The assertion that capitalism is “heartless” falls into a typical mischaracterization of capitalism which has been growing in popular thought.
Many point to the industrial era as the “height” of capitalism in American society, and they reference the abuses of that time as an indictment on free-market ideology. I tend to agree that the industrial era was an indictment, but not of the general principles of capitalism. Instead, it was an indictment of social Darwinism and the feigned laissez-faire of crony capitalism.
On the first point, capitalism does not demand abstention from charity and good works to the less fortunate. Instead, it merely claims that the government should not be the primary source of such action. Social Darwinism, however, preached disregard and belittling of the less fortunate by private citizens.
Not only do the broader theories supporting capitalism reject social Darwinism, they assume and affirm individual charitable giving. Capitalists point out private charity is more effective, long-lasting, and uplifting to both giver and receiver than the forced, bureaucratic processes of a welfare state.
As to the second point, correctly functioning laissez-faire cannot exist while hypocrisy ensues. When a nation’s leaders rationalize zero government involvement in the typical citizen’s life yet craft legislation and promote executive action which benefits powerful corporations, the economic reality is not capitalism but crony capitalism.
If the ideas of social Darwinism and the rot which is crony capitalism are removed from the historical understanding of what capitalism actually is, and what it can actually be, then we can understand it isn’t heartless at all. Capitalism represents the most equal and effective economic process the world has ever seen. Those who think capitalism is heartless have learned to fear the wrong things.
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