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About Capitalism

CapitalismFrequently in debate an opponent will raise the issue of capitalism - usually to do with perceived inequity/unfairness/brutality.  When I was young I thought in similar ways. It seems obvious that any system which relies on greed to motivate must be morally dubious, whereas a system designed at more equitable distribution of resources must be morally superior.

As I got older and wiser (I hope), I realised that things were nowhere near as simple as once I had thought. Capitalism, it seems, has raised living standards for EVERYONE, not just the owners of the means of production. On the other hand socialism has proved disastrous in EVERY attempt at implementation. 

It isn't my intention here to launch a defence of capitalism - it's not my subject and there are much better people to listen to or read on the matter.  I simply say that the chances of replacing capitalism by anything not massively worse is tiny - especially since the critics rarely have any coherent alternative to suggest, after the abject failure of Marxist experiments world-wide,  simply meaningless slogans like Smash The Patriarchy.

If you want to trash capitalism then you should really argue your case based on facts, rather than the straw-man caricature, which is routinely served-up.  When one listens to media reports about third world countries and the excesses of capitalist fat-cats it is easy to overlook some important facts. This was most forceably brought home to me when listening to a lecture a couple of decades ago by an economist. I can't remember his name, but I vividly remember the graphs and statistics he used to illustrate his lecture. Since then I have come across an even better defence of capitalism through statistics - presented by the late and much missed Hans Rosling.


In order that you can test the truth of these assertions, I have built a quick and dirty database which shows GDP per capita for most of the countries in the world over the 20th century (and before, where I have the data).  GDP Per Capita is a commonly used measure of individual wealth.  Simple select the country you want from the pull-down list and click Search. *




* Please note that I have only used non-controversial data from Maddison. The data only includes years with reliable figures and this means that the Time axis for each country is different. This needs to be remembered by anyone who would wish to do comparative analysis.
The BBC and other media
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