ENG 101 – 56
3rd Essay / Final Draft
December 28, 2009
Capitalism: Benefits and Pitfalls
In our contemporary society, many countries’ economies depend on the free market system. After USSR had lost the Cold War, trust to the socialist systems broke, communism became dead, and United States gradually increased its influence over other countries. Even the Russians have McDonalds now; they join the global economy and make contracts with other countries. However, modern economic system, capitalism, is being criticized because of its indirect effects on the environment and creating a huge dissatisfaction by forcing people to consume more and making them materialistic. The disadvantages of capitalism are put forward in many discussions, but outstanding technological and economic growth in the last decade cannot be neglected, where capitalism can be argued to be the leading force behind. Even though there is truth in the argument that capitalism has been detrimental to some extent such as harming the environment and creating dissatisfied societies, the benefits of it such as the development of technology and the freedom in various fields seem to outweigh the disadvantages of capitalism.
One of the disadvantages of capitalism argued by many people, from experts to regular people, is that it destroys natural balance and certainly harms the environment. Although consumption is a natural behavior of humankind, some contemporary societies are consuming more than they need. Anup Shah mentions “economic efficiency is for making profits, not necessarily for social good” (Shah, 4), which is certainly valid. Value of life and being responsible to earth does not have more importance than generating more profit. In addition, Shah highlights that the way of today’s society’s consuming habits, which are created and imposed by the capitalist system, causes extracting more resources to create more products, without judging if they are needed or not.. This, of course, harms the environment and causes air, sea and land pollution (Shah, 5). Consumption is a natural part of human behavior; however, the problem is with over-consumption. Especially in America, over-consumption is not considered as harmful. However, American people should give up consuming huge, such as big jeeps and cars, big houses, baggy clothes, five meatball hamburgers, etc. to stop harming the earth. According to a survey carried out by Pew Global Attitudes (Ben-Ami, 2), 67% of the Dutch, 64% of the Britons and surprisingly 70% of the Americans consider American people as greedy. Gluttony, which is considered by Daniel Ben-Ami as one of the seven sins, needs to be prevented in America as well (Ben-Ami, 2). American lifestyle causes people to consume more than ever needed and over-consumption poses serious threat to the environment. On the other hand, approach of Shah, where it is suggested that the limits of consumption should be imposed by law, would absolutely destroy the freedom and democracy, which is a limitation of the socialist system. In short, over-consumption habits of people damages the environment by depleting the national resources and polluting air, water and land.
Another disadvantage of capitalism mentioned, which is again related to over-consumption, is that it creates and feeds materialistic societies. Peter Saunders criticizes an Australian writer, Clive Hamilton who defends the idea that people are getting too materialistic and capitalism is getting people into a “pursuit of wealth” (Saunders, 6). Saunders misses that capitalism is responsible for dissatisfaction in some parts of society. The pursuit of getting richer and over-consumption causes people to be displeased with what they currently have. System promises that people would be happy when they consume. However, when a person reaches his goal in this system, its happiness would last very short because by media, people are imposed to want more even if they do not really want to consume. Gloating advertising strategies control people’s desires. Capitalism makes both people and companies focused on generating more profit rather than on social issues. So, unhappy people are not a concern of the system. However, the imposition can easily be seen and a person always has a right to choice what she/he needs or not. The issue is not related only to the capitalist system; advertising strategies control people’s desires and lead to over consumption. In a nutshell, capitalism is being accused of creating dissatisfied and materialistic people. To some extent, these can be accepted, but capitalism provides freedom, and people can always choose to be materialistic or not.
Despite the disadvantages discussed above, capitalism actually brings remarkable benefits such as outstanding improvement of technology. Additionally, enormous economic growth in the last decade, which is a result of capitalism, cannot be undervalued. Almost anything around us is built with high technology, which were made possible by the free platform of capitalism. Saunders argues that capitalism brings growth to the society and growth should be continued. He states that his students suggest giving up growth (Saunders, 6), as they think that their life would be better and simpler. However, as Saunders pointed out very successfully, these students want to stop growth right now and give up every improvement they have today. If their fathers or mothers accepted this suggestion, they would not have some opportunities they have today. For instance, this article could not be written on a laptop and printed out with a personal printer. There would be no cellphone, no color TV, no advanced surgery or other useful devices being used today. If capitalism was not accomplished, the totalitarian socialist regimes would determine people’s needs. It would give them a life of so-called equality without freedom of choice where all the people wore the same and lived in same apartments without any growth in economy and developments in higher technology. For example, in Cuba, cellphones were banned until 3 years before. Even in the socialist regime’s home, USSR, Lenin couldn’t make the transition to establish people downshifting their lives and give up from economic growth (Saunders, 9). Shortly, capitalism promises and provides the growth in economics and technology, which will help the evolution of mankind.
In conclusion, capitalism encourages gaining more profit and giving less importance to social issues like harming the environment or depleting resources, which weaken the humanity and the world. However, the contribution of capitalism to the mankind in technology and economic growth definitely outweighs the pitfalls of it. Furthermore, capitalism is not what Americans do, so capitalism cannot be accused of American lifestyle. Moreover, the problem of damaging the environment and depleting resources can be reduced with willing to pay 5 percent more for “green” products; what people buy or use does not have to be harmful to the environment (J. Elkington et al., 334). The main problem is with the people especially American people; as Mahatma Gandhi said: “There’s enough on this planet for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed”.
Glickman, Lawrence L. Consumer Society Reader in American History: A Reader. New York: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Ben-Ami, Daniel. Why People Hate Fat Americans Spiked Online, Accessed: 14 Dec. 2009. <http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/boxarticle/670/>
Shah, Anup. Consumption and Consumerism Global Issues, Updated: 03 Sep. 2008. Accessed: 14 Dec. 2009<http://www.globalissues.org/issue/235/consumption-and-consumerism>
Saunders, Peter. Why Capitalism is Good for the Soul, Accessed: 14 Dec. 2009. <?>