Recipient of a Values & Capitalism mini-grant, the Houghton Star (the student newspaper of Houghton College) recently published its second “Two Views” page. Two student writers with differing opinions answered the question: “Is free-market capitalism good and just?”
Joseph Gilligan: “As history tells us, the free enterprise system has been the catalyst for the greatest strides in innovation, social mobility, and the standard of living.”
President Ronald Reagan once said, “Socialists ignore the side of man that is the spirit. They can provide you shelter, fill your belly with bacon and beans, treat you when you’re ill, all the things guaranteed to a prisoner or a slave. They don’t understand that we also dream.” Similarly, Timothy 1:7 states, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The choice is clear. We must continue to dream.
Sharon Brautigam: “While economic inequality is not necessarily inherently unjust, it may still pose a significant barrier to individual freedom, thereby perpetuating injustice.”
Perhaps the issue of greatest concern for individual freedom in capitalist societies is immense (and growing) wealth and income disparity. The Gini coefficient, which measures the income inequality within a particular group, has risen enormously within countries with capitalist systems over the past quarter-century. Since China began capitalist market reforms in 1979, its baseline standard of living has increased considerably, but its Gini coefficient has increased from about 28 points (marking relatively equal economic distribution) in 1991 to over 47 points (marking gross inequality) in 2012.