“the natural way of doing things”

CA is a 24-year old white male from Northern Virginia, who works as a Software Engineer. Before beginning his career as a Software Engineer, he received his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Computer Science from George Mason University. CA had a middle-class upbringing in Northern Virginia with college educated parents who both worked in the medical field. CA noted that his political alignment is moderate, and that he is interested in economics and the history of Capitalism but is not a pro with it. He had taken some economics classes in college but most of his knowledge is from personal research and how he enjoys looking at everything through an analytical lense.

I decided to interview CA because we typically do not agree on many economic or political ideas. I thought it would be interesting to hear from someone who I typically do not engage in such conversation about, and is typically far more analytical in nature then I am about many topics. 

How do you define Capitalism?

I began the interview with the question of “How do you define Capitalism?”. CA stated that “Capitalism is an economic system where businesses are owned and controlled by private owners instead of owned by the government”, and that “within the system there is competition to gain the most profit”. Once this definition was given I asked him if was he familiar or comfortable in discussing the concept of Capitalism, and when he said “Yes”, I asked when he first became familiar with it. CA noted that he remembers first becoming familiar with the concept of Capitalism when he was around late- middle school / early- high school, but that he had heard about it before then but didn’t fully get it. 

What role do you see Capitalism playing in your daily life?

When asked this question, CA stated that Capitalism plays a big role in his life because it encourages companies to provide more advanced goods and services for our daily lives that he gets to consume, and that as an employee of a company he is a small part of the system (noting “supply and demand of labor”). CA further stated that “Most things you see are at least somewhat in result of Capitalism”, and that while he doesn’t believe 100% of our lives are impacted by Capitalism because we don’t live in a 100% Capitalistic society, that at least 70-80% of our lives are impacted by it because of the nature of Capitalism and how the economy works in the US. 

Do you believe that Capitalism is inherent to society?

CA believes that in many ways capitalism is inherent to society because as humans we naturally want to provide as much as we can for our families and ourselves, and that in order to do so we want as many resources and options as possible and that in order to obtain those resources there is competition for them. He notes that in many ways Capitalism is “the natural way of doing things”. I followed up this question asking him, “Why do you think this?”. He answered that it is human nature to survive and that if there aren’t enough resources out there or there is a limited number of resources, as humans we strive to create those resources, and once we have those we will continue wanting more and more variety of resources to benefit from. 

How do you think Capitalism interacts with the media?

I asked the question of “How do you think Capitalism interacts with the media?” because I know that CA consumes media differently than I do (especially social media where he follows different people and trends), and I was interested to hear how his interpretation could be different than mine. 

The first thing that CA said when I asked this question was “targeted ads”, and that ads were one of the biggest things he thinks of when he thinks about the interaction between Capitalism and the media. He stated that since there is so much competition between companies to sell their products to people, that they have to create advertisements for people to think that they have the best product, and that nowadays he sees it mainly through targeted ads to consumers. He also talked about the impact of Capitalism on news media, discussing how the news can push specific products or ideas so that the public will want to support that product more. He gave an example of how this is happening with the marijuana industry. He talked about how people are investing so much money into these companies and many different companies are being created with similar products, but their products are not even legal everywhere and cannot even be consumed in every state yet. However, news media and other forms of media are discussing these companies and the debate of whether or not marijuana should be legal and in what capacities, which influences public opinion on the debate and pushing specific narratives. In some cases, it could be pushing the idea that it is a good thing to be legalized everywhere and if that media company is in support of a specific company, that specific company now benefits from the media push. He ends this example by arguing that it is obviously not 100% Capitalism in that example because the government does and would interfere on what is and is not legal with marijuana products, but that public opinion on goods and services can and will be skewed based on what the media says. 

What are some positive aspects of Capitalism?

CA gave a list of positive aspects when asked this question. Those aspects being: efficient workers, usually increased GDP within a country, usually has lower taxes (has negatives too of course), usually lower consumer prices for goods because companies are being competitive, and investment in companies. He said that the biggest things that are positive aspects about Capitalism are that usually people are willing to work harder because they need to, that because there is so much competition between companies there are lower prices for goods, and that there is newer and better technology as a result of Capitalism. I asked him if he feels like he benefits from the impact of Capitalism on technology because he works in a tech field, and he said 100%, and that another pro of Capitalism is that it benefits people performing high-skilled labor.

What are some negative aspects of Capitalism?

After discussing how people performing high-skilled labor can benefit from Capitalism, CA stated that a negative of Capitalism is that it hurts people performing low-skilled labor. People performing high-skilled labor will inherently be more privileged than those performing low-skilled labor. Some other negative aspects of Capitalism that he stated were: wealth gap, the focus on consumption and how we use a lot of resources that we probably shouldn’t be needing to use, questionable welfare systems, in some cases monopolies, and possible tension within society. CA further argues that a full Capitalistic society is very bad and that there needs to be balance and regulation in order for Capitalism to exist peacefully. 

How do you think Capitalism has evolved over the years?

CA stated that the definition of Capitalism has not changed but Capitalism as a whole has changed within our country, and that we become more or less capitalistic depending on who is in office. CA believes we have become less capitalistic and have been leaning towards different systems with more government influence within businesses. He discussed how he heard there were talks about having our internet be government ran instead of privately ran- and how this shows a shift away from more capitalistic ideals in the US because the government wants to keep the necessary things for life more federalized. 

How do you think your parents view capitalism in comparison to you?

When asked this question CA did not seem to have a distinct opinion on how his parents viewed Capitalism, other than they obviously benefit from the variety of goods that they can buy as a result. However, he did note that he sees it more at the root of how Capitalism is a system where people have to fight for what they want in the sense of working hard and smart, and it being a root of human nature- then they probably do. He stated that his father is more pro-capitalist for the medical field than he is because his father works in the field and has critiques and experiences that he will never fully understand because he works in a different field. Overall, he was not very sure because he had never really discussed it with his parents before. 

Are people’s views of capitalism generationally different?

The last question that I asked CA was “Are people’s views of Capitalism generationally different?”, and he said “Yes”. He elaborated explaining how many people now (most people at least) have really only experienced a pretty good quality of life in terms of medical care, technology, air conditioning, heating, etc., that people in the past did not have access to, and that as a whole we take those things for granted because we now have better access to reasonable prices and inventions because of how much competition there is. We now live in a time when we can get products fast and at a good price compared to the past when it was a slower, more expensive process. He also notes that this generation takes a lot more for granted and not many people want to look back at the history books and see how things were in the past in different countries that older generations were scared of coming to the US (such as Communism).

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