Capitalism: The Key Tool to Achieving Happiness

Emily S–Period 6

The earth is populated by 7.312 billion people, all of whom are trying to achieve optimal happiness. The people on the earth are split into different countries with different cultures and different views on happiness. In such a diverse world, how can happiness ever truly be known? Which country has the best economic and cultural system to promote optimal happiness? Two prominent, yet opposing economic systems that attempt to provide a fair balance to society are communism and capitalism. These types of systems have been, and still are currently used in multiple societies, but which type is the more effective form of governing that yields the happiest society? The most effective type of economic system is constantly argued, despite capitalism’s consistent production of the happiest societies.

As a society, communism appears to be an excellent system that would provide citizens with all the necessities of life. In the first chapter of the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx predicts the inevitable fall of capitalism, persuading Europe to adopt communism instead. According to Marx, the fall of capitalism is unique compared to other historical revolutions because “all previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.[1]” Marx discusses how the proletarians are worse off in capitalist societies, however, using the Soviet Union as a close representation of Marx’s communist society, it is apparent that the people in that society were not happy. Communism was supposed to equalize society and and create a culture where everyone could achieve economic equality, “However, these policies took away nearly all incentives to work harder since ‘individual education, skill, and the like are immaterial’ in societies like these.  In turn, economic productivity in communist societies declined and new ‘status’-based inequalities emerged where well-connected party elites enjoyed riches and leisure and ordinary workers did not.[7]” This reality is not the equalized society Marx intended. Communism was also supposed to help the working class, but Gorbachev’s reforms cut wages, job security and social services [2] which hurt the working class, who made up the majority of the society, just as it did in Marx’s example of European capitalist societies. Marx’s society was implemented in the Soviet Union; however, it did not yield the results Marx had proposed. The working class people living in the Soviet Union were no happier than the growing proletariats that Marx described. One citizen of the Soviet Union stated, “For years I lived the same unconscious existence as my father had. I never thought of protest, much less mutiny. We were like serfs in a patriarchal system where the lord was the Communist Party and its instruments the schools, the trade unions, the mine directors.[2]” Not only were the citizens unhappy, but instead of living in a fair and equal society as Marx intended, the people in the Soviet Union were still trapped in the same cycle of poverty. Communism had not fixed class struggles but it had instead placed the people of the Soviet Union in a government controlled society where they had little to no say in how the people were governed.  Marx proposed that capitalism would inevitably fall, but consequently, most communist societies have fallen while most capitalist societies still remain standing today.

Capitalism, the opposing view to communism, in which Marx predicted would fall to the working class, still remains standing and prosperous in many societies today. A supporter of capitalism, Ludwig von Mises, noticed the problem with other forms of government was that “pre-capitalistic system of product was restrictive. Its historical basis was military conquest.[3]” This statement remained true in the Soviet Union communist society. Since the economy is governed and restricted by humans in communist societies, the economy becomes susceptible to human fallibility, unlike capitalist run countries where the economy is controlled by price systems instead of people. Mises also notes that “capitalism is not simply mass production, but mass production to satisfy the needs of the masses.[3]” Essentially, capitalism solves the problem communism attempted to fix. If the needs of the society are being met while both keeping prices low and limiting human interference, the market and the economy is able to thrive and provide for people. Capitalist societies provide more freedom to both businesspeople and consumers, while in communist societies stringent rules must be enacted to maintain a so-called equal society. Capitalism gives people the ability to decide what to sell, who to sell to, and how much a product should cost. All of this is regulated by the market itself, instead of a leader, which debatably helps maintain a fairer society because there is no one person or group of people to decide how the market should be run. One man, Li Ka-shing, fled China for Hong Kong in the 1950s. After arriving in Hong Kong, he worked many hard laborious hours in a factory for a plastics trading company and eventually founded Cheung Kong Industries. Li Ka-shing is now one of the richest men in Asia and is worth $33.1 billion [4]. Although not everyone in a capitalist society can gain the wealth that Shing was able to gain, people in capitalist societies more opportunities to be able to escape from poverty. Shing would have been a lot less likely to achieve his current status if he had stayed in Communist China. Capitalism exists and thrives in many societies, while communist societies often become struggling nations where people are not adequately provided for and have no other option because the market is so restricted.

Communism is supposed to provide people with the necessities of life so they are able to achieve happiness, however often times the government focuses more on military success or an elitist portion of society, instead of the general happiness of the people. Capitalism supposedly holds people back and keeps a few people rich while forcing the rest to work for the wealthier portion of society [1] but despite these two misconceptions, capitalist countries generally have higher governance ranking according to the Happy Planet Index. The United States is ranked 21st , Singapore is ranked 12th, and Japan is ranked 22nd while China is ranked 99th, Cuba is ranked 93rd, and Vietnam is ranked 94th[5]. These rankings show the government rankings in capitalist countries as opposed to the government rankings in communist countries. It is apparent that the capitalist countries have higher government rankings, which would lead to a happier society if the people are content with the government. Although happiness is not necessarily material wealth or success, Aristotle states that “happiness plainly requires external goods too, as we said; for it is impossible, or at least not easy, to act nobly without some furniture of fortune [6].” Aristotle recognizes that happiness is not something that can be possessed by anyone in any situation, and that to gain happiness people need other tools. Capitalism provides those tools by giving people the opportunities to succeed. Li Ka-shing, the Japanese businessman discussed earlier is not only a wealthy man, but also a philanthropist[7]; his economic success has allowed him to help others, in turn helping him toward the ultimate end of happiness. Capitalist and communist societies do not perpetually lead to happiness, but capitalism does act as a tool for people to achieve happiness because of the freedom it provides to the people in the society.

Capitalism and communism continue to be feuding ideas, but it is apparent that capitalism provides more opportunities and tools for people to gain optimal happiness.  Although capitalism does have flaws, communism is more of an idealistic form of society than an actuality. Almost all countries that adopted communism still had a lower class and did not fix the class struggle that Marx so desperately wanted to solve. Humans prohibit the eradication of classes because humans always find a way to create a hierarchy. But even with human flaws, it is better to have a society with less restrictions because although classes still exists, people have more freedom and can rise out of poverty instead of being forced to stay in poverty due to the new elitist classes created in communist societies. Capitalism does not guarantee happiness, but it provides a good foundation for people to obtain optimal happiness.

Endnotes

[1] Marx, Karl. Manifesto of the Communist Party. Bernado Aparicio, 2015.

[2] Bluden, Andy. “The Class Struggle in Russia.” The Class Struggle in Russia. January 1, 1993. Accessed April 24, 2015. https://www.marxists.org/subject/stalinism/origins-future/ch5-1.htm.

[3]Von Mises, Ludwig. Liberty and Property. Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[4] “Top 10 Greatest Benefits of Capitalism – Listverse.” Listverse. December 23, 2010. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://listverse.com/2010/12/24/top-10-greatest-benefits-of-capitalism/.

[5] “The Data | Happy Planet Index.” The Data | Happy Planet Index. Accessed May 2, 2015. http://www.happyplanetindex.org/data/.

[6] Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[7] Halpin, John. “Five Things You Might Not Know About Inequality.” ThinkProgress RSS. March 27, 2013. Accessed May 3, 2015. http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/03/27/1779561/five-things-you-might-not-know-about-inequality/.

image: https://www.steppingstonecenter.org/finding-happiness-in-recovery/

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s