Foundations of the Capitalist System

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Please read the following prompt and prepare a written response for three of the discussion questions below. The responses to each question should be substantive and consist of 2 paragraphs for each question using MLA format. Please include the question you are answering with your answer.

Foundations of the Capitalist System

Throughout the history of capitalism there has been one persistent criticism: The whole system seems to be based on selfishness¾the more one works, the more one prospers. If a person is unable to work, the system seems to have no answer to his or her problems. Furthermore, there does not seem to be any moral or spiritual foundation to the system. Where do businesses get their values? What about concepts such as sharing, helping neighbors, and protecting the environment?

It is important to make a distinction between plain capitalism and democratic capitalism. Democratic capitalism is a system based on three components: (1) free enterprise—that is, freedom to own your own businesses and farms and freedom to keep the profits; (2) a freely elected government that has internal checks and balances; and (3) moral, ethical, and spiritual values that are part of the very fabric of the country and the business system. Plain capitalism is a system where there is free enterprise, but no freely elected government and no foundation of moral, ethical, and spiritual values. There are several “capitalist” countries headed by right‑wing dictators that do not have democratic capitalism and do not have the relative prosperity and social justice that we have in the United States.

Let’s explore democratic capitalism in more detail so that you can understand how the system works. One of the most important elements of democratic capitalism is its moral and spiritual base. When the United States was being settled, there was so much religious debate and rivalry among religions that people were tortured and killed for their beliefs. When it came time to establish a free and separate United States, however, the founding fathers were adamant about freedom of religion. They were very religious people themselves.

Thomas Jefferson was proud of his religious heritage and his fight for religious freedom in the United States He asked that his epitaph read: “Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” Jefferson felt that freedom of religion was one of his most important contributions. He felt it was as important as being president of the United States.

Democratic capitalism cannot work effectively and fairly without all three components. With all three, the democratic capitalist system can become the fairest and most equitable economic system in the world. Not everyone agrees on the role of government in the democratic system and on how much of the total gross national product the government should control. (Recent history indicates that somewhere between 20% and 25% of GDP gives the government the funds it needs to create more social justice and more equitable distribution of wealth.) A freely elected government is important to democratic capitalism because if the people feel that the system is not fair, they can elect new politicians to change the rules.

2 paragraphs for each question

  1. Do you see any evidence that the moral, ethical, and spiritual foundation of the American democratic capitalist system is eroding? How does that affect the ability of capitalist proponents to promote capitalism in other countries such as China and India?
  2. Why is it so necessary to have a freely elected government for democratic capitalism to create a prosperous and fair economy?
  3. Go through the three components of democratic capitalism and picture an economy without each one. What happens to freedom, fairness, and moral and ethical behavior? Which part of the system seems weakest today? What can be done about it?

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