Criminal Capitalism

Claire West-5

Capitalism is America’s economic triumph. Or at least so it is understood. Capitalism is not always the shining star it is made out to be. Capitalism has completely consumed the lives of Americans. It is engrained into our everyday lives. It does grant people independence and freedom from governmental intrusion in their finances and has brought America to the forefront of economic success, but it is not perfect. Consumerism, materialism, and greed are driving factors in some of the downfalls of Capitalism. Firstly in the advertisement industry the objectification of women has become too much of a normal thing. Companies try to push the envelope further and further and are blind to the consequences of their actions. Rapid materialism has made the demand for merchandise overwhelming to the American work force, but because Americans refuse to see the truth about where their item comes from and how it was made perpetuates the problem. Sweatshops, slave labor, migrant workers and child labor are too often associated with the items on the shelves, but are necessary for the furthering of American capitalism. Americans are ignorant of these downsides to capitalism because the alternative is everything America is not, communism. Capitalism continues to thrive in America but the consequences are pilling up. Some of the key components to capitalism that have made it so successful, private property and the division of labor, are also causing growing problems in the global comunity.

Capitalism according to Ludwig von Mises hinges on the idea of private property and the division of labor, but this idea is impart feeding the fire, so to speak[1]. Because there is no one clear definition of private property out there, many misuse the concept. Pope Leo XII defines private property as “the earth, even though apportioned among private owners, ceases not thereby to minister to the needs of all, inasmuch as there is not one who does not sustain life from what the land produces” [2]. But this leads to problems because there is no clear guide to tell people what amount of private property is too much or too little; there is nothing stopping people with lot of money or big guns from coming in and taking over particularly in disadvantaged countries. The division of labor also leads to problems. It is quite productive and effective in what it does but it is the very thing that drives labor over seas. Why would someone pay an American $7.50 to do the same work as someone in China who would do for far less? Or why would one pay one man to craft one item in four days when you could pay six far less to do simpler tasks and get the product done in one day. Division f Labor is effective in both theory and practice but it does not compensate for the individuality of each worker or in some cases their basic human rights. The main component to the success of capitalism is commercialism. Commercialism is the life support of capitalism. It insentivises materialism, greed, and competition. It is what has made capitalism so successful. But the need for material things has taken over the lives of some. The constant flow of advertisements, companies competing for sales, does more than degrade the meaning of Christmas, it hinders the lives of young people, especially women in America.

Americans have become so desensitized to the constant flow of media, that it is difficult to recognize some of the disturbing messages these advertisements send us. Specifically commercials objectifying women in even the most obvious of ways have become a day-to-day occurrence. Capitalism has created such a competitive atmosphere that companies will go to great lengths to stay ontop; objectifying and demeaning women is just one tactic. A popular saying in advertisment is that ‘sex sells,’ which is true, but everyhing comes with consequences. The Carl’s Jr. ads are some of the worst offenders currently on air [3]. Almost all of them feature a woman in as little clothes as possible who is somehow sexually drawn to the hamburger. They have even featured stars like Kate Upton and Paris Hilton, but all contain the same message. The commercials use the women’s bodies to sell their greasy hamburgers and target young single men with the fantasy that somehow will attract the “perfect” woman. The audience has become desensitized to the blatant objectification of women in the Carl’s Jr. commercials, and the distorted messages about the value of women in society. It is not hard to see which gender these commercials are geared towards. The commercials use the women’s bodies to essentially just entice the viewer; basically they are nothing more than a sexy display case for the burgers themselves. However, this trend did not start with Carl’s Jr.; women have been objectified throughout advertising history; for example, old comercials in the 1950s, the women featured were only there to look pretty in the background like a good domestic wife. Essentially Carl’s Jr. is doing the same thing, equating all of the woman’s worth to a glorified table upon which to present their product, which is essentially saying that a woman’s only value is in her appearence. Sadly Carl’s Jr. is one of many sources that use objectification to further their wallet without realizing the consequences.

The competitive atmosphere of capitalism has damaged the progress America has made in equality. Women’s bodies and the messages behind them grow more and more detrimental. Adolescents and children are particularly vulnerable to images such as these. Children lack the processing abilities to separate the media from reality. The dramatic spike in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are direct effects of these messages.  Ads target insecuritiesabout beauty and body image which undermines young girls confidence. The constant flow of women’s bodies altered to portray an actually unattainable body image only drive in the message that if you don’t fit the mold you are in someway insufficient. The idea of beauty is so categorized in media that to achieve their standards a computer has to go in and fix the ‘flaws.’ Developing girls can’t separate the images they see on the screen and reality, which is why these eating disorders are such an epidemic. This constant flow of images also greatly affects the male population. Because media has driven the importance of a woman’s image into the minds of its viewers, men now struggle to separate the images they see on the screen with real life. Because so much importance is put into beauty both men and women have come to understand that the worth of a woman lies in her appearance. This mindset sets equality back decades. Presently media equates a woman’s worth with their physical appearance; in fact the entire beauty industry is built on this idea. These preditorial ads cause far more damage than they seem to, and the extreme competition due to capitalism shows no sign of them stopping. These consequences carry over into other aspects of society. Women in power are readily criticized and or praised for their looks rather than achievements and ideas. Objectification is spread rampant through our media, using women as props and little else. All of these messages are harmful and confusing specifically to young audiences. With all of the focus on a woman’s looks their worth in society is depleted to simply a visual enhancement or hindrance. Throughout advertising, images of women and femininity have diminished their social standing because the constant focus is on a woman’s appearance and looks; women are unable to transcend this obstacle, hindering their opportunity to achieve societal equality. Capitalism creates an environment that only perpetuates the problem, encouraging companies to push the envelope further every time. This corrosive cycle prevents women from achieving social equality and in turn takes away the freedom that capitalism supposedly grants them.

In reality the very thing that grants Americans so much freedom is also the thing that takes freedom away from so many. Division of labor has driven production overseas. Equality in America and basic human rights are affected by capitalism. Slave labor, sweatshops, migrant workers, and child labor are all to big of factors of capitalism today. Many people don’t realize that much of the products they love, iphones, forever21, and chocolate bars originate from these sources. Because companies don’t have to deal with those hindering workers rights in America, they exploit and abuse people in third world countries. Places like China, Mexico, India, and Cambodia are just a few countries affected by capitalism in America. It is a problem directly caused by capitalism. Because there is such a high demand for consumer goods, much like in advertising, there is a great competition between companies to have the lowest prices, no matter the cost. Capitalism has created an enviroment of materialism and greed that targets the vulnerable in society. The competition between companies is the main thing that drives companies to look for cheaper labor overseas. They target poor families, especially women, so they can get away with paying them as little as possible. This again is not only sexist but also morally repugnant. Capitalism is one of the things that have brought America great success, but everything comes at a price.

Americans themselves believe that America is an example for all with its capitalism and democracy. We all think that the world would be happier if they lived like us, but in fact if that were true capitalism would not be able to survive. Capitalism needs to feed off the most vulnerable in society. In a capatalist enviroment happiness for some means exploitation of others. According to Aristotle happiness is only found at the end, and that is true for capitalism because capitalism in the end has brought America much success and economic growth. In the end, for Americans, capitalism brings them happiness [4].  But do the ends justify the means? Because capitalism brings prosperity and happiness to America does that justify the injustices overseas? Or the struggles among young girls?  Americans are often surprised to hear that some foreigners dislike America, however the reason might not always be capitalism. Americans in general willingly remain ignorant to the many shocking realities of capitalism because they do not want to ask themselves ‘do the ends justify the means?’ This is a scary question, it forces people to quest question their entire way of life. It puts all that we have come to know in moral question. No one is innocent of these crime but no one is completely guilty. But when faced with the full picture of capitalism it is apparent that something went wrong. Capitalism may have caused the crimes, but Americans are guilty of complacency.

 

[1]Von Mises, Ludwig. “Liberty and Property.” Mises.org. January 1, 2009. Accessed December 9, 2014,

[2]“Leo XIII – Rerum Novarum.” Leo XIII – Rerum Novarum. Accessed December 9, 2014,

[3]Carl’s Jr. “Carl’s Jr.® | Home.” Carl’s Jr.® | Home. Accessed December 9, 2014.

[4]Aristotle, “Book 1: Chapter 2.” In The Politics. (350 B.C.E.).

 

 

Works Cited

Aristotle, “Book 1: Chapter 2.” In The Politics. (350 B.C.E.).

“Leo XIII – Rerum Novarum.” Leo XIII – Rerum Novarum. Accessed December 9, 2014, <http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum.html&gt;.

Von Mises, Ludwig. “Liberty and Property.” Mises.org. January 1, 2009. Accessed December 9, 2014, <http://mises.org/sites/default/files/Liberty%20and%20Property_3.pdf&gt;.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party,. New York: International Publishers, 1948.

Carl’s Jr. “Carl’s Jr.® | Home.” Carl’s Jr.® | Home. Accessed December 9, 2014.

<http://www.carlsjr.com/.

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