Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Problem With Capitalism

The Problem With Capitalism

Lately there has been a plethora of postings all across the internet bemoaning the ills of Capitalism.  Capitalism, as found, does have some significant shortcomings, but it is not the evil it is portrayed to be.  Most of the problems of Capitalism are not with the economic system, the system of production and distribution of wealth: the problems with Capitalism are problems of our society.  More accurately, they are problems of individual character. 

Let’s take a quick review of what “Capitalism” actually is.  Go read the Wikipedia article on Capitalism at

Okay, now that you have a thorough grounding in what Capitalism is thought to be, let’s look at “the problems” of Capitalism: “social inequality; unfair distribution of wealth and power; materialism; repression of workers and trade unionists; social alienation; economic inequality; unemployment; and economic instability.” 

Social inequality stems from the lack of benevolence (mettā), the lack of compassion (karuṇā), the lack of altruistic joy in others accomplishments (muditā) and the lack of inner peace (upekkhā) in our citizenry. 

The unfair distribution of wealth and power is the manifestation of greed; of clinging to our desires for self-gratification, for self-aggrandizement. 

Materialism is the product of ignorance (avijjā) and delusional thinking about what is satisfying and fair.

Repression of workers and trade unionists, social alienation, economic inequality, unemployment, and economic instability all trace back to these same base and ignoble human characteristics.

It seems to me that all of these issues can be subsumed under the rubric of “dukkhā.”  And dukkhā stems from the interaction of our lack of insightful understanding of reality with our desire for gratification.  We want this, and we want that, and we want reality to be the way we want it to be.  And we lack the wisdom to see Reality as it really is; to see that having this and having that, don’t, in the large view, provide any more satisfaction or happiness.  Temporarily, yes, but then we strive for more of this and that for more happiness and satisfaction.  (For those of you with a psychological bent, refresh your understanding of intermittent reinforcement.) 

The "problem" here is not Capitalism. The problem here is human nature in its raw form. When we are born, we are lacking in wisdom, and totally focused on self-gratification. Some of us "mature," that is we gain a tad of wisdom, and we manage, from time to time, to postpone gratification. But far too many people are focused on "me." On getting what “I” want.  They are greedy for money, for power, for status, for control.

The Pāḷi words for the lack of wise and insightful understanding is “avijjā,” and the Pāḷi word for the attachment to self-gratification, for craving, for greedy desire is “taṇhā.”  Avijjā and taṇhā combine to produce dukkhā, a state of unsatisfactoriness that propels us toward getting more, and more and more.  More wealth, more power, more status, more control.  We operate under the delusion that having these, and having more of these, will bring us joy, contentment, peace, or whatever.  But it works only temporarily.

There is a solution to this problem, but most folks aren't interested, because they are blind to the problem.  Lasting peace, joy and contentment can be had, but we have to alter our character by developing wisdom and equanimity.  One proven way to do this is practicing the Noble Eightfold Path.  Practicing the Noble Path develops the Four Noble Characteristics of mettā, karuṇā, muditā and upekkhā.  Practicing the Noble Path leads to vision, knowledge, wisdom, realization and illumination.  Practicing the Noble Path will lead to a more just, peaceful and enlightened world.

For more on dukkhā and the Noble Eightfold Path, see the postings on 6/12/16 and 5/23/16

1 comment:

  1. Conceptually true for the most part regarding individual understanding of ones self and desires, or the 4 noble truths. I too hold no ill will for any form of system that can benifit and assist all sentient beings over profit. The individual is the starting point of a collective consciousness for the great good of all and not the few. This is an article onto which I found insightful regarding Capitalism