democracy/capitalism to build prosperous society

Question Description

Do you think democracy/capitalism is the only way we have in order to build prosperous society?

a) If so, why do you think so?
b)If not, why not?

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Final Answer


Perhaps it was inevitable that humanity’s social order would eventually coalesce into capitalism. Historically, society was controlled by tradition and command. When those controls were eliminated in stages, society consigned the production and distribution of wealth to “the market.” Never before had it legitimized the pursuit of wealth by everyone, including the lower classes. Competition and the self-interest of individuals would provide the glue to hold the network of markets together and produce wealth for all. But the irony of it all is that the capitalist system may begin to consume its own constituents, as its “rational” mentality begins to destroy ethical, moral and historic ideologies that governed society for millennia.

Moreover, the globalized free-market system and its supposed handmaiden, the democratic process, may not be the twin saviors that some seem to think they are. Emphasizing the resilience of the nation-state in the face of globalizing trends, economics professor Liah Greenfeld points out in The Spirit of Capitalism that “economic globalization is unlikely to undermine the nation either as a polity or as an economy.” Further, “while their workforce and middle management may be ‘global,’ it cannot be doubted that their character remains emphatically national”

Counterintuitively, Beaud contends that the link between liberal democracy and capitalism has not been clearly established and that capitalism can prosper perfectly well under dictatorship or strongly nationalistic governments. These are interesting observations, given capitalism’s increasing dominance in the furtherance of many nations’ economic interests.

There are plenty of reasons, then, to conclude that capitalism today has serious flaws in the way it works, rendering it a far-from-ideal economic system. We see that it was not just Marx who predicted its eventual collapse: today numerous voices are raised in protest that the system needs to be fundamentally changed.

Democracy and liberty can coexist only if public opinion favors private property rights and individual freedom over coercion. Capitalism, not democracy, implies just this sort of liberty; democracy only implies that government is directed by mass opinion. Today, because liberty is often confused with the “right to vote,” true liberty is more and more threatened by expanded and expanding “democracy.” Yet, as John Wenders has noted (in words I would love to see emblazoned on a monument somewhere in Washington), “Freedom is not measured by the ability to vote. It is measured by the breadth of those things on which we do not vote.” 

To limit the reach of government in a democratic system may indeed be limiting the reach of democracy itself. Yet this is no bad thing if by limiting the reach of democracy we are in turn securing liberty.

Best of luck

Asma Badar (83)
New York University

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