does capitalism result in the espousal of liberal values in the long term?24 Sep 2016
back in june i listened to an episode of on being with jonathan haidt and melvin konner on capitalism.
the part of the conversation that has stuck with me is this question: does capitalism, in the long-run, result in the spreading of liberal values (equality and justice, in all of their forms)?
i know up front that probably sounds weird, especially for anti-capitalists (myself included). but the logic discussed in the episode actually did make me think for bit.
basically, the argument went like this: in the short-run, industrial capitalism produces incredible amounts of stuff which people use to improve their quality of life. food, energy, water, and shelter is able to be provided for a huge number of people with much less resource.
now, much of the systems that produce the goods are terrible destructive and extractive. however, this increased quality of life allows people, usually over multiple generations, to understand the impact of their systems of production. this creates subsequent generations of people who are concerned with issues like this. this is the process of moving upwards on maslow’s hierarchy. then, based on the material gains and lessons learned from earlier systems of production, the later generations turn those destructive systems into regenerative systems.
of course, one counter-argument is that the pathway to produce the things required for such a high standard of living is more destructive than the planet or its inhabitants (of which humans are just one species) can handle.
the environmental destruction that has resulted in the climate warning has already (directly or indirectly) destroyed many species. industrial capitalism also seems to result in the personal and spiritual destruction of many, many people along the way.
of course, the way industrial capitalism rolled out in the west was very much predicated on oppression (largely sexism, racism, and colonialism), but i wonder if industrialization would have happened in the same way (or would i have happened at all?) if all people had always been seen as equals with no one being disposable.
i’m definitely over time for today, but i do wonder if humans can turn this ship around fast enough to keep ourselves alive.