Capitalism Is Amoral, Not Evil


Paul B. Farrell at MarketWatch:

Capitalism is killing our morals, our future
Commentary: In a Market Society, everything is for sale

Yes, capitalism is working … for the Forbes 1,000 Global Billionaires whose ranks swelled from 322 in 2000 to 1,426 recently. Billionaires control the vast majority of the world’s wealth, while the income of American workers stagnated.

For the rest of the world, capitalism is not working: A billion live on less than two dollars a day. With global population exploding to 10 billion by 2050, that inequality gap will grow, fueling revolutions, wars, adding more billionaires and more folks surviving on two bucks a day.

Over the years we’ve explored the reasons capitalism blindly continues on its self-destructive path. Recently we found someone who brilliantly explains why free-market capitalism is destined to destroy the world, absent a historic paradigm shift: That is Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, author of the new best-seller, “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets,” and his earlier classic, “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?”


Today “almost everything can be bought and sold.” Today “markets, and market values, have come to govern our lives as never before. We did not arrive at this condition through any deliberate choice. It is almost as if it came upon us,” says Sandel.

Over the years, “market values were coming to play a greater and greater role in social life. Economics was becoming an imperial domain. Today, the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone. It increasingly governs the whole of life.”

Yes, it’s everywhere: “Markets to allocate health, education, public safety, national security, criminal justice, environmental protection, recreation, procreation, and other social goods unheard-of 30 years ago. Today, we take them largely for granted.”

Examples … for-profit schools, hospitals, prisons … outsourcing war to private contractors … police forces by private guards “almost twice the number of public police officers” … drug “companies aggressive marketing of prescription drugs directly to consumers, a practice … prohibited in most other countries.”

More: Ads in “public schools … buses … corridors … cafeterias … naming rights to parks and civic spaces … blurred boundaries, within journalism, between news and advertising … marketing of ‘designer’ eggs and sperm for assisted reproduction … buying and selling … the right to pollute … campaign finance in the U.S. that comes close to permitting the buying and selling of elections.”


What is certain: Capitalism is eliminating moral values, as Nobel economist Milton Friedman and capitalism’s philosopher Ayn Rand had been preaching to the generation. As Sandel puts it: “Each party to a deal decides for him- or herself what value to place on the things being exchanged. This nonjudgmental stance toward values lies at the heart of market reasoning, and explains much of its appeal.”

But unfortunately, market capitalism “has exacted a heavy price … drained public discourse of moral and civic energy.”

There is more and you should probably go read it. I was kinda surprised to find that essay in a subsidiary of the Wall Street Journal. Not so much for the point of view expressed as for the poor reasoning and poor use of supporting facts.

Progressives have a strange “love-hate” relationship with morality. They despise traditional morality, especially if it is connected to religion, but at the same time they think they are better people than everyone else. But their concepts of reality tend to be flexible and unevenly applied – for instance they support abortion but oppose the death penalty.

Capitalism is amoral, not evil. Capitalism is an economic system, and only (some) people are capable of moral behavior. But morality should affect the choices we make, including the value judgments we assign to different things.

This may shock some of you but I am actually a believer in objective morality (at least for other people). That objective standard of behavior is in large part been codified into law. Prohibitions against theft and killing are expressions of morality.

I do want to address a couple of Mr. Ferrell’s points:

For the rest of the world, capitalism is not working: A billion live on less than two dollars a day.

How many of those billion people live in industrialized capitalist societies? How many live in pre-capitalist agrarian societies? Hmmm? As for the “examples” he gives, those are not moral issues, they concern the most efficient way to pay for those endeavors.

One last thing: If you Google Bing “capitalism” and click on “images” you will find a bunch of graphics both for and against it. Contrary to what seems to be a popular belief, capitalism does not cause poverty. Poverty was a pre-existing condition. Capitalism is a cure for poverty. It may not be 100% effective, but it works better than anything else.


About Myiq2xu

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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43 Responses to Capitalism Is Amoral, Not Evil

  1. myiq2xu says:

    Actually, the calculation that one cannot afford a child and that abortion is the cheaper option would be an example that proves Ferrell’s point.

    Money over morality.

  2. myiq2xu says:
  3. Lulu says:

    Whenever I see these types of articles I try to find out about the author such as how old they are, where and if they were educated, a photo and bio, etc. I could only find one photo of Paul B Farrell and I thought it was picture of an elf wearing big black glasses when I first looked at it. His other works seem to be teeming with allusions to fictional characters like “Game of Thrones” and other fantasy fiction. I think this person has played too many video games, watched too many movies and tv shows, and read too many comic books. Several articles also question his sanity. Bat signals anyone.

  4. I am an unabashed believer in capitalism. It’s as you said myiq the best system in spite of its flaws. One of the main reasons it is a flawed system is that it was developed and implemented by humans, and we’re flawed beings. The folks who criticize it these days have no alternate plan.

    And I agree that this piece is poorly reasoned

  5. elliesmom says:

    If you want an abundance of something, put a price on it that allows someone to make a reasonable profit. Stupidity is highly profitable. People invest a lot in their own stupidity. I give you The Pet Rock as a prime example. Education is mostly not profitable. There’s not much education going on in our schools.

    • elliesmom says:

      Link doesn’t work. Bloomberg was refused a second slice of pizza during a working lunch in an Italian eatery. He was told he had reached his “slice limit”. He fumed and said he’d go somewhere else. The owner didn’t budge. Suggested the walk to another restaurant would help him use up the excess calories in the second slice. Bloomberg left.

  6. Somebody says:

    MYIQ you hit on some of the very points I had running through my mind as I read this drivel. This gentleman needs to get out of his cloistered environment once in awhile. More tripe from academia.

  7. HELENK says:

    other than islam, religion seems to be under attack in this country now, along with captialism.

    this is becoming a country, I no longer understand

  8. yttik says:

    I get tired of “poverty” being viewed as something immoral. Poverty is relative. In the US, many of our poor people have great wealth, food, shelter, running water, electricity. In some countries, 2 dollars a day is not a bad income. It depends on the price of food and shelter and how far your money will go in that economy. Poverty is really a matter of perspective. What is immoral are things like starvation, war, oppression, disease, and the inability to provide for yourself. Those things happen not necessarily from a lack of money but from a lack of good leadership and government. IMO, Gov’s job is to create an environment where people are safe and free enough to provide for themselves. That is what we have always attempted to do in the US and it’s worked pretty well.

    • myiq2xu says:

      Neither poverty nor wealth are inherently moral or immoral.

    • smile says:

      Yes, thank you so much for mentioning that the U.S.$2.00 is not the same value in some countries as it is in the U.S. Currency is a relative and it’s value is different in different countries. Yet, so many well heeled travellers (read celebrities and academics) ignore this simple fact and use it to denounce capitalism and/or wealth creation.

      The latest fad, is trying to create a movement, where people are going to try to live on $2.00 U.S. a day for one week. This is being led by Ben Affleck. I wonder where he will live in the U.S. during his trial week. Where can he find housing, food, clothing, transportation that will be within $2/day?

  9. HELENK says:

    your digital cell phone conversations can be accessed by the government at any time is one of the scary things in this article

  10. HELENK says:

    how many times have you heard people say “when we were growing up we did not have a lot, but we did not feel poor.
    Capitalism is a way out of poverty. If you kill it, you kill hope, incentive and will to make a better life for you and your family.
    Is it perfect NO, is it better then many other ways of life Yes.

  11. HELENK says:

    if we can get the many democratic knives out of her back, we want her to run , she is all we have now

    princess nancy prays for Hillary to run

  12. HELENK says:

    I am not sure what words to use on this story.
    loss of hope is like a cancer on a society

  13. HELENK says:

    have these students been living in the world? If by the time they go to college they have not met people of various races, they must live in a bubble

  14. HELENK says:

    your government at work.

    IRS grabs tax refund

    • Jadzia says:

      They grabbed mine for several years because my husband incurred a debt to the IRS BEFORE WE EVER MET. (Oh, and he “forgot” to mention it to me before we married. I found out about it when my house, which I had purchased several years before the marriage in my name alone, got slapped with a tax lien. Good times.)

  15. angienc (D) says:

    OT — It’s Holy Week for me (today is Good Friday; Sunday is Easter in the Orthodox church). I’m in NOLA & haven’t (and will not be) posting much (there’s church every night this week, plus the Easter day lamb to prepare). But if you want to know what it’s like, Rita Wilson (married to Tom Hanks) wrote a pretty good account of it in WaPo last year:

    Happy Easter all. 🙂

  16. HELENK says:

    Happy Easter Angienc

    enjoy the holiday

  17. HELENK says:

    Rudy Giuliani was on TV today. saying that the three who covered up for the bombers should be charged as accessories to the murder of the MIT policeman that the brothers killed. If they had reported the brothers and not covered up for them, the murder would not have happened.

  18. HELENK says:

    tweety tingles makes another stupid statement.

    The 2nd amendment of the Constitution protects all Americans not just those of a certain color. People of all colors have and still are fighting and dying to protect that right.

  19. Falstaff says:

    I get tired of people using the word “capitalism” as if it designated the very same system of economic organization across different times and places. China, the US, South Korea, France, Vietnam, and Finland (to name a few at random) are all capitalist societies, but they have very different ways of implementing capitalism. On the evidence available, I’d say that the Chinese model gives the best rate of industrial growth, but it lacks a lot of advantages that can be found in other systems.

  20. And so it begins (again)…….California’s fire season is off with a bang! The Springs fire began near Camarillo, in Ventura County, was at 10,000 plus acres with 4000 homes threatened and went from inland through to the mountains all the way to the coast in less than a day.

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