Anti-capitalism: why it is the new religion

From books to series, from movies to political speeches, it sends a mantra: capitalism is to blame for all our ills and defending it is a heroic act.

"Red dollar signs", a work by Andy Warhol La Razón / La Razón

Capitalism is today an omniscient bogeyman: a horrible nightmare that causes all the ills of society and favors all injustices. According to the Edelman Trust Barometrer survey, which has been conducted in 28 countries for twenty years, 60% of Spaniards in 2020 were convinced that capitalism does more harm than good to the world. Dystopian series showing apocalyptic prophecies critical of the system are multiplying, T-shirts are filled with anti-capitalist slogans and even financial institutions strive to convince us that profits do not matter, they care about us. Titles criticizing capitalism crowd the bookstores: from "Against savage capitalism" to "Postcapitalism", from "Terminal capitalism" to "Another economy is possible". "Saying no is not enough", "The demonization of the working class", "Refusal of work", "The validity of the Communist Manifesto"... Nobody wants to be on the bad side, in the defense of the beast.

No one? No. In the purest Gallic irreducible style, Carlos Martínez Gorriarán, PhD in Philosophy and professor at the University of the Basque Country, author of "In Defense of Capitalism" (a sort of exhaustive and clarifying journey through the history and philosophy of economic ideas with the punk title of the one who shoots to hit), feels that he must respond to an "ethical commitment to reality. It is necessary to talk about it, not to lose heart. Because the one in front, the irrational one -even if he is wrong-, does not get tired. We must not give up and it is necessary to do didactic work to put an end to misunderstandings and prejudices: capitalism is the system that has made it possible for us to have the life we have. With its faults, which it has. The fact that in Spain we have gone in two generations from a subsistence economy to a welfare state has been achieved thanks to capitalism and not in spite of it".

Daniel Lacalle, PhD in Economics and essayist, is of the same opinion. He considers that there is a lack of knowledge of the concept, it is reduced to a simplistic idea that does not correspond to reality: "The main reason why capitalism is criticized is because it is a system based on economic profit, without understanding that economic profit is precisely the demonstration of sustainability and efficiency. There are only two types of systems: those based on profits and those based on losses. And the one based on losses is always condemned to disappear and to the destruction of the productive capacity of the system. A system based on losses always generates poverty, misery and ends up being totally and completely unsustainable".

Anti-capitalism: why it is the new religion. Jae Tanaka

Selling a utopia

"There is something almost religious in this anti-capitalism," Martínez Gorriarán adds, "apart from the most basic ignorance of something as complex as the economy. If in classical religion the devil is the prototypical expression of evil, in this kind of ideological religion it is capitalism and its existence serves to explain the occurrence of all evils: inequality, wars, climate change, machismo, fascism, racism... Although the evidence is that there are fewer wars, less inequality, more social justice".

"We talk about inequality", Lacalle intervenes, "why? Well, because poverty has almost been eliminated and, by eliminating poverty, we are talking about poverty in relative terms. That is to say, it is not that people do not have access to goods and services, but that the difference between the goods and services acquired by the rich and those acquired by the less rich is a question of quality and not quantity". He continues: "The idea of a perfect economic system is impossible. That is why socialism has to sell a utopia, comparing itself with its best intentions while comparing capitalism with its worst results. Why? Because whenever socialism fails, and it always does, what it does is to say that it was not really true socialism. Whereas, in capitalism, those inefficiencies that are generated in the normal process of something as complex as the economy are considered blunders that cannot be solved and that are a total injustice".

"Like all human intervention, and this system is also one, capitalism has its flaws," explains Carlos, "but the truth is that even if there are economic policies that are wiser than others, and that even capitalism itself is not one but many - American capitalism has little to do with Chinese capitalism, and Chinese capitalism with European capitalism, for example - it is the advanced economy that is the consequence of many centuries of cultural evolution, and that the countries with the greatest social comfort are, strikingly, those that also enjoy the greatest economic freedom. There is no incompatibility between social protection and liberal economy".

"There may be systems," says Lacalle, "in which, as in a system of cooperation and free market, there is an allocation of part of the resources for social activities, activities that do not generate real economic benefit. But any activity that does not generate real economic benefit will always have to be financed with an activity that generates a greater real economic benefit. Therefore, -he points out- if we want an economic system that has more expenditure or investment without profit we have to have a system that at the same time generates greater benefits in the rest. Because everything is paid for."

"There is a guilt complex," Martínez Gorriarán intervenes, "a seeing life in black and white: on one side is evil and on the other is good. The businessman is bad, rich and exploitative; the employee is good, poor and exploited. It is a total Manichaeism and we have to face this debate, we have to clarify concepts and we cannot, we should not, abandon the public discussion of the serious matters that matter in the hands of gossips and populists. We have left culture and ideas in the hands of populists for their entertainment. And this is a mistake. We must persevere in the didactic work. There is no other option but to insist".

Is there a simple definition, an accessible, almost intuitive explanation of what capitalism is and what it means, outside of prototypical clichés and simplistic ideas? Daniel Lacalle answers: "Capitalism is the system that puts the means of production in the hands of citizens through private property to maximize access to goods and services, the system capable of maximizing the needs of consumers and people in their vast majority, with the use and management of limited resources in the most efficient way. And the main factor that leads to this sustainability and efficiency, and also to its durability, is precisely that it is done in exchange for economic profitability. This profitability generates a greater capacity for investment, consumption and production of goods and services needed by citizens. On the other hand, what socialism and similar systems do is to center the monopoly of the means of production in one entity, basically the State. And when the State does so, the process of constant improvement and access to goods and services generated by competition disappears. When the economic incentive disappears, so does the capacity to strengthen competitiveness, growth and the availability of goods and services".

Where, then, is that so hackneyed idea of the exploitation of man by man? Lacalle is clear: "Capitalism is not exploitation, it is cooperation. There is no possibility of exploitation if there is no monopoly of the means of production and the only way to have it is through acquiescence or state control". And he concludes: "It is when the State appears and limits competition that imbalances are generated. The idea that capitalism is the exploitation of man by man is a sovereign stupidity".

This article was published originally in La Razón.

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