13 April 2009

Mr. Right: "Capitalism Isn't Fair"

Mr. Peepers came in today declaring his astonishment at a survey published last week that reported that little more than a bare majority of Americans polled preferred capitalism over socialism as an economic system. Mr. Right seemed less surprised by these results.

"It's partly because they don't teach world history in the schools anymore," he explained, "so kids don't learn that socialism has failed everywhere it's been tried. But it's also because of this obsession with fairness, when capitalism just isn't fair. It's kind of like life that way."

"I'm surprised to hear you say that," I said, "I imagine some conservatives would disagree with you."

He shrugged.

"I know I've heard or read Republicans who would say that capitalism is the only fair system there is," I continued, "or the only fair system there can be."

"The real issue is how society defines fairness," he replied. I have to agree with him on that, if not on the actual definition. It seemed to bother him, though, that the President of the United States seemed to share his viewpoint, at least superficially. "Obama has avowed on numerous occasions that capitalism is an unfair system," he said. But he said it in a way that indicated that he did not agree with Obama.

What's the difference? I suppose it's a matter of whether or not you define unfairness as a bad thing, but that only forces us back to the original question of defining fairness. It's up to each society to do so, but Mr. Right's idea of fairness would seem to be self-negating. He seems to have a problem with the idea of fairness. He's not the only one; John F. Kennedy famously said that life isn't fair, and that was before he got proof to the head. But some of us think that it's civilization's task to make life more fair, based on a reasoned consensus on what fairness should be. Others despise the whole idea, perhaps because they take it on faith that fairness can't be achieved in "this world" without treating some people "unfairly." Of course, given the way the world works, that easily becomes a self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating prophecy. In any event, Mr. Right deserves credit for his candor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He also deserves "proof to the head". He just doesn't seem to get it that more and more Americans are becoming disenfranchised with capitalism because they are discluded from the capital. Hundreds of thousands of people put out of their jobs, many losing any retirement they paid into, for the sake of "capitalism" - in this case, the idea that it is more profitable for the corporate executives to give those jobs to people willing to accept much lower wages than to pay their own countrymen a living wage. Perhaps it is not capitalism that is failing as much as patriotism and nationalism.