“I Couldn’t Imagine any other System”

DR is a 63 year old male. He is white/Caucasian and is a native born American. He completed three years of college but never graduated. DR is an Iron worker and has been in the construction business for 30 plus years. He owns his own small rebar business and works throughout the state of Virginia. DR identifies himself as part of the middle class, at best.

How has capitalism been taught to you at different levels of your education?

I guess in high school it was just the history of capitalism. The Rockefeller and Carnegies and the rise of the Unions.

I can’t really remember learning about it in college but I imagine it was the history again and alternatives to capitalism.

Was this an economic course or a history course?

It was macroeconomics in college and history in high school.

How would you define capitalism?

A system by which people can pursue a profession/trade where they can make a profit. A system where there are many opportunities for freedom of movement between socioeconomic statuses and lines of business. It’s basically economic freedom.

How would you define economic freedom?

In the old days, people would go into the same profession as their father. Or with Communism, people are told what to do. Whereas capitalism, in a democratic nation you can do what you want. Rise as far as your ambition can take you. Intelligence and ability are necessary. Economic freedom means that you’re free to work as hard as you want and go into whatever profession or trade that you want. But you’re not guaranteed success.

What has your personal experience with capitalism been? 

Running my subcontracting business. Shopping, buying a house.

What is your relationship with capitalism?

I am a capitalist or trying to be. Owning your own business by definition is being a capitalist.

What do you think are some alternatives to capitalism?  

Well, there’s the obvious one, communism and different degrees of this. There is also Socialism.

Those answers are not just economic but also government/social systems, do you think that capitalism goes with democracy?

Yes, but I suppose different levels of socialism can go with democracy, looking at Western Europe.

Do you think capitalism is the only financial system that works with democracy?

It works the best for the people to maximize their freedom. It doesn’t work for everyone because some people don’t have the get up and go to succeed.

How does capitalism influence America?  How has it influenced America in the past?

It’s what made American the strongest wealthiest nation on earth for the past 150 years. Since right after the Civil War we have been the most powerful economy in the world.

Capitalism built the canals, railroads and the steel industry. It’s what encouraged mining activity, the automotive industry and the chemical industry. It’s what built this country. Because of the concentration of wealth in just a few people’s hands they were able to build these things. They were able to finance the major industries that built this country.

What do you think are capitalism’s origins?  Both globally and in reference to the United States?

I would think it originated in Europe probably in England. But in this country I would say it started during the colonial period. There were many private enterprises like mills and iron works as well as farms.

How do you think social issues have been affected by capitalism, both now and in the past?

Well, early on people were exploited by capitalists. Children and adults were made to work long hours in horrible working conditions and for little pay. Of course that changed over time due to people unionizing and demanding change. Safety issues had to be addressed.

Capitalism gives some people the ability to better themselves but certain people are still being exploited to a certain extent. Especially now with globalization. Everywhere there are people exploited like in China, and that cheap labor is upsetting our labor force. Capitalism can hurt the low end workers when you have excess labor forces depressing wages.

Do you think Capitalism hurts this global work force? Now and then?

Immigrant Labor helps certain industries. They came over by choice. In their own countries they don’t have the advantages they have here. When they come here they have at least some kind of wage. But their presence depresses construction wages and restaurant wages. It has depressed construction wages so much that native born Americans are barely in it anymore. Immigrants are also taking a lot of the jobs that teenager and young adults used to have and this is hurting the young work force.

How do you think capitalism has changed over time?  What are some examples?

It is a lot more regulated then it used to be. You can’t exploit people the way they used to. It might be over regulated but I think the regulation help overall, especially in my business. Regulations have taken a little of the freedom of capitalism away. Like the freedom to not where safety gear. That is mostly because of the cost of insurance companies though.

Do you think capitalism is a natural fit for human nature?  Why or why not?

Yes, for ambition people yes. Most people want to better themselves so capitalism gives them the vehicle to do so. If they don’t have any ambition they might as well move to a socialist state and let the state take care of them.

Do you have any last thoughts about capitalism you would like to add?

I couldn’t imagine any other system. I couldn’t imagine being forced to do a job I didn’t want to do.

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