quick to blame all societal problems on the status quo, remember this: perfection is not always achievable, especially because we all have different understandings. of what perfect means. If we want to create a better world, we must work to make progress and celebrate when it has been achieved. As a member of the generation that will inherit the world in the decades to come, I sincerely hope that I will work alongside people who do not expect perfection, but strive for incremental improvement throughout. throughout their lives and to savor its greatness along the way.

Olin Rose-Bardawil is a first year student at Williston Northampton School in Easthampton. He writes frequently for his school newspaper, The Willistonian. He lives in Florence.