The Benefits of Capitalism By James Edward Le Rossignol 1921
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CAPITALISM has been the chief cause of the vast improvement in social conditions that has made the nineteenth century notable in the history of mankind. It has explored and settled the wilderness, has improved land, and developed mines. It has built roads, bridges and canals. It has unified the world by steamships, railroads and telegraph lines. It has built great cities where millions of people are fed, clothed and sheltered in a degree of comfort unknown to the aristocrats of former times. It has created schools, colleges, libraries, hospitals, parks, playgrounds, and a thousand agencies for the betterment of social conditions.
Capitalism has increased wages, decreased hours and improved conditions of labor in many ways. It has greatly reduced the death-rate, thus increasing the average duration of human life. It has improved morality, abolished famine and pestilence, and mitigated the horrors of war. It has elevated the working class to the level of the middle class of two hundred years ago, and the middle class it has raised to the level of the nobles and princes of those days.
The countries where capitalism has most prevailed are the countries where the laboring man receives the highest wages and maintains the highest standard of living. The countries where capitalism has done least, such as China, India and Russia, are the countries whose wages are lowest, where the laboring man is ever on the verge of starvation, and where he is most exploited by the merchant, the money lender and the government official.
Capitalism, with all its faults, has done great things for the western world, and will do still more, unless the social revolutionists, running amuck, succeed in breaking up the great machine. If they do, there will be no land owners, no capitalists, no business men, neither rent, interest, profits, nor surplus value of any other kind. The old economic order, the product of centuries of industrial evolution, will be gone, and the proletariat will set itself to the laborious, slow, and painful task of creating a new social order out of the ruins of the old. While this work of reconstruction is going on, doubtless millions of people will die of starvation, but, as the revolutionists would say, what will that matter in a thousand years?
If, on the other hand, the working class listens to counsels of moderation and prudence, they will refuse to destroy what they may not be able to build again. They will watch and wait for the outcome of the great Russian experiment, and for the results of governmental and co-operative effort in their own countries. If governments and co-operative societies show themselves able to compete with private enterprise in producing better results at a lower cost, then these associations, controlled, no doubt, by the working class, will possess the field, by virtue of superior efficiency, and the socialist ideal will be realized by a process of slow and continuous evolution.
But if not, capitalism will continue to exist, and the working class will find it to their advantage to preserve and foster it, while at the same time doing their utmost to remove abuses and to secure as large a share in the joint product as they can without injury to the industrial system of which they are a part. The working-class, no longer the exploited, will become the exploiters, and will protect and cherish capitalism as they would a cow for its milk, or the fabled goose for its golden eggs.
"The nineteenth century was the ultimate product and expression of the intellectual trend of the Renaissance and the Age of Reason, which means: of a predominantly Aristotelian philosophy. And, for the first time in history, it created a new economic system, the necessary corollary of political freedom, a system of free trade on a free market: capitalism.
No, it was not a full, perfect, unregulated, totally laissez-faire capitalism-as it should have been. Various degrees of government interference and control still remained, even in America-and this is what led to the eventual destruction of capitalism. But the extent to which certain countries were free was the exact extent of their economic progress. America, the freest, achieved the most.
Never mind the low wages and the harsh living conditions of the early years of capitalism. They were all that the national economies of the time could afford. Capitalism did not create poverty-it inherited it. Compared to the centuries of precapitalist starvation, the living conditions of the poor in the early years of capitalism were the first chance the poor had ever had to survive. As proof-the enormous growth of the European population during the nineteenth century, a growth of over 300 per cent, as compared to the previous growth of something like 3 per cent per century." ~Ayn Rand
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