Is Capitalism Evil?

Winston Churchill once said that democracy was the worst form of government except for all the others that had been tried. We might say that capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the others that have been tried.

We are steadily bombarded by people today who want to turn America into a socialist nation. From newly elected congresspeople, to some running for presidential office, to university presidents, to entertainers, to hordes of protesters in the streets, to many in the media there are constant calls to replace our capitalistic society with socialism. In the view of these people, anyone who builds a profitable business or becomes wealthy because of his or her entrepreneurial successes is evil and needs to be brought down. Surprisingly, some of the loudest voices calling for this are multimillionaires. As critical as they are towards what they call the unfair distribution of wealth, none of them have rid themselves of their own wealth or taken vows of poverty.

Personally, I am happy that people are successful in business and become wealthy because of that success. Not one poor person ever gave me a job that allowed me to support my family. We’ve always been able to go to the supermarket and buy the food we want without running into empty shelves. We’ve been able to buy clothing and other things necessary to live. We’ve been able to own cars to take us where we need to go. All of this is possible in a capitalist society. It often isn’t possible in a socialist one.

We often hear that the wealthy do not pay their fair share of taxes, that they do not give much to charities, and that they are immoral people. Let’s address these in reverse. Yes, some wealthy people are immoral, just like some poor people are immoral. People are not perfect, and some wealthy people are greedy and selfish, but so are many others who are not wealthy. Regarding giving, many wealthy people are very generous givers, but they don’t go around posting on social media all the various things they support. I’m sure that wealthy people take advantage of all the tax deductions they can to avoid paying any more taxes than they have to, just like any other American taxpayer will. We also need to remember that it is Congress who passes the laws that make these deductions possible, so we should not get too impressed by AOC, Bernie Sanders, or anyone else in Congress who complain about the wealthy not paying their fair share of taxes. It might also be helpful to ask any of them if they’ve ever felt led to pay extra taxes if they are that worried about the wealthy paying their fair share.

One other thing should be noted when it is brought up that the wealthy do not contribute as much as they should to society. Again, they are the ones who provide employment to countless millions of people. They fund the research that has provided miracle drugs and technology that have improved the lives of many. They provide a lot to our nation, and capitalism makes that possible.

How does capitalism provide so much to so many? It’s because it allows people to be rewarded for the good work and products they offer their customers. Rabbi Daniel Lappin says that every dollar you earn is a “certificate of appreciation” you receive from your customers. If you don’t serve your customers well you don’t succeed, but if you do succeed it is a sign that you are offering your customers the service and products they want.

We are bombarded so much about the evils of capitalism and wealth it’s hard to not be influenced by some of that thinking. I encourage you to read Rabbi Lappin’s excellent book Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money for an excellent overview of the good capitalism has done and how you can be more successful in your own career.

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