Changing for the Better

Interview 1:

She responded, “these are not easy questions,” when asked whether the system of capitalism was beneficial. The person interviewed is 84 years old. Her perspective on capitalism has been shaped by a changing world and the experiences of her mother and father. “My mother had to go to work instead of high school,” she remembered. Her mother, born around 1904, lived an experience that is hard to imagine an American child having today. The interviewee’s mother’s mother died when she was young. Her father worked in the city and did not have the time to raise a daughter, so she lived with her grandmother who did not speak much English. Capitalism undoubtedly shaped her life. The interviewee’s mother was thirteen when she went to a business school and started working full-time at a meat-packing plant as a secretary. “Even though she wasn’t educated she was smart. That’s why she got the job she did,” the interviewee claimed. Then she asked, “Can you imagine being a fourteen-year-old hopping on the trolley to go to work every day?” The image of a child that young having a full-time job feels so far removed from the experiences of the majority of American children today. “I think she liked it though,” she explained, “it’s hard for me to think it was a bad thing for her.” Considering the period, it was not the worst thing a child could be doing. “It made her grow up fast,” the interviewee added. She never reflected on whether or not growing up fast was a good or bad thing, though the tone of her voice indicated indifference. “I think of all the systems Capitalism is the best one we have,” the interviewee stated, “though there are flaws, I think a free market means free people.” She then asked me, “do you agree?” Though her ideas were concise, she seemed hesitant in her responses, almost afraid to say the wrong thing. “I think Capitalism would not be possible today without the changes that have happened.” Continuing this thought she explained, “The government is much more involved than it used to be, which overall I believe is a good thing, though you don’t want the government overly involved.” Elaborating she used Sweeden as an example, “it was once very socialist, which I think was bad for the country, they are much more Capitalist now.” Her views on Capitalism are shaped by the opportunities that have shifted since her mother was a child and increasing government involvement. In her eyes government involvement has improved the American quality of life, though she believes too much involvement would be detrimental to personal freedoms. She ended her interview by explaining, “Capitalism and all, it is walking on a fine line, and who we elect matters.” Overall, though she noted flaws within the Capitalist system, she explained it as a system of opportunity and change. She believes the desires of an average person remain influential in a capitalist society and that capitalism ensures individual freedom.

-Helen Dhue

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