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The Ism That Isn’t

July 17, 2011

Much is made of labels and names, so much so that there is an implicit assumption that any label or name in use stands as either a symbol or a straw man for a group of specific individuals (usually ones distinctly unlike the present company, often on only a few but focused upon traits). So when people speak of capitalism, what is usually meant, and perceived, is Capitalism, the term for fat cat bankers, robber barons, and “the rich/wealthy.” Capitalism and Communism or Socialism are often directly compared as if they are competing theories, when in reality one is a method or implementation, and the other two are theories as created by specific individuals for their goals.

Capitalism is the ism that isn’t, it reflects not an ideology but a prioritization of capital. It is the economic equivalent of eating your vegetables before your desert. In capitalism you seek the maximum value for each action, you expend at the peak moment, you labor for the most gainful fruits. To sell high and buy low is capitalism, to invest your time in study rather than idling in front of the television is capitalism – to do the opposite of these examples as motivated by the rewards or perspectives of your ideology is capitalism. A Christian taking on habits and practices to avoid the occasion of sin is investing the capital of habits and time for the gain of grace in salvation. A Marxist defending Communism, distributing the manifesto and voting for greater state power and social programs is investing the capital of that effort which could go many other places, is practicing capitalism.

This post is the practice of capitalism; your reading it, or quitting mid-way through or stopping in the first sentence is capitalism. Capitalism is acting upon the best path known to us, it is practiced through the advocacy of free human action that does not infringe on other human actions, through seeking out trade and expertise to maximize impact of labor – which leaves us with finding the best paths, through analyzing data and examining incentives and consequences.

So are your actions the best employment of capitalism? Is what your advocating been tried before? How did it perform? Where did you get the information on its performance from? If it performed poorly primarily due to faults of its own character, a good capital decision would be to move away from it, or at least those aspects of its character. If it performed well, a good use of capital is the examination of all contributing factors to enhance its implementation.

We are all capitalists, we all practice capitalism, the real question is whether or not our culture is getting better or worse at it, and what can we examine to help steer us toward the better?

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 28, 2011 2:05 am

    Excellent! I’ve been trying to explain it that way for a while.

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