The Instigator
Pro (for)
8 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Capitalism is an Inherently Immoral System

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/12/2014 Category: Economics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,014 times Debate No: 56476
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (2)




Opening round is for Opening Arguments. Here's mine:

Free-Market Capitalism, however well-meaning its proponents may be, invariably results in huge inequities, a failure for the needs of the majority to be met, and, most controversially, an overall devaluation of human life.

1. Inequality.

In the most laissez-faire economies, resources both untaxed by government, or regulated in their disbursement invariably begin to belong to fewer and fewer people. The Oil Tycoon, for instance, who shores up an early lead in control of that resource has no way of losing it, or losing the value it has. As time goes on, monopolization inevitably results, and the snowball of wealth accumulated by the individuals with control of that industry leads to control of other industries as well.

Over time, those who didn't happen to get to a given resource first, find themselves at the whim and fancy of Robber-Barons and plutocrats, less capable of gaining any leverage in their own lives as the control exerted by the largest businesses grows and grows.

How can a system that is only less regulated and governed only by the laws of supply and demand ever smooth out this growing gap in power between the richest and poorest? I would submit that it cannot.

2. Unmet Needs. Under the freest markets, only those who can afford to pay for services that they may need can thrive. Those who are unable to acquire the money to pay for those services are left wanting. For some that may mean not having an I-pod, but for others basic resources such as food, water, heat or health care may become ultimately inaccessible, and even if market forces drive prices down to the point where they are attainable, those prices will only be just low enough for the majority to afford them. Those at the complete bottom are still left out, and those who can barely afford these things will end up having to make dire decisions between things like a roof over their heads or education for their children.

The invisible hand of the market has nothing to compel it to see the needs of most, or even really, many, so long as money continues to change hands, businesses continue to grow, and investments continue to pay off.

3. Human Devaluation. Above all, Capitalism is an Immoral system because it devalues human life by necessity. Labor, as measured by capitalism, is a commodity. As technology moves us into an era where less hands are required, and desperation pushes less people into being willing to do more work for less just in the name of having a job, the growing population of the world forces labor as a commodity, and with it, people into lower and lower esteem in the free market-s eyes.

How can the end result of a capitalist state be an ethical one when the very people who make that system up become more common, and thus by market standards, less valuable?

To whoever wishes to stand and champion the inherent morality of capitalism, I wish the best of luck in this debate.


One's standards for a moral system may differ. My arguments show the benefits of capitalism to society and people in general. Saying that some people do not thrive does not make capitalism immoral, as we have no way of knowing the cause of that. The majority of people do indeed benefit.

1. Opportunity

Capitalist economies such as the United States could be mocked for a lack of equity when it comes to wealth. The reasoning behind this is the large differences in abilities and lifestyles of the rich and poor. However, we would be irresponsible to disregard the middle class in these economies. People have the opportunity to pursue whichever profession they choose and are free to invest or make financial decisions without heavy taxation.

Opportunity is simply put as a chance, however small, to do something. The ability to grow or be successful is something that is the foundation in all economies. Everyone has the ability to play a role in the economy in a capitalist society. Opportunity gives a chance for greatness and the fulfillment of one"s goals. It must outweigh income inequality in today"s round simply because the higher end of incomes is a place everyone can reach, even if it is more difficult for certain people.

2. Societal Welfare

People in a society psychologically thrive on freedom. Human nature tells us that what we put into something is what we can get back. In a capitalist economy that is held true because people can be greedy and earn tons of money, or be lazy and poor. Or, they could live a moderate lifestyle in the middle class.

Health should also be a main concern of today"s round, because the health of a population is of utmost concern, outweighing smaller arguments in the opposition. In capitalist economies, the competition among healthcare providers is greater, breeding a more affordable market for care. Also, operations and treatments become more diversified and numerous as business is incorporated into health.

3. Pure morality
There is no justification for a lack of freedom. There is no case of success in history of a society where economic opportunity was not promoted. There is inherent worth in every life, so prioritizing the freedom of an individual is essential. We see around the world that only in capitalist countries are people commonly happy. If they want something, they get it. There is a myriad of industries and services at their disposal. Democracy is crucial to morality. It is best achieved through the economic empowerment of the people.

Now to move on to my opponent"s case:

1. The first contention was based on a common misconception. The gap between the rich and poor, or the oil companies and lower class individual is not forever-widening. Large corporations have a larger distribution of resources because they earn it. However, I see that it is immoral to disregard the struggles of those less fortunate. We need to realize that people always have a chance in capitalism. Whether investing in stocks or working hard to get promoted to assistant manager at work, capitalism has opportunity written all over it. Those less fortunate are not necessarily stuck there forever.
To stop the uneven distribution of resources is to put it in the hands of the government. This has many downsides, including an unfair distribution. More unfair than the alternative. Successful upper middle class individuals or anyone seeking opportunity is suppressed so that no one is wealthier than someone else. It is unacceptable.
2. The number of unmet needs compared to the number of successful individuals shows the success of capitalism. My opponent even stated that the needs of the majority should be met. The majority is not the very few who are unable to thrive in a free society. However, these individuals can use public assistance programs and work to move up the ladder with enough motivation.
3. This contention itself lacked backbone or a basis. People thrive off freedom. How is putting the power in the hands of the government more fair than putting it in the hands of the people, when it comes to money. If my opponent wants to discuss the value of life, then looking to the opportunities individuals in capitalism have is important.
Thank you for the challenge =514;!!
Debate Round No. 1


My thanks to my opponent for taking up the gauntlet I've cast down. I'm looking forward to a spirited debate!

First some Rebuttals:

1. Opportunity

The US is a prime example of how in a capitalist system, the illusion of opportunity is used to both blame those who have not succeeded AND helps to make those who are wealthy wealthier by exploiting those who seek it. As the US market has grown freer (as measured by reductions in taxes and regulation) over the last decades, the middle class has shrunk and shrunk.

Many other systems that are to varying degrees Socialist also allow people a chance to make it big and be rich, but the key difference is that these systems do not punish those who fail as cruelly as our system does. The only trade-off, really, is that their rich aren't AS rich. The idea that it is somehow morally important to the concept of opportunity for someone to make 50 billion instead of "merely" 500 million is laughable.

2. Social Welfare

To the first point, I certainly do not argue that freedom is essential to a happy, and moral existence. But all too-often in hardcore capitalist societies such as the US, "freedom" ceases to mean the most choices, and comes to simply be a buzzword for a lack of specific law. When we measure freedom not in whether or not we have a choice between options, but rather in how low our taxes are, whether or not our meatpacking plants have to be inspected every year, or our insurance companies are allowed to charge whatever they damned well please, we are no longer offering a maximum of choice (i.e. true freedom) to a majority of citizens. Socialist countries preserve people's right to speech, democratic representation, (often) firearms, as well as access to services such as health care. The only "freedom" they lack is that (by their own choice as a majority) people may pay more in taxes for the services they get, or see those services better regulated where human well-being may be at stake.

To the second point, I feel my opponent's argument is either very poorly researched OR not well-understood by my opponent. Free-Market Competition among health care providers in the US has NOT resulted in more affordable care, but rather care which is saddled with the greed both of HMO administrators and Insurance companies and the Pharmaceuticals industry. The former two seek to minimize what care people receive while paying the highest costs in the world for it, and the latter constantly reformulate drugs to keep them going "generic" so that they can charge exorbitant over-the-counter rates.

In fact, in socialist countries where governments are allowed to negotiate prices, citizens enjoy greater access to medicines that we in the US are paying more for, simply in the name of preserving some nebulous notion of our freedom.

3. Pure Morality.

Again, we agree that freedom is an essential value, but what my opponent fails to see is that in some societies while a totalitarian government may deprive its citizens of freedom directly, in those that go too far in favoring a free market, the wealthiest citizens inevitably rise up to fulfill the role of those totalitarian dictators by pricing freedom out of reach for the majority. Only through socialist governments that balance the true freedoms of a free market against a strong government to prevent elites from depriving others of freedoms through the financial system do we arrive at truly moral societies.

A. The gap between rich and poor has absolutely widened. The poor do bottom out a certain point with NOTHING and companies grow richer and richer, that's basic math.

In the US, job opportunities have only decreased, between the rising population, the decrease in a manufacturing base that companies can get by going overseas, and by the increased use of labor-saving technology. Without some form of government intervention, what exactly is protecting the poorest's ability to work hard and get somewhere? Not the free market.

Unfair distribution is where we already are. It is unfair when one man is worth literally what millions of men may be worth in a lifetime. We can say that man has worked hard. Perhaps he has worked twice as hard as others. Maybe three times as hard. Maybe ten times as hard. Maybe 100. But a million? The CEO of Exxon Mobile literally works a million times harder than everyone else? Really? I would submit that he does not, and as such, does not deserve that great a share of resources.

While I would not ever want to see 100% of resources turned over to the government for redistribution, 20 or 30%? Sure.

B. I will refer my opponent to health care. In the absence of government intervention, we had cancer patients being kicked right off of insurance rolls because they represented a threat to profit. We have patched, though not fixed, this problem by government stepping in. How was the free market going to address it? In what way would it ever be more profitable to treat the sickest instead of dumping them?

C. Putting power in the hands of the government IS putting hands in the power of the people, provided that the government is democratic and composed OF the people. How is it more free to put money in the hands of Monsanto or Goldman-Sachs? Who does that grant freedom besides the boards of those companies?

In summary, my opponent believes too much in the lie of the American Dream, a lies that states those who work the hardest get the farthest and those who have nothing deserve it because they are lazy.

The reality is that hard-working individuals who may hold two or three jobs are NOT getting ahead in this economy, while multitudes of under-taxed wealthy are literally born into their roles and never need work a day in their lives to enjoy the greatest success. It is capitalism that defends their right to a greater share than those who work the hardest, those who by virtue of their lack of income lack freedom, and by my opponent's own measure those imbalances are completely immoral.


I will begin by strengthening my case, before moving on to reinforce my rebuttal.
A. opportunity
I acknowledge the truth behind my opponent"s analogy. The analogy, however, poorly depicts this debate. Someone should not only make 500 million if their hard work and business success should have allowed them to make more. Simple math can be used to understand why people at the bottom of the ladder should favor capitalism. With greater competition in the economy, there is more wealth for businesses due to less taxation and more businesses survive. This allows for low unemployment and low levels of inflation. Getting a job in the US and moving up to the middle class is feasible. If the United States were socialist, people would not have even close to as many opportunities. Welfare programs offer a chance for the less fortunate, so no one is punished.
B. Social Welfare
My opponent"s attacks on this point were guided by the idea that heavy taxes and more spending and regulation on businesses is a good thing. There indeed is an extent to which the government must fund agencies, but my knowledge in macroeconomics will give me the upper hand on this point. To blindly say that the government increasing spending would surely help people is very irresponsible. When the government increases funding, it increases the demand for loanable funds. This increases interest rates, crowding out private investors. This is terrible for the economy. A capitalist economy generally has a large population. This means that the people thrive off capital flow. A capitalist government will not tax enough to harm investment to the breaking point.
I want to clear up my point on healthcare. I was showing that there is a more diverse and less expensive market for healthcare in capitalism. Operations such as liposuction or hygienic operations are available, for example, due to competition. Cancer patients not being insured is awful. Regulations that ensure they can keep their insurance can coexist with capitalism. Therefore, my opponent"s arguments should my disregarded, as they do not directly deal with capitalism.
C. Pure Morality
As Winston Churchill once noted, "The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." What he meant by this is that in socialism, the corrupt politicians in power ensure that no one is truly successful. It is inexcusable to argue in favor of socialism. The very few at the bottom benefit because the rest of the population in giving up their wealth. I challenge my opponent to show how capitalism is bad for middle class families who do not have to pay huge taxes to support people on welfare. They pay a moderate amount for those people, and still have the opportunity to be successful.
To go back and reinforce my rebuttal:
1. My opponent is not familiar with the concept of exponential growth. That CEO does not need to work a million times as hard. He just needs to work a lot harder, and money multiplies with investment and success. Explain to me how people like Warren Buffet should get taxed more when he already is part of the group that pays SO much more in taxes than the rest of the country. I understand it may seem unfair, but telling a man he needs to pay millions in taxes more than a man who may not work half as hard is unfair.
The gap has indeed widened. However, it is not exponentially widening forever and ever. It is a natural process that beats out any viable alternative such as socialism.
2. Free market functions for profit. Businesses thrive off money. They often do quite greedy things. Maybe the free market wasn"t going to correct the problem for cancer patients. But my opponent fails to notice that even after the government corrects the problem, it is still capitalist. Capitalism does not strictly prevent necessary intervention. My opponent gave up the argument by saying that the government corrected it, although capitalism was still present. We do not need to free market to regulate if the government can do it itself.
3. Even if the government is composed by the people rather than corrupt and greedy individuals, that does not mean that everyone will be properly represented. There cannot by 200 million office-holders, only a much smaller amount. It will only help the lower class, at the expense of the middle and upper.
Sarah Palin is wonderful.
Debate Round No. 2


As this is my last round to post, I would like to thank my opponent for his well thought-out and articulate arguments through-out this discussion. I may believe I'm right, but I would fault no voter for choosing him at this point.

For this last round I'm going to give single-line quotations from my opponent to make it clear which parts I am responding to.

The analogy, however, poorly depicts this debate. Someone should not only make 500 million if their hard work and business success should have allowed them to make more

Here we come to a direct disagreement. If we lived in a world of unlimited resources, spun from thin air or the sweat of our brows, there would be no problem with my opponent's position. But we do not. Wealth represents resources, resources are shared, and in the end, if we allow smaller numbers of people greater wealth, we can only do so at the expense of the rest of us. Each of us must come to some level of comfort with exactly how much wealth that is, how much a person can truly deserve in terms of resources, and some of us may favor more than others, but at the end of the day, if you don't favor one man having control over all men, you cannot favor a system that allows this to happen. Capitalism is exactly such a system.

I would also direct voters to the last line: "Welfare programs offer a no one is punished."

Savor that. Roll it around in your mouths. Capitalism is a system that relies on PUNISHING people for a lack of success. While it is certainly arguable that some of us may lack success due only to our poor choices, misdeeds, and laziness, others, unquestionably lack success because of circumstances beyond their control. Any system which needs to punish some to motivate others cannot be called moral.

Perhaps my opponent meant to suggest that such programs exist in the US and that means that capitalism isn't immoral, I'm willing to entertain that, but if so, that's an endorsement of socialism. There are forces in this country doing all they can to minimize or end wellfare specifically in the name of a freer market that will resolve those inequities, which, as we seem to agree, it won't.

When the government increases funding, it increases the demand for loanable funds... This is terrible for the economy.

That's all well and good to cry from the rooftops, but it rings in the face of so many succesful socialist economies. Germany, Sweden, France and Canada are all perfect examples of countries enjoying peace and prosperity under socialist governments. Their poor do not suffer as the poor of the US, and so far as I can tell, the only trade-off is the fact that their rich are not as rich.

I want to clear up my point on healthcare.

So in a system where liposuction for the rich is available, yet it takes a socialist government hand to properly regulate the insurance market (thus not being "free") is proof that free-market capitalism is the right approach to healthcare? I think not. The only way for healthcare to be managed morally yet still be private is for government to regulate it so heavilly that it might as well be run by government itself. This is how it is done in Norway, and while I don't have a problem with it, I don't see how it could be argued it's the free market somehow fixing things.

"The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

I love Churchill, because even as he spoke to defend a largely conservative viewpoint, he always did so in a way that admitted that the other side had a point, which is exactly what is doing here. By sharing miseries, all feel them, and thus, tend to be more inclined to work harder to see those miseries eliminated. In a system of free-market capitalism, the rich ascend above the miseries most feel, and then, rather judgementally, look down to those who are not as succesful and lay misery at the feet of those suffering. This would be fine if they were randomly selected individuals, but they HAVE more of the resources needed in order to alleviate that suffering. In essense, Capitalism creates misery that could be prevented, then shrugs and says it's all okay because the people who are suffering are lazy and don't deserve to be free of misery.

I understand it may seem unfair, but telling a man he needs to pay millions in taxes more than a man who may not work half as hard is unfair.

For the sake of argument, let us say that it is equally unfair to tax a millionaire millions as it is deny the poorest things they need to live yet cannot afford. Let's pretend those are equal in terms of fairness.

Even if we do that, they may be equally unfair, but they are NOT equally moral. A millionaire who must pay a million in taxes each year still has millions left over. he is not starving. He does not need fear a doctor's bill. he can afford a home, comfort, luxery, all that any reasonable person could require. I don't really care if it's unfair to him that somebody who hasn't worked as hard can afford a roof over his head.

We have 28 vacant homes for every homeless person in the united states right now. That's disgraceful, disgusting, immoral insanity, and the only reason it needs to be that way is because of our strange defense of capitalism as a system that is somehow better, yet rarely seems better in reality.

We do not need to free market to regulate if the government can do it itself.

A market that is regulated is by definition NOT free. When you have a mix of a free market and good regulation, you're looking at a socialist state. My words are not entirely aimed at the US as it is, but rather the US that the Ayn Rands and Milton Friedmans and Grover Norquists of the world insist we should aspire to have when those regulations are done away with.

Half our representatives in congress stood wailing and gnashing their teeths about government stepping in to restrict insurance companies from being able to kick cancer patients off coverage. They think it's an outrage. I think they're as immoral as the system they're trying to create.

I don't quite understand how you brought Sarah Palin into any of this. But in counterpoint: Alan Alda is wonderful.

In closing, like many good debates I think this one comes down to a position where we don't actually disagree. My opponent is comfortable with a socialist government that regulates healthcare, keeps people from starving, and generally seeks to smooth out the inequities of a free market. My position, is the same, and that full reliance on the free market would innevitably bring us to a place of immorality, innequality, and woe.

And as a parting shot, I think we're too close to that world as it is. We could be doing better.


jake3 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by voxprojectus 2 years ago
I am disappointed my opponent has forfeited. I would like to think he was having fun and that life got in the way.
Posted by voxprojectus 2 years ago
Greed is not the same thing as being miserly, I totally agree there, but in physical practice, the one always seems to lead to the other.

And I don't even disagree that greed is a natural instinct, I just happen to think its an instinct we need to put in the same place as our instincts towards violence or hatred or gluttony. These things have their purpose from an evolutionary perspective, but that doesn't change the fact that when we act on them the results tend to be overwhelmingly negative, especially when they go unchecked.

Are Swedish people greedy? Of course. And some of them seize that greed and become rich and that's fine, just not *so* rich. I think each of us has the capacity to determine our level of comfort with what amount of abbundance is okay and to shape our societies to reflect that level of comfort. Anyone, like Friedman, who argues that our comfort with greed and wealth should be effectively unlimited is taking a stance that doesn't result in any kind of greater good, except for the individual who has the greatest amount of goods. By his logic if one clever businessman patents oxygen and makes indentured servents of the rest of us, that's *fine* and no one should ever band together to stand up to him or look to government to control him.

Of course there's another question we probably don't have time for about how people come to "own" things at all. What gives certain people the intrinsic right to lay claim to the oil or water or gold and then charge others for these things? If you track it back far enough, at some point, someone who had no logical claim to a thing seized it, declared it his, and was able to defend it with force. If we followed that logic today the world would be nothing but muggers and hoarders and mercenaries. All motivated by that lovely, healthy greed.
Posted by jake3 2 years ago
You seem to be misunderstanding the concept of greed. A greedy individual is not necessarily one who keeps everything without being the least bit generous. Greed is an aspect of human nature. Everyone has a desire for "more" with intention of keeping most of it. It is quite possible to have greed and generosity or altruism coexisting within oneself. Those who understand that may be at peace driving for success, while those who don't may never understand their purpose.
Posted by voxprojectus 2 years ago
Oh please. "Greed is good"? Really?

You'll never go broke telling rich people it's good for them to be rich. You can justify it with all the math and theories you want, but at the end of the day, someone is sleeping in a box who doesn't have to, and that, oh great and learned scholar, is wrong. That's it.
Posted by Mike_10-4 2 years ago
It seems like voxprojectus likes old punching bags. My Friend Vox, may I call you that? Vox would love to punch the Laws of Nature because those Laws are very, very old punching bags. The Laws of Economics are also part of the Laws of Nature via life's Unalienable Rights, which is an outgrowth of the Constructal Law, which is an outgrowth of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

I"m sure Vox will be inclined to investigate the new research of the following and perhaps, enjoy some new "punching bags."
Posted by voxprojectus 2 years ago
Oh Milton Friedman, one of my favorite old punching bags. That man is proof of how far you can get in life just confidently asserting things over and over no matter how much evidence surfaces to the contrary. May he rest in peace.
Posted by Mike_10-4 2 years ago
I too would have love to debate this topic, but I'm in the middle of debating about morality is a force in nature.

One may view a free-market as a social group, therefore, there is morality else the group will not exist. There is a shared mutual positive-feedback between supply and demand. This positive-feedback between living systems is the force of morality.

The business or corporation is also a social group. If the business becomes immoral between the employees and employer, and/or, between supply and demand the business will go out of business.

This is not to say everyone is morally treated the same. On the individual level, the individual has the freedom to find another job, or in the case of a customer, find another supplier.

If a corporation becomes a "Robber-Baron," the society as a whole will correct the event through the institution of government.

The historical empirical data has it that the free-market is the only system known to mankind to improve the standard of living and increase the wealth of a society, while maintaining a majority in the middle class.
Posted by aburk903 2 years ago
Would love to debate this topic, but it depends entirely on your definition of morality. Provide one?
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Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture
Vote Placed by MyDinosaurHands 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: CONDUCT goes to Pro because of Con's final round forfeit. ARGUMENTS also go Pro. I thought Pro did a good job of exposing all of his opponent's contentions as myths. A couple good examples would be the arguments over Pure Freedom, or just generally which provides freedom in the most moral way. Pro did a good job of showing that by giving too much economic freedom, the leaders of the economy will limit freedoms themselves by controlling the system. The healthcare contention was another good example of Pro's good arguing, but also an example of what is wrong with his arguing. He needs sources. I know the healthcare situation in America, but if I hadn't I wouldn't have known who to believe.