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Can a Wildly Successful Economic System like

Capitalism be Morally Flawed? If so, How?

[Adam] Smith was not the proponent of any one class. He was a slave to his system. His whole economic philosophy stemmed from his unquestioning faith in the ability of the market to guide the system to its point of highest return. The market—that wonderful social machine—would take care of society’s needs if it was left alone. Don’t try to do good, says Smith. Let good emerge as the by-product of selfishness.

Robert L. Heilbroner

It had been held that the economic system, any capitalist system, found its equilibrium at full employment. Left to itself, it was thus that it came to rest. Idle men and idle plant were an aberration, a wholly temporary failing.

John Kenneth Galbraith

[Keynes’ book The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money] was revolutionary: no other word will quite do. It stood economics on its head for the book had a startling and dismaying conclusion. There was no automatic safety mechanism after all! Rather than a see-saw which would always right itself, the economy resembled an elevator: it could be going up or down, but it could also be standing perfectly still. And it was just as capable of standing still on the ground floor as at the top of the shaft. A depression, in other words, might not cure itself at all; the economy could lie prostrate indefinitely, like a ship becalmed.

Robert L. Heilbroner

Capitalism has never anywhere provided good houses at moderate cost. Housing, it seems unnecessary to stress, is an important adjunct of a successful urban life. Nor does capitalism provide good health services, and when people live close together with attendant health risks, these too are important. Nor does capitalism provide efficient transportation for people—another essential of the life of the Metropolis. In Western Europe and Japan the failure of capitalism in the fields of housing, health and transportation is largely, though not completely, accepted. There industries have been intensively socialized. In the United States there remains the conviction that, however contrary the experience, private enterprise will eventually serve.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Then came the second Amsterdam discovery, although the principle was known elsewhere. [Bank] deposits...did not need to be left idly in the bank. They could be lent. The bank then got interest. The borrower then had a deposit that he could spend. But the original deposit still stood to the credit of the original depositor. That too could be spent. Money, spendable money, had been created. Let no one rub his or her eyes. It’s still being done—every day. The creation of money by a bank is as simple as this, so simple, I’ve often said, that the mind is slightly repelled.

John Kenneth Galbraith

The very idea of a government that can create money for itself allowing banks to create money that the government then borrows and pays interest on is so preposterous that it staggers the imagination. Either everyone in government in charge of the procedure is deficient in intelligence or they have been bought and paid for by those who profit from their venality and infidelity to the public interest.

William F. Hixson

Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile... Once a nation parts with control of its credit, it matters not who makes the nation’s laws... Usury once in control will wreck any nation.

William Lyon Mackenzie King

Capital movements are no longer necessarily related to the production of goods and services. Through the financial markets of the world, capital movements today are overwhelmingly concerned with the capture of and trade in property rights, the ownership of assets that magnify a corporation’s wealth, power, and control. It is what John Maynard Keynes described as “a casino world”—wealth without worth.

Eric Kierans

Consider the hypothesis that the world is being steered by moneyed interests with special access to governments. This would have obvious implications for democratic reforms. It would mean that it is nearly useless to resort to reasoned arguments of a kind that the powers-that-be understand very well but consider not in their interests to recognize.

Thoughts about Capitalism

A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste.

Dorothy L. Sayers

A tight-money policy reinforces inequality in two ways. Its high interest rates disproportionately reward the rich, and the resulting unemployment disproportionately punishes the poor.

Linda McQuaig

Behind the abstraction known as “the markets” lurks a set of institutions designed to maximize the wealth and power of the most privileged group of people in the world, the creditor-rentier class of the First World and their junior partners in the Third.

Doug Henwood (from Wall Street: How it Works, and For Whom, 1998)

Capitalism is the only society in human history in which neither tradition nor conscious direction supervises the total effort of the community; it is the only society in which the future, the needs for tomorrow, are entirely left to an automatic system.

Robert L. Heilbroner

Capitalism is the philosophy of greed. It breaks down the bonds of solidarity in a society.

Bob Rae

Capital, never concerned with distribution, is now less and less concerned with production. Capital is driving for power, for the control over markets, lands, resources. Capital, in corporate hands, can move anywhere and thus demand and get the utmost in concessions and privileges as well as the freedom to operate in the interest of ever-increasing wealth and assets.

Eric Kierans

Economic growth has no limits. If you hear anyone tell you that there’s a limit to growth, they’re wrong and we should avoid those kinds of people. That’s why we’re so successful in the Conservative government.

Deputy Economic Minister under Mulroney

I think that Capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself is in many ways extremely objectionable.

Maynard Keynes

Normally speaking, it may be said that the forces of a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer and thus increase the gap between them.

Jawaharlal Nehru

The chief safeguard of personal freedom in a democratic society is the anarchy and disorder of capitalist individualism.

Christopher Dawson

The logic of consumerism and the growth economy destroys culture.

The multinational corporation...puts the economic decision beyond the effective reach of the political process and its decision-makers, national governments.

Peter Drucker

The payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Albert Einstein

The tendency of advanced capitalism has been to enlarge the middle class and not to wipe it out, as it once seemed likely to do.

George Orwell, (from England Your England, 1941)

There is hardly anything in the world that some man can’t make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.

John Ruskin

There is no intrinsic reason for the scarcity of capital.

John Maynard Keynes

This is the standard procedure for corporate growth these days; one company buys up another on loans that are floated on the basis of future earnings, and the monopoly or oligopoly created in this way produces the necessary funds by squeezing out competition, and passing the costs along to the consumer. The bucket that holds the new wealth is called a corporation.

Eric Kierans

Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.

G. K. Chesterton

What banks loan “for the most part” is money they create—nonpreexisting money.

William F. Hixson

What counts in a market-intensive society is not the effort to please or the pleasure that flows from that effort, but the coupling of labour with capital, however useless or damaging the result.

What kind of society isn’t structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of system.

Milton Friedman

When market dependence reaches a certain threshold it deprives people of their power to live creatively and to act autonomously. And precisely because this new impotence is so deeply experienced, it is expressed with difficulty.

Ivan Illich

When well-divided property has disappeared and Capitalism has taken its place, you cannot reverse the process without acting against natural economic tendencies.

Hilaire Belloc

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