Capitalism: Does it Lead to an Aristotelian Way of Life?

Emme Huber Pd. 3-HB        

      Capitalism is defined as an economic system where the means of production and distribution are privately owned and development is proportional to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market. One country in particular that embraces this type of system would be the United States. The way our country is run, through capitalism, would be precisely the opposite of how Aristotle would want. According to “Politics by Aristotle “every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good for mankind always act in order  to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.” Aristotle believes that the government should benefit all and not just certain individuals, but for the United States this doesn’t seem to be the case due to capitalism. Some may say but isn’t capitalism good and communism is the bad way to rule a country? Yes, capitalism is the better way and it gives individuals freedom, but it actually doesn’t lead a person to live the life that Aristotle thinks is right.

            The people in power and who run the country are always putting themselves first. They spend money on things that will keep putting them on top and making them look superior, but in reality they are just make themselves look worse. The money spent on useless stuff could go towards people and places that truly need it. Our country has over 46 million people living in poverty, and it just keeps growing. With so many people out of jobs and so many kids unable to go to school, the chance of any of these people being able to live a “good life” is slim to none. According to Aristotle to live a good and happy life one must live in accordance to reason and how can one do that without a simple education. In addition to not having even a high school degree, these people are unable to get a job. Without a job one won’t be able to find a sufficient function for life. Aristotle says that “the good man’s function is to do this well and beautifully. But the function of anything is done well when it is done in accordance with the proper excellence of that thing.” Each person has a specialized talent or function that they can do to help society, but without the chance to find out what that is they are ultimately worthless. A person must be active participant in society to fully benefit from it. Not only are they worthless, but they will also never be able to live a good life in the Aristotelian way.

            Aristotle says that happiness is the end to which we all must seek. The way to happiness though is not by material things and luxury goods, which is main problem with the society in America. Everyone is constantly wanting the next best thing whether its clothes, jewelry, electronics or what not. With TV commercials, radio advertisements, spam emails, and online pop-ups people are constantly bombarded with the message to buy all these new products that they think they need to be happy. They believe all the material things will lead them to happiness or success. Individual gain is one of the main problems with a capitalist economy. Each company is constantly trying to outdo the other and make the people buy their product instead of all the other companies. This not only makes people stray from the ultimate goal according to Aristotle but it forces the companies to constantly compete to be on top and makes it hard for success for all. Once again this is causing defeat for someone, when everyone should be benefitting after all. People think that the more powerful and wealthy they become the happier or better life they will have. If Aristotle could see how this competition is affecting how people act and how they chose to live their life, he would intervene without hesitation. Quoted from Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics, “wealth evidently is not the good of which we are in search, for it is merely useful as a means to something else.”  

            A solution to fix these problems would be to get the government to make the people work together and come up with ways to involve the people and to make them work together to find a way to help all of society. If this could be done, there wouldn’t be the depressed poverty and the greedy elite classes. I admit classes can exist but not the same way they do today in the United States with the all-powerful on- top wealthy folks and the unemployed miserable poor. Although, in Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses how people need to be content with what they do and have in their life, but because of all the problems with class struggles certain people will never be satisfied with their life. Thus, they will never live a happy, good life, according to reason.

            The way the capitalist system works is supposed to be beneficial and has numerous helpful and good aspects to it, but the way that capitalism is used in the United States has only led to competition, greediness, and disaster for all. If Aristotle was living now he would say that the capitalist economy is an ultimate failure for anyone to live a good and happy life according to the ideals in Nicomachean Ethics and Politics. He would immidiently intervene. The only way to have a good life and even a good society is for everyone to have the chance to get a good education so everyone can find their function, to harmonize and work together with all of society, and then work hard to be the best one can be. In the same way for instance it’s like picking a major for college.

            For one to pick a major in college one must consider what they are good at, so they can pick a major from a field that will help them learn and perfect what they are good at. When picking a major you consider your interests and specialties so that you know how to perform your function well and to the best of your abilities. If one is good at their function then they are able to help society and themselves and are headed in the right direction to living a good life the Aristotelian way. If the capitalist approach for an economy was set up and worked the way Aristotle intended it to then this would make it easy for all to get an education and then go to college to pick a major, get a successful job, and ultimately help society as best as they can, but because it is not this is very difficult for some. However, in today’s world people are so focused on getting a job so they can make lots of money that it doesn’t really matter if they truly like what they are doing or if it will help them find their true end, which happiness. The only thing they desire is money so they can buy anything and everything they want in their life; nevertheless, to live and sometimes even have a life this is what people are forced to do. The way our society works today, people don’t always have the opportunity to pick the job they would like most, but instead are forced to work somewhere just to earn some money so they are able to put food on the table for their family. This creates a problem with the capitalist economy. One is not able to live a happy life according to reason, like Aristotle believes is the only way to have a “good life.”

            Capitalism brings about the worst in a society; not only does it show how avaricious Americans are but also how egotistical they can be. The way our society has made us think we need certain things or how it forces us to behave sometimes has truly led us from how we should truly act and how we must live our life. Aristotle would not approve of this capitalist way for an economy and would ultimately be ashamed. Find your function, perform it well, and live in accordance to reason. (Picture) 


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