This is obviously a complex subject, but if I might take a stab at it…

Firstly, many people, including me, don’t see economic inequality as a bad thing. To the contrary, I don’t mind it much at all. If you set your sights on, say, a top-level management position with a Fortune 500 company, and you’re willing to work all the extra nights, weekends and holidays necessary to earn that position, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge you for pulling in an annual salary of six or seven figures. The disproportionate share of wealth you enjoy, so long as it’s earned — or, perhaps, a consequence of your parents’ willingness to work their tails off so that they could leave you a nice inheritance and make sure you’d never go without food or shelter — isn’t an issue for me. And I suspect the same is true for many people. As long as the rest of us are afforded the opportunity to make a decent life for ourselves, why should I be upset at how much more you have than I?

The real issue, I think, is not the distribution of wealth, but rather the quality of life of the people at the bottom. And as you note in this piece, those people aren’t doing so well. That is certainly a problem — a much bigger one, I think, than many ardent capitalists are willing to acknowledge — but it’s not necessarily a consequence of capitalism.

It’s not capitalism’s fault that mentally ill people are treated relatively poorly in many places. That’s a cultural problem, not an economic one. But it becomes an economic problem when we start to look at the numbers; a huge share of the homeless population is composed of mentally ill individuals who would presumably be in a much better position in life if they were given the support they need. I believe the same could be said of convicted criminals (especially former drug addicts, and maybe young people who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks) who never receive the rehabilitative services they require to be self-sufficient and financially independent. That’s one of many reasons why I’m a big proponent of criminal justice reform.

I think it’s also worth pointing out that greed is universal, and that excessively greedy people will usually find ways to exploit any system for their own benefit. It may be slightly easier to pull that off in a capitalist society, but it’s not a problem caused by capitalism itself. One need look no further than the lifestyles of corrupt government officials in places like Venezuela and North Korea to understand that. There are plenty of effective ways to deal with that corruption, but I’m not sure if the will to do so exists in the United States. We as voters are quite stubborn, and there has always been a major reluctance on the part of both Republicans and Democrats to deal with the corruption in their own ranks. If that ever changes, I imagine we’ll start seeing some real progress in terms of addressing a few of the issues your piece raises.

For what it’s worth, though, I definitely understand and share your concern. Contrary to popular belief, there are more than a few capitalists/free marketeers who recognize the need for change, and I’m one of them.

Outer space enthusiast. Japanese history junkie. I write about politics, culture, and mental illness. Disagreement is a precursor to progress.

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