The capitalist system

CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

Until the emergence of capitalism, the pronouncements of scientists concerning their discoveries were regarded as heresies. In this connection, the pronouncement of Copernicus concerning the curvature of the earth was treated by his Christian contemporaries as heretical. On the advent of capitalism, however, science and technology were sedulously encouraged. Research was endowed. The humanities and social sciences were fostered by the bestowal of bounties and pensions on outstanding artists and economists. All these were done because some of the results of scientific research tended to help the capitalist to feather his profit nest, whilst the analytical reasoning of the social scientists also helped him to make judicious trade forecasts, and plan his business intelligently.

As we have seen, the germ of capitalism, which is greed, has always been inherent in man. But because of a large number of factors including lack of education and technology, lack of communications, etc., it did not, until towards the end of the eighteenth century, attain any differentiated identifiable form and growth. But by a concatenation of events, capitalism came into its own with the advent of the so-called industrial revolution. Since then, it has swept and carried everything before it. It has given unparalleled impetus to science, technology, and art. It has built new cities and beautified old ones. Its conquest of time and space is almost complete, and all mankind of all climes and tongues are now one another’s neighbours. It has modernised the tools of production as well as the means of locomotion. In the process, it has internationalised industry and commerce. It has reduced and weakened the strongholds of ignorance, disease, and poverty. It has made the rich richer; and the poor better off than they ever had been before.

As we have said, it was the capitalist who overthrew the feudalist regime. By doing this he placed emphasis on freedom of enterprise and of choice, and proclaimed the doctrine of laissez faire. In the concrete translation of this doctrine, it introduced a radical – indeed revolutionary – element into politics: the element of liberalism and individual freedom.

Before the advent of capitalism, the doctrine which governed commercial intercourse among nations was mercantilism: the enrichment and economic aggrandizement of one nation at the expense of others. In its turn, the practicalisation of this doctrine often led to wars between the advanced nations of the world, and to the complete subjugation and unabashed exploitation of the backward territories.

On its advent, however, capitalism abolished mercantilism and, under the impetus of laissez faire, advocated and introduced free trade among nations. This led to fierce and cut-throat competition amongst the advanced nations of the world in which only the fittest and the strongest became truly enriched. In the struggle amongst the advanced nations for wider markets and secure and abundant sources of raw materials, the countries of Africa and Asia became areas of colonisation, or imperialistic spheres of influence. Africa was divided; British rule in India was extended and strengthened; and both China and Japan were compelled to enter into business relations with Britain and America which, in the beginning, proved to be largely unfair to the former.

Wherever it was necessary to wage war in order to impose business intercourse on any country, it was done without any qualm of conscience. For instance, the Opium War was fought in China in the years 1840-42 in order to compel China to trade in opium, which was injurious to human health, and hence to the health of the Chinese, but profitable to the English. The great Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, incisively described this trade as ‘Death Traffic in China’.

Thus, it will be seen that colonialism and imperialism are, in essence, a mere overseas extension of domestic capitalism.

In the process of all this, the backward areas of the world were compelled to have a new era of comparative peace and efficient administration. Their goods and resources were valorised. They received new enlightenment, and developed new aspirations. Such countries which were quick on the uptake, like Japan, made a tremendous leap forward to take advantage of this enforced intercourse with the capitalist countries. Others which were not as resourceful as Japan have also benefitted enormously from their subservience to capitalist adventures.

Above all, in its ceaseless attempts to create order out of an endemic chaos, capitalism has produced men who, in genius and intellect, cannot be surpassed in any field of human endeavour. Adam Smith, Ricardo, Johri Stuart Mill, Roscher, Walras, Wicksell and Keynes, among many others, are names to which practising capitalists and capitalist economists will forever feel indebted.

So much for the achievements of the capitalist system, we now turn to the vices of the system which, quite frankly, are legion. From Chapter 6 up to this point, we have introduced, in passing and obliquely, quite a host of them. We will now assemble them in summary form, for thorough acquaintance, and introduce new species of capitalist vices with which we have not previously been acquainted.

The postulates of the capitalist system are false and untenable. An examination of some of the causes of private property will reveal that it is unjust to recognise the right of the individual to private property without qualification. Land is the gift of Nature, and was never at any time appropriated by Nature herself to any individual or family. Ab initio, the possession of land by a family or individual is the result of either forcible seizure or illegal and unauthorised appropriation. It is well-known that uncultivated and unimproved or undeveloped land does attract income or rent due to no efforts whatsoever on the part of the land-owner, but as a result of pressure of population, proximity to industrial or commercial activities, or for other reasons to which the land-owner has made no contribution whatsoever. Even when a land-owner improves his land or builds on it, more often than not, the building attracts rent out of proportion to the reward appropriate to the amount of capital invested in it. Under the postulate of private property, however, a land-owner or house-owner who comes within any of the categories mentioned above is entitled to keep any reward that comes to him in the manner which we have just described.

CONTINUES NEXT WEEK

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