When did badmouthing capitalism become fashionable? Our guess is around the same time ‘safe spaces’ started popping up on university campuses around the country… Capitalism, it would seem, is no longer cool; or hip; or ‘on-trend’. It isn’t ‘woke’. And perhaps most importantly for its predominately millennial detractors, it isn’t socially conscious. Not explicitly so, anyway. It’s instead seen as cold, ruthlessly profit-driven and, for many, conjures up images of Scrooge-like villains getting obscenely wealthy off the backs of honest, hardworking people. If this is indeed the case, it’s no wonder young people are falling out of love with capitalism. And they are. En masse.
- Just 45% of 18-29 year olds view capitalism positively, down from 57% in 2016
- However 51% of 18-29 year olds said they have a positive view of socialism
- Right-leaning participants remain overwhelmingly positive about capitalism
The UK has, for some time, favoured socialism over capitalism. And even in the U.S., a nation which has historically regarded any economic or political system left of centre with McCarthyesque suspicion, young people’s attitudes are shifting (see above stats). This is in part thanks to Democratic party populists such as Bernie Saunders, who narrowly missed out on securing the Democratic nomination in 2016 (amidst claims that Hillary rigged the primaries), but is running again in 2020, along with the recently elected and massively socialist (see below video) queen of social media, 29-year-old congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Make no mistake, in 2019 socialism is cool and capitalism is not. Problem with Socialism, of course, is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money… Just kidding. Well, sort of.
AOC was elected U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district on June 26, 2018
The free market
Politics aside, why is it that the economic system favoured by – let’s be honest – the vast majority of developed countries, the world over, has become the target of such hate lately, particularly amongst millennials? Well, a lot of people feel understandably disillusioned with the kind of vapid consumerism that capitalism encourages. Fair point, but that’s more down to consumer attitudes and behaviours, and not the system itself, right? We do all have freewill, after all…
Additionally, it’s easy (though not entirely accurate) to blame capitalism for some of the environmental problems facing our planet (another hot topic with the young!). Although, it’s worth noting that one of the great things about the free market, i.e., capitalism, is that it tends to naturally correct social, and by extension environmental, issues all by itself. How so? Well, say millennials decide they aren’t crazy about the fact that certain big supermarkets are polluting the oceans with their excessive use of plastic packaging. What do you think the big supermarkets are going to do?
Well, if they’re smart, they’ll adapt to the changing sensibilities of the free market. In other words, they’ll make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of plastic they use so as not to alienate their customers and lose out on business… Case in point: Waitrose ‘bring your own container’ scheme. Capitalism FTW!
Capitalism versus #corporatism
We would argue that capitalism, far from being a bad, broken or outdated system, is merely suffering from a spat of bad PR. And in fact, many of the things people hate about the system largely (if not solely!) responsible for driving industry forward via economic competition have more to do with ‘corporatism’ than capitalism. To be clear, we like capitalism and the free market but we don’t like monopolies, which are a symptom of corporatism, for a variety of reasons but most importantly because they end up stifling competition.
Example: Starbucks opening a coffee shop in an area at a loss simply to put an independent coffee shop out of business. Not cool. Now, we could write an entire dissertation on why monopolies are bad (including; no, especially the new crop of Silicon Valley-based ones!). However, right now we want to talk about the nice side of capitalism…
- The number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide declined by 80% from 1970 to 2006
- Poverty worldwide included 94% of the world’s population in 1820. In 2011, it was only 17%
- Globally, those in the lower and middle income brackets saw increases in pay of 40% from 1988 to 2008
- The world is 120 times better off today than in 1800 as a result of capitalism
- Mortality rates for children under the age of five declined by 49% from 1990 to 2013
The evils of capitalism…
We’re not trying to claim that capitalism is, by any stretch of the imagination, a perfect system. It has flaws. But we do think it’s the best system we, as a species, have come up with so far. And rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, why not focus on improving a system which, as mentioned, has done more to end abject poverty than literally anything else, ever?
All this talk of zero emissions by 2050. Fine. But how is it that technological pioneers such as Elon Musk find themselves in a position where they’re able to finance the kinds of breakthroughs that, with any luck, will one day render fossil fuels obsolete? In a word: capitalism. Take away capitalism and you rid the world of its economic libido. Overzealous taxation, incidentally, has the same effect. Although, that’s what socialism is really, isn’t it? Overzealous taxation to fund public systems. And even that, in itself, isn’t a terrible idea, in theory. There are strong arguments that certain utilities (water, gas, healthcare etc.) are better suited to the public sector.
The problem is, in practice, the government (not this specific government; all governments!) have time and again proved themselves to be utterly incompetent. Just look at Brexit. Or the running of the NHS. Or HS2! And what are governments really but big corporations? Worse than corporations, though. Because they don’t even have to be profitable! In fact, it’s in government departments’ interests to be inefficient so as to avoid a surplus which would, of course, result in less funding next year and they wouldn’t want that, would they? They get funded by us, the tax payer, regardless of how effective they are. And these millennials want to give them more power, more responsibility and more of our hard-earned cash! It beggars belief.
If you take one thing away from this article, please let it be the following…
- SMEs accounted for 99.9% of all private sector businesses in 2018
- Total employment in SMEs was 16.3 million, 60% of all private sector employment in the UK
- The combined annual turnover of SMEs was £2.0 trillion, 52% of all private sector turnover
Despite common misconceptions, it is SMEs, as in small to medium sized enterprises, which constitute the lifeblood of the economy. And this is why all our products are geared toward ‘levelling the playing field’. Or, in other words, giving SMEs access to solutions traditionally reserved for larger corporations. And for the record, regardless of political leanings, who the hell doesn’t like making money?
If you’d like to find out more about some of the products we offer, why not get in touch?