Take it or Leave it World

My first interviewee was JB who works for the University of Mary Washington. JB holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English which he received in 1973 and a Master’s of Library Sciences which he received later from the University of Illinois. JB is a published author of several works and therefore has some personal insight into the nature and function of Capitalism in modern America. I did not ask about political affiliation or really any political opinions which JB might hold. I chose JB for this interview because of prior conversations he and I have had regarding some literature relevant to the Capitalist topic. JB mentioned ahead of the interview that he is not well versed in the history or nature of Capitalism but will answer as honestly and sincerely as possible. (All answers designated as JB are paraphrased by me unless specifically indicated as direct quotes.)
I began the interview by asking JB what his definition of Capitalism was.
JB: Capitalism is a the system by which an individual or company has the right to produce a good to the quality of their choosing and then sell that good at whatever price they wish to charge. Capitalism works basically on the concept of Supply and Demand which helps dictate the prices which individuals or companies choose to charge. There are some obstacles to the system such as Unions which can cause issues with Supply and Demand and the pricing system.
I followed up the definition by asking if he had any personal experience with Capitalism. (luckily JB has had quite a bit of experience with Capitalism.)
JB: Being a published author has been quite an interesting experience with Capitalism. Throughout the publishing process I had to deal with publishers which lead to questions of royalties and copyrights. I had just read an article which talked about how some publishers are now taking the copyrights from the authors during negotiations. A lot of the time publishers throw out a “take it or leave it” type of offer which really led me to wonder “how much negotiating power I have.” I also had a paper route when I was just a kid. That was a great experience with Capitalism. I wanted to make money, just like any kid, and in order to do that I had to learn not just to deliver these papers on time but I also had to collect a lot of money and get new subscriptions as well on occasion deal with complicated costumers. I also got tipped and had to learn how to budget properly so that I would have some of that money later on. It was a really eye-opening and wonderful experience.
JB’s experiences seemed really positive so I asked if he could think of any negative interaction he’d had with Capitalism.
JB: The only real negative thing I can think of right now was a job I had while in college. I was working as many hours as I could to make extra money. This is before all of the 40 hour work week rules and the idea of overtime. I worked well over 40 hours a week every week, without getting paid any extra, I just wanted to make money. They had been paying me for my lunch break for a while. It was a complete accident and no one noticed right away, but once they did notice, I had to pay it all back, which was difficult to do. But that’s really all the bad experience I can think of. I do think that regulations have made it harder for kids to work through school. When I was in school I just did as much work as I could without the rules about overtime and full time versus part time. There just wasn’t as much regulation to deal with and I think that made it easier for people to work their way through school. My tuition was also only like a few hundred dollars a semester versus the thousands people have to pay now.
I figured that made for a great description of experience with Capitalism and so I moved on and asked JB if he thought Capitalism had evolved over time.
JB: Oh boy! That’s a tough question. There is no doubt that Capitalism has evolved over time but I can’t think of specific examples of changes. Capitalism always created a sort of take it or leave it world but I guess there were changes made which affected Capitalism. You know there used to be those horrible sweatshops and places where working conditions were just awful, like the triangle shirt fire and places like that. The government implemented rules like fair wages and work place safety which helped a lot but also changed the way Capitalism worked by sort of bringing morality into play. That is why unions and things like that exist now. But I think that even though things improved because of these changes, the market is overregulated now and doesn’t allow for true Capitalism to happen. In a lot of ways it ends up crippling the system. I had a friend who had to close down his book store because his employees started demanding that they get paid just as much as people at like Barnes and Noble and so of course he couldn’t afford that because he wasn’t a big corporation and so he ended up having to close up the shop because of things like that. But then again there are also places that are probably helped by all the rules about the treatment of workers, places like Walmart. I know that I go there a lot, especially early in the morning and I see the same people all the time and their managers really keep them on their feet and busy so without the regulations Walmart would probably be a really hard to place to work at.
After the discussion evolution of Capitalism, I concluded the interview by asking JB if he thought of Capitalism as a reflection of Human Nature.
JB: I think it definitely has some of the attributes of basic human nature, or at least opens up an avenue by which people can pursue their natural instincts in a modern world. It used to be that the whole point of life was really to provide for yourself and your family that existed even way back in the Stone Age. Capitalism just seems to modernize that concept. Instead of providing, people earn now, which in turn helps them provide. I think that Capitalism allows for everyone to earn as much as they can, with some earning more than others, just like in the Stone Age some provided more than others based on certain conditions.

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