A personal observation of capitalism in America since Ronald Reagan introduced "trickle-down", and how unfettered competition may prove detrimental to both competitors and consumers.
A basic tenet of free-market capitalism, as practiced in the US, follows the Darwinian principle of "survival of the fittest." Each economic entity, whether completely new, or some variation of an existing concept, must, like every additional species in our evolutionary chain, squeeze out competitors to assure their own survival.
Those that most successfully adapt to market demand tend to thrive, whereas lesser strategies often result in "extinction", or bankruptcies in economic speak.
As Karl Liebknecht said, "The basic law of capitalism is you or I, not both you and I."
Applying this rule to plants or animals illustrates the natural competition for habitat, including shelter and food. Those who adapt best, survive.
I suppose that most people, whether from the Americas, Europe, or Asia, really don't care much about political and economic systems per se, but rather how those systems affect their overall ability to acquire food and shelter, raise their young, and more than just survive, to thrive.
Adam Smith, often referred to as, the "father of (modern economics and) capitalism" [http://en.wikipedia.org/...], wrote in Book I Chapter VIII, pg.94 of his magnus opus, "The Wealth of Nations": "No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable."
This, of course, is true of any society, whether capitalist, socialist or Marxist.
Continuing along these lines, Smith also wrote, in his other great tome, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": "This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and powerful, and to despise or, at least, neglect persons of poor and mean conditions, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments."
While very few persons would actually deny the value and importance of free market economies, almost every consumer should demand that pursuit of profit must maintain ethical standards beyond reproach.
Unfortunately, the demands of profiteering, compounded by strict competition, often lead to cutting corners, or worse, deliberate tort, which, under the worst of circumstances, may cause great harm, and even death to a great many persons.
Many times I have heard that production decisions are based on projected sales or profits, but experience has taught me that consumers often have negligible influence over decisions made by business leaders. Even consumer boycotts seldom cause corporations to add costly safety features designed to protect employees or the environment.
In 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, which killed 11 oilworkers and spewed hundreds of millions of gallons of raw oil directly into the Gulf of Mexico, Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine disaster which killed 29 miners, and the ongoing and successive pollution of our atmosphere and natural aquifers (through fracking), are all contributing to well documented national public health issues.
And, in each case, the businesses choose to fight all branch regulation, in favor of unrestricted business practices that, while maximizing profits for shareholders, often result in health or environmental issues, frequently both.
They do this, very successfully, spending massive amounts of money on highly specialized lobbyists, who sell their skills and services to any who meet their price, not unlike an escort service.
In today's modern global economy, international corporations can affect large populations, over great distances. Governments, as representatives not of corporations, but of people, must maintain the security of citizens in their dealings with corporations.
An important function of government in a capitalist society is to regulate and restrict actions, that, if left unchecked, may pose serious risks to society at large, whether those risks involve foodstuffs, durable goods, or services.
This valuable service rendered by the government, such as oversight of the meat-packing industry (FDA), or airline safety (FAA), must be funded with tax revenues.
Adam Smith said in "The Wealth of Nations: "Every tax, however, is to the person who pays it a badge, not of slavery but of liberty. It denotes that he is a subject to government, indeed, but that, as he has some property, he cannot himself be the property of a master."
To decry the very infrastructure we rely on to maintain the highest standards of safety, or a public education system that prepares our children for future technology advances (job preparation) is to ignore history. Our nation thrived during the decades following WWII, when taxes were far higher, government services grew to meet public needs, education met our goals, unions represented much of the workforce, and wages allowed most families to advance, with only one income.
In the last generation since Ronald Reagan began, while claiming fiscal conservatism, increasing spending (and especially the deficit - http://tinyurl.com/...) and our national debt, which Bush I continued, conservatives have done their best to paint liberals and Dems as anti-capitalist, "unlimited big-government spenders", who will happily turn America into the next Marxist state.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. But most liberals do want the government to establish, and uphold ethical standards that give every American a fighting chance.
Or, as Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter I, Part II, pg.770: "Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality."
And, in Book IV, Chapter III, Part II, pg.531: "The violence and injustice of the rulers of mankind is an ancient evil, for which, I am afraid, the nature of human affairs can scarce admit a remedy."
We only ask that amassing great property (fortunes) does not serve to qualify as an excuse for ancient evil, or the premature demise of an unwitting middle-class .. ..