The person being interviewed is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington currently working in theatre as a lighting technician. He has not taken an economics class since high school, and his understanding of capitalism for the most part connects to his conception of the current U.S. economy and economic system. His graduation into the world of the pandemic and the current situation of the job force has given him an intriguing view of capitalism and its goals. The most succinct answers to the given questions are written below, removing the pause fillers and repeated words.
Question 1: How do you define capitalism?
“I guess if I were to describe it, it would be the American economic system, but if someone were to ask me for the definition, I don’t know what it is. I think it’s an open-ended economics system or something like that but with a little bit more rules and regulations.”
Question 2: How do you think capitalism impacts the economy?
“It is the economy; I mean kind of, but no. Aren’t we a trillion dollars in debt? If capitalism was doing what it was supposed to do, which is positively impact the economy, I don’t see a lot of evidence that supports that.”
Question 3: What role do you see capitalism playing in your daily life?
“Working 9:00 am to 5 pm, paying taxes, and dying as a hardworking American should. That’s the end of my answer. You got my answer. Theoretically, it’s supposed to be the driving factor as to why I go and get a job, and there are supposed to be benefits. But with capitalism not helping with health insurance or 401ks, capitalism doesn’t support me the way that I support capitalism.”
Question 4: What do you think of economic systems other than capitalism?
“When dealing with economic systems it feels like we are picking the lesser of the evils. We aren’t allowed to live on the planet, eat what we need, and exist with what we need because people want and need to exist with other things. Like, we don’t need to go be hunters and gatherers, but why can’t we have state-paid health insurance? At the expense of raising taxes, because nothing is free, but when you compare to having bad eyesight that you have no control over, what if you could just pay a little more out of a paycheck rather than pay thousands of dollars in copays? The line is very thin as to where capitalism is good and bad, and I am not enough of a professional to understand those or to make a decision.”
Question 5: How do you think capitalism has evolved over the years?
“I think people have made it evolve to what they wanted it to. It’s the reason I can’t remember the definition from school, even though I definitely learned it, because it is constantly evolving and changing. It’s weird to see the effect of Americans on capitalism because I don’t think we are very conscious about our effect or our influence on the economy. I think we react to what’s happening in the news and gas prices and things like that instead of focusing on what’s going on in a capitalist system. Take gas prices again for example. If I am driving and I see that gas went down from yesterday, I will for sure be more likely to stop than if gas had gone up in price from yesterday. I do not consciously think about buying when the gas is cheaper could have an effect on the economy or American capitalism. It used to be a conscious thing to be a consumer. Now it’s just life.”
Question 5: Do you find capitalism to be effective?
“Yeah, for sure. I mean, plenty of people are rich, they make 100,000 a year. When you understand the system and you are able to use the benefits that are for people who are successful, then you are able to create another abundance of success. I don’t think it’s effective for everyone though, which I don’t think it is designed to be. If it was, then why are things the way they are? Why is America in debt? Why am I in debt?”
He looked at himself as a consumer of goods and a producer of labor, someone who lives and dies in the system while trying as hard as he can to succeed within a capitalist setup. But how can someone succeed financially in an economic system that they know little about? Although he could not fully define the system, he did understand his inherent ignorance on the subjects and wondered if his lack of knowledge of the system was purposeful. His statement that ”capitalism does not support me the way that I support capitalism” suggests that he believes the system is broken and does not support the common worker, but thinks it to be effective in allowing producers to accumulate more and more wealth. Hopeful Americans can stand with capitalism given the small opportunity to rise to the upper one percent in wealth. If that opportunity exists, the system of capitalism will continue to pique human interest and development.
The comparison to gas prices is interesting as it relates to a previous discussion in class, in which the supply and demand of a product determines the price, but the public can blame that difference on a variety of factors that do not relate to the actual change in price. The interviewee’s admittance that he did not care why the price went down, just that it did, suggests that his interaction with the market and his understanding of it are not equal. This raises questions as to why consumers stay ignorant of the processes of capitalism when there are no benefits. The term “react” is a fantastic way to describe what people do in response to the push and pull of supply and demand. The lack of understanding of the readable movements of the market allow for people to react in certain predictable ways, such as the outrage at shortages or commentary on an abundance of a type of product. He admitted to being prone to those same reactions, but understands that there are forces beyond his control that shift the prices of commodities.
A love-hate relationship seems to describe a common paradigm of the American working class with capitalism. Although their place in capitalism and as a member of the labor force gives the working class certain benefits, this subject’s discontent at the outcome of the system and his experience within it possibly conveys a larger overarching tension between capitalism and capitalists and the means of production.