The Capitalist Revolution

The Capitalist Revolution

The Capitalist Revolution

The old capitalist morality was based on the classical economics idea that the natural force of competition dispenses a stern but equitable justice to all economic groups. The share of economic output received by each individual is based on his capacity to compete in the market. He gets what he deserves-according to the verdict of the market-not what he needs. This approach to income distribution is quite compatible with the Darwinian notion of "survival of the fittest." The logic of the classical economics seems inevitably to lead to the conclusion "that the health of society positively requires the weakest to go to the wall.1121 Those who do not contribute to the total store of goods available to the society cannot be subsidized without weakening the total system, it is implied. Therefore, it is unwise to educate the poor or give charity to those who cannot help themselves. Such well-meaning but misguided actions merely disturb the dynamic balance of society.

A new moral order of capitalism, one which utilizes new means to attain old ends, has been evolving in the United States in recent decades. As we have seen, the organizational, corporate, managerial, and property revolutions have transformed the basic institutions and doctrines of capitalism-private property, the profit motive, the market system, and laissez faire. These were the means to attain the original capitalistic ends of greater individual economic freedom, justice, and progress. The laissez-faire individualism of the old moral order has given way to the political interrelationships of organized economic interest groups. This does not imply that the individual no longer counts; it means only that alone and unaided he is incapable of defending himself in the organizational society. It is a paradox of our times that if the values of individualism are to flourish, the rights of individuals must be protected by organizations.

The capitalist revolution also consists of a reinterpretation of the ends of capitalism. Economic freedom no longer applies only to the business class, as it did in the eighteenth century when Manchester liberalism developed as a pro-business political reform movement. In the new moral order of capitalism, economic freedom is desired for all economic groups and classes, but it is defined differently. Economic freedom means being free from something that makes it difficult to make a living. In the eighteenth century the rising business class wanted to be free from the mercantilist restrictions imposed on them by government. Today, in our employee-oriented economy, the thing that most people fear is the loss of their jobs or the reduced income and standard of living brought on by a depression. Therefore, lapses from full employment are what they want to be free from. The government is now considered by most UKs to be a necessary instrument to attain sustained full employment; thus governmental intervention in the economy is a means to economic freedom rather than an obstacle to be overcome.


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