Moral Capitalism

According to your basic economic viewpoint, capitalism is amoral. It’s simply a system that gives maximum benefit for minimal cost.

In reality, we know that’s not the case. Capitalism tends to concentrate wealth, and frequently involves imperfect information (e.g. you getting screwed because you didn’t know any better). Caveat emptor is doable for an online auctionhouse of non-essentials, but it’s one hell of a way to run an economy.

Except that a capitalistic system can tend towards the “common good”. In econo-speak, it’s because externalities end up being counted. Pollution is seen as a cost of doing business for the companies doing the polluting. Screwing your workers over for cheap health insurance today is suddenly viewed as weakening your own workforce (and therefore, your own profits).

Organizations such as the EPA are an effort to make those externalities a literal “cost” of doing business, whether through regulations or fines. But wouldn’t the same thing be achieved if we started looking at the long view, instead of just the next quarter? If you’re looking at workforce health in ten years, you’re going to want them taking care of themselves now (and will be more willing to give them the benefits to encourage that).

That long-range perspective is lost when we fire and hire based off of short-term gains. So the question is: How do we promote that kind of long-term strategic thinking in the already existing marketplace?

Tags: capitalism, morals, economics

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