Capitalism and Public Good: Power, Order, and Justice
Every society is defined by a specific ideology or a combination of two or more of them. In advanced democracies and economies such as the United States, it is common for a country to be founded on different beliefs or for citizens to hold different ideologies. Such societies are sometimes characterized by widely contrasting philosophies and can lead to social, cultural, economic, and political stratifications and affiliations. These affiliations and stratifications take different forms with sociocultural and political forms being the components. On the one hand, ideologies can lead to social harmony within society. On the other hand, differences in beliefs have led to some of the darkest moments in human history, including genocides and wars. As a belief system, the influence of an ideology transcends social, political, cultural, and economic boundaries. Whether capitalism, socialism, social democracy or liberalism, each ideology upholds power, order, and justice differently, which in return shapes public good.
Capitalism is one of the widely practiced ideologies in the world. It is a political and social ideology that propagates and holds individual rights in high esteem. Furthermore, it is founded on the premise that the benefits of pursuing an individual’s social, economic, and political interest can serve the public good through a trickle-down effect and aggregation of individual good into the public good. By establishing a free market, capitalism seeks to facilitate the creation of wealth by individuals without interference, especially from the government (Jahan & Mahmud, 2015; Eskelinen, 2017). In essence, under a capitalistic system, power is vested in individuals. The government is tasked with protecting individual welfare from internal and external threats and fraud. The public good is achieved when individuals are given the power to make decisions, generate income, and create wealth while also feeling safe and secure within their communities. Power is based on deregulation within social, economic, and political spheres. Local, state, and federal governments are tasked with devolving power and decision-making on critical issues to the level of individuals.
In a capitalistic state, fairness and equality, which are the cornerstones of justice and order, are achieved through the prevention of discrimination and prejudice and incentivizing individual performances and efforts. Local, state, and federal governments guided by capitalism reward individuals who make an effort to self-determine. Such actions are considered as just. The common public good, when considered within the confines of justice, is achieved by governments promoting the maximization of individual productivity and rewarding excellence. Therefore, justice and public good work based on reciprocity: the government equitably giving opportunities based on differential efforts and capabilities of individuals. Consequently, the system creates a social order that is founded on a highly hierarchical society. While the government may perpetuate such a social order through deregulation and reciprocity-based reward and support system, deregulation of social, economic, and political spheres and overemphasis of individual rights and freedoms also create a societal order (Young, 2013). The order is reflective of economic and political power. Political decisions are made based on an established order with the minority making decisions aimed at promoting the public good.
Capitalism is a highly hierarchical socioeconomic and political system pillared on the propagation of individual rights and freedoms. People have a significant say on the social, economic, and political direction of the society with the government playing a background role. Deregulation by the government gives power to individuals for the public good.
Eskelinen, T. (2017). Social justice and financial capitalism: Some notions on risks, hierarchies, and value. Studies in Social and Political Thought, 27, 57-75. Retrieved from https://jyx.jyu.fi/bitstream/handle/123456789/56724/721091sm.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Jahan, S. & Mahmud, A. S. (2015). What is capitalism? Finance & Development, 52(2). Retrieved from https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2015/06/basics.htm
Young, W. H. (2013). Social justice and capitalism. National Association of Scholars. Retrieved from https://www.nas.org/blogs/dicta/social_justice_and_capitalism