One of the most profound cases against capitalism is that it is unequal in nature. The argument for for a more equal distribution of wealth is often touted as the most ethical answer to poverty. For why should one man have more wealth than he needs while others starve? While it is not difficult to see the merit in this criticism, can an individual truly be raised up by tearing another down?
There is no doubt that there was great inequality between Serfs and Lords during 15th Century Feudalism. It is not difficult to come to this conclusion simply through examination of differences in real wealth. The average peasant struggles through life Labouring for meager necessities of their existence, likely eating bread and cheese in a one bedroom cottage with dirt floors while the appointed Lords would eat poultry and meats with wine and whatever they desired before heading off to sleep in their lavish castle. The peasants were lucky if they had a horse or mule for transportation while the Lord would surely have luxury carriage.
Slowly as time passed Feudalism began to fade into history. The fragments of Feudalism finally passed as Labour was made scarce due to the bubonic plague, and the opening of trade routes along with various other factors.
One might be able to make a comparison between Feudalism with modern Capitalism as a rent based system. However if we examine closely the true wealth differences once more we can see the bottom class raised up. Both the rich and the poor have the luxury of transportation, clean water, heating and cooling along with similar access to modern technology. There isn’t much difference between the computer, television, or tablet of a rich man that that of a poor man. While it can’t be doubted that there is still great wealth inequality the poor have been raised further into prosperity thus shortening the gap between the wealthy and themselves. This is due mostly in part to labour saving inventions by profiteers through free trade. By increasing the amount of capital people have to work with they can create a surplus of goods in less time. There is more to be consumed making it possible to distribute goods even to the poor. Equality is not possible if wealth is not being produced (At Least not not equal prosperity).
However if there is to be a fair examination of wealth we must also examine competing economic systems as well as Capitalism. It it would be far beyond the scope of this column to examine every single economic system, so we will focus directly on socialism. Virtually every true socialist utopia has failed miserably, whether it be Maoist China, Soviet Russia, or current day Venezuela. Even discounting the despotism and tyranny that harmed so many there were still thousands if not millions of deaths as a result of starvation directly due to inefficient distribution of goods. Even today Venezuela suffers from shortages, and rolling blackouts. Of course one could hardly call this system equal considering the despots acting as the new upper class.
Proponents of socialism will often point to the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, ect. as examples of their Socialist utopia in order to counter this claim. It must be pointed out however that These countries are not truly socialist but rather Capitalist funded welfare states. Even so the distribution methods of these states has rendered all of their citizens poorer. With no sound money and compulsive borrowing these states fund welfare programs by syphoning off of the wealth of the entire nation. Without proper investment and expansion this system makes everyone poorer. A simple challenge to prove this point is to compare the innovations of the state with that of the private market. The entire computer revolution only took fruition after Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak started Apple Inc. Apple along with several other companies Such as Google, Amazon, and HP all started in a garage before evolving to change the world. The counterclaim to this is often that government created the internet which of course is greatly over exaggerated. The government funded a small Network that connected only dozens of computers. While it’s true that the government did develop Arpanet, it’s only after this system was privatized that it took off into what we see today. While nobody can claim that no innovations arise from the state it isn’t hard to see that Modern Computers, automobiles, planes etc. sure beat the heck out of velcro.
In short no system has ever remotely come close to eliminating inequality. The proponents of systems that claim to do so in fact often make matters worse. The strangest thing however is the system that is by far the most unequal is also the same that drags literally millions out of poverty. Capitalism, a system of personal gain brings gains for everyone. It is the only system that can honestly be said gives everyone equal opportunity, and I for one would much rather have a smaller slice of a much larger pie.