This interview was completed by T, a 23 years old senior college student who has been working since she was 15 years old in both serving and factory jobs. She views herself as lower-middle class, both growing up and now as a working adult paying her way through school. She is currently studying applied economics and business and has an office job offer lined up in Quantico following graduation. Her knowledge of economics and her critique of the overarching concept of capitalism proved to be an intriguing and informative discussion. The most impactful part of her interview is described under each question, and, after the interview was completed, I went back and reflected on her views and observations.
- How do you define capitalism?
- I don’t know if you want to ask me about capitalism, it might turn into my manifesto. . . Alright, I’m an economics major so I should know this. Capitalism is an economic system where people and companies work towards their own individual profit instead of the state controlling it. I learned one thing in class.
- How do you think that capitalism impacts the economy?
- Well since we are a capitalist economy I would like to think capitalism impacts the economy quite a bit. . .instead of human rights playing a role in laws and stuff its private companies own interests. Some things have to be controlled by the state, we’re seeing the impact of that in things like healthcare right now. Allowing the production of goods necessary for the survival of humans given their circumstances at a set price is just horrible. When we lost our insurance the flat rate for anything medical was so high that if I got sick or hurt before I got back on insurance, I didn’t know if I could pay it.
- What role do you see yourself playing in a capitalist society?
- Anyone living in a capitalist society has a role in it. I am working, going to school to get better jobs to work, or spending my small amount of free time doing whatever I want. All of that amounts to either my own individual profit or the company I am working for’s profit. Even the university profits from my desire to get a job requiring a college degree, and those student loans put food on the table for the people whose calls I ignore. I’m an economics major; the study of capitalism is inherent in understanding the American economy.
- What do you think of other types of economic systems?
- I would say I am socialist if I didn’t find so many problems with socialism. Some kind of socialist system? In an ideal world, I guess. The production of goods and services for use at least sounds better than for purely profit. Let’s go back to bartering, I don’t know.
- How do you think capitalism has evolved over the years?
- It seems more cutthroat now, I guess, but I only have my lifetime to observe, and only half of it if that. When I was a kid it felt like everyone famous was a millionaire. Now we have billionaires and trillionaires. No human should be able to accumulate that kind of wealth. 1 percent of the population with a majority of the money? That just doesn’t seem fair. It’s evolved so that the people at the top keep getting richer and richer, and the only way you can launch yourself there is a good idea and a loan. And underneath the people become poorer and poorer as they hoped that maybe, if they worked hard enough, they might rise to the top too. In reality, capitalism is becoming meaner.
- What do you think are some positive and negative effects of capitalism?
- I can probably speak more about the negatives than the positives. . .capitalism definitely promotes inequality as an innate part of its structure. People profit off of other people. Us regular citizens get caught in this boom and bust system where we don’t know what the price of something will be from one day to the next. I want to start my own business, but I know it is going to be hard with other companies monopolies on the market and the hard start for up and coming businesses to get off the ground. On a positive note, if I do make a really successful business, I will be very well off and might buy a few dozen cats. But the chance that I get there is small. I don’t really want to think about it.
T knew quite a bit on the subject of capitalism given her major and therefore made several points that I found very thought-provoking. I surprised the interviewee with the interview, so she was not given time to prepare her statements or look up anything. The interviewee had very little to positively say about capitalism, looking at the downfalls of capitalism and their views of capitalism per their experiences. Given their major and their personal goals for the future, T’s anxiety, when faced with the uncertainty of the market and a capitalist world, showed at the end when I asked them about the positives and negatives of capitalism. Trying to break into the world of business is scary because there are so many older and bigger competitors in the American market, and I think that is what pushed the interviewee’s view of the economic system.