I really do not like capitalism…capitalism as it is manifested today is pretty messed up. Saying that you greatly dislike capitalism is bound to get you labeled as a “communist”, “socialist”, perhaps “evil/crazy liberal”, or “hippie”. The statement will also be met with many passionate defenses of capitalism and why it is so great.and so necessary.
I think that history has shown the flaws of communism, socialism, whatever -ism you want. I am not arguing in favor of them. They have been shown to not work. The problem is that capitalism is not working either.
From my white, suburban, middle-class mindset I was not required to face the ugly side of capitalism while growing up. I’m privileged. There is no getting around the benefits I have drawn from being white and while not quite middle class somewhere close. Going to college was not a big deal. Of course I was going to go. Of course it would be payed for somehow. Of course it made sense for me to go on to graduate school. God willing I will never have to work an unskilled job.
The thing though is that capitalism runs off the fact that there will be many people who will not have the same opportunities that I have had and will therefore be willing to work low to unskilled jobs. Throughout the twentieth century industrialized countries have seen huge a huge growth in wealth. Our capitalistic economies have been based off an unending growth model. Nothing is ever enough. More money needs to be made and can be made. How is this done? How is this greed satisfied? What tools does this greed employ? Oppression. Exploitation. Violence. Lies. Capitalism in the form we have today hinges on having an oppressed lower class of people that can be easily exploited. People who will do whatever necessary to survive. As a consumer in America I can buy things for very cheap because Walmart is able to employ individuals from China and throughout the developing world who will work in sweatshops for less than a dollar a day. This works out great for me and Walmart. I can buy things for cheap. Walmart can still make a tidy profit.
I have to ask myself however, if the great price I get for my Gap jeans is worth women working twelve hour shifts where they are paid maybe $2.50 per day…and then in addition forced to sign contracts that say they will not go to church, attend any other recreational groups, date, get pregnant, and if pregnancy occurs have an abortion. I do not think the answer should be yes for anyone, but I believe it must be no for Christians.
Many Christians though are so entrenched in conservative politics that they adamantly support capitalism in all its dangerous forms. In class we have been watching a series of videos that examines the unethical and illegal behavior of Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff among others. Jack Abramoff was one of the biggest lobbyists in D.C. and Tom Delay was an incredibly powerful Republican congress member. The video examines how working together they used the conservative Christian base to rally support for free market capitalism to continue allowing sweat shops exist on American soil. They did their best to completely cover up the sweat shop issue. They painted a picture of women having amazing employment opportunities from generous employers. Tom and Jack’s success was both astounding and maddening.
I realize that I am simply arguing against a system right now and not offering many alternatives. I do believe there are alternatives. I believe there is hope. I will write about these things too at some point. For now though I hope we can all begin to examine this capitalistic system we buy into. What does it mean that our former President did not call us a nation of people or citizens, but that instead referred to us many times as a nation of consumers? As Christians can we stand and support a system that oppresses and exploits our brothers and sisters? As Christians can we support a system that has and does use violence to maintain its dominance and continued profit? What would Jesus do? What did Jesus do? I pray that we can all return to our holy scriptures to find out how our Savior confronted oppression and exploitation. May we be guided by his example and his words. Not the words of our politicians. Not the words of Wall Street.
Next time you buy something stop. Think about where the product comes from. If you do not know where it comes from find out. Think about how much the person was probably paid for their labor. If you do not know then try your best to find how much they made. Think about the fact that those workers could easily have been you. I was not born privileged by my own doing. It happened to work out that way. They were not born oppressed by their own doing. It just happened to work out that way.
Lastly pray. Pray hard. This broken world really needs it.