The Instigator
daerice
Pro (for)
Winning
4 Points
The Contender
ConservativePolitico
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Unregulated capitalism is amoral

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
daerice
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/12/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,812 times Debate No: 30175
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)

 

daerice

Pro

Resolved: Unregulated capitalism is amoral.
Unrestrained, unbridled, uncontrolled, capitalism is bereft of moral considerations.
Without restriction on monopolies/mergers, and without labor rights, capitalism will eventually consolidate wealth into the hands of a few at the expense of the many.
However, this is not to imply that capitalism has no value, indeed it does, as an engine that runs an economy. It is a powerful force, a market economy has the potential to improve standards of living and quality of life, but only when it is directed to do so. Capitalism is a force without conscience and so it must be balanced by ethical considerations.

Definitions:
Unregulated: not regulated; not subject to rule or discipline

Capitalism: an economic system in which the investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private
individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

Amoral: Not admitting of moral distinctions or judgments; neither moral nor immoral. Lacking moral sensibility; not caring about right and wrong.

Please use the first round to accept the terms of the debate. Argumentation begins in the second round, rebuttals in third, and closing summaries in the fourth - no new arguments in the final round.
I appreciate the acceptance of this debate by a contender who is willing to engage for the entire four rounds. Thank you.
ConservativePolitico

Con

I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
daerice

Pro

Resolved: Unregulated capitalism is amoral.

Unrestrained, unbridled, uncontrolled, capitalism is bereft of moral considerations.

Without restriction on monopolies/mergers, and without labor rights, capitalism will eventually consolidate wealth into the hands of a few at the expense of the many.

However, this is not to imply that capitalism has no value, indeed it does, as an engine that runs an economy. It is a powerful force. A market economy has the potential to improve standards of living and quality of life, but only when it is directed to do so. Capitalism is a force without conscience and so it must be balanced by ethical considerations.

Definitions

Unregulated: not regulated; not subject to rule or discipline

Capitalism: an economic system in which the investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

Amoral: Not admitting of moral distinctions or judgments; neither moral nor immoral. Lacking moral sensibility; not caring about right and wrong.

"Unregulated Capitalism" is essentially allowing private business to operate with impunity, or permitting private business to write public policy so that the law no longer impedes profit making, even at the expense of labor, environmental, and human rights. This ideal business climate is often called laissez-faire…

Laissez-Faire:a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights. (from Merriam-Webster)

1. Capitalism in the Past

History shows us that business owners are willing to treat people like things. The treatment of humans a labor commodity dates back to the beginning of time, as if evidenced by discussions of slavery in the writings of the Geeks and in the bible. Slavery and feudalism predate the industrial revolution, but the circumstances of all three arrangements illustrate the willingness of private financial interests to exploit people for profit. Industry only cedes power when it is forced to. The conditions for factory workers in Europe during the industrial revolution were so abhorrent that Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in reaction to what he saw.

A combination of reformers organizing worker protests, public outrage, and community activism, finally forced change - largely through legislation that limited the number hours that a child could be forced to work. Great Britain passed the Factory act of 1819 which limited the number of hours that children could work to a maximum of 12 hours a day. In the Factory Act of 1833 children under nine were banned from working in the textile industry, and older children were limited to 48 hours a week, and so on through the 19the century, incremental change was evinced by persistent legislative actions to limit the power of employers over workers. http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk...
http://www.saburchill.com...

2. Capitalism Now

Children still die working in factories today, this happens in any country that has not passed laws to protect workers from the exploits of business interests - Korea, Mexico, and India are but a few capitalist countries where exploitation is rampant because business goes largely unregulated.

The IMF and the World Bank, two of global capitalism's biggest players, have "led the race to the bottom" and when challenged by labor or human rights groups they have simply rewritten laws. http://www.globalissues.org...
http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org...

The less countries regulate the treatment of workers, the worse their workers are treated. The absence of unions in a workplace correlates with higher job site death and injury rates. http://www.freedomhouse.org...

The problems of the past are the problems of the present, and without stronger labor rights and regulations, will be the problems of the future. Power and greed corrupt uniformly, and as our recent economic debacle in the U.S. illustrates, the fox cannot be trusted to watch the hen house.

3. A system based on Greed

Capitalism in its purest form sets no boundaries on the behavior of business. It operates with one clear goal: increasing profits.
It is frequently thought that in the capitalistic sense, greed is good. This indeed was the concept put forth by one of capitalism's greatest supporters Milton Freidman
http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca...

But, to base a system on greed is to deny that ethical considerations are important, or necessary, in our mode of production. Power doesn't capitulate willingly. Labor rights were not given, but rather won by hard fights and enormous tragedy like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911. In that case it was public outcry that motivated change, and the recent rash of suicides at Apple's Foxconn factory in China, again it was public outcry that embarrassed Apple enough for them to make some promises for improved conditions. http://business-ethics.com...

Although it seems now that many of those promises were empty. http://news.cnet.com...
http://news.cnet.com...

Another example of amoral behavior by capitalist entities is the existence of "Dead Peasant" policies:
http://deadpeasantinsurance.com...

Corporate Owned Life Insurance Policies are just one creepy way that private businesses make money surreptitiously off the death of employees. Disclosure of COLI wasn't even necessary until 2006.
http://abcnews.go.com...

Other examples of rampant greed: trading in hedge funds, derivatives and speculation on water, food or fuel resources that are vital to life.

Food speculation blamed for famine in East Africa: http://www.swissinfo.ch...

Monopolies on primary goods are seeds of revolution waiting to bloom.
http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org...

Fuel speculation spikes prices: http://www.huffingtonpost.com...

Wall Street itself exhibits a pathological addiction to gambling (speculation), and resistance to regulation and taxation shows that greed and recklessness rule the day when capitalism is freed of ethical considerations: http://www.ted.com...

http://www.wdm.org.uk...

I can find no evidence that capitalism contains any inherent ethical considerations. Rather, the opposite seems apparent – that capitalist entities only take human rights into account when they are absolutely forced to, by protest, legislation, boycott, or public embarrassment. And, while it may be possible to find a few exceptions to this general trend, the overall abuses of unbridled capitalism far outweigh the occasional self-motivated acts of conscience.

*Note that I am not arguing that capitalism is immoral – though I might do so with a fair amount of justification – I am only arguing that its primary concern is for profit and that ethical considerations are factored in mostly as a facet of public relations.

ConservativePolitico

Con

Moral - of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior; capable of right and wrong action. (1)
Immoral - not moral: conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles. (2)

To hold up the Burden of Proof, Pro must prove that capitalism is not capable of right and wrong action and does not conflict with generally or traditionally held moral principles. Amoral, by the definition provided, simply means morally apathetic or not holding to any sort of morals, good or bad.

"Neither moral nor immoral."

However, Pro's arguments seem to contradict their own position in the debate. I will prove how capitalism can be immoral.

Rebuttals

1. Capitalism in the Past

Capitalism is immoral in that it does not adhere to moral principals in the treatment of human beings. My opponent even says that there is "the willingness of private financial interests to exploit people for profit". Exploiting people can hardly be considered an amoral as it has a negative connotation and, in society, is considered to be a wrongful act. The nature of capitalism, according to my opponent, says that it allows and even wants to exploit people as it only began to shift away from total exploitation at the hands of legislation. The base form of capitalism in this point, was immoral. The working conditions provided by pure capitalism were terrible, the hours when unregulated were far too strenuous for humans to handle adequately. The system only changed when "forced change" was thrust upon the system. Therefore, capitalism is not amoral, as it promoted and tended to drift to the immoral treatment of human beings as capital instead of people.

2. Capitalism Now

Again, my opponent points out immoral acts that happen at the hands of capitalism and capitalists.

"Children still die working in factories today, this happens in any country that has not passed laws to protect workers from the exploits of business interests - Korea, Mexico, and India are but a few capitalist countries where exploitation is rampant because business goes largely unregulated."

As you can see from this sentence taken directly from my opponent's argument, capitalism can indeed be seen as an immoral system. Any system that allows children to die, unless forced to change by law, could be seen, from a moral sense of view, as immoral. Also, it says that workers need laws to "protect" them from capitalism. Why would you need to be protected from a system that is supposedly amoral? Protections are needed in capitalism because the system is inherently immoral. If left unchecked, as seen and shown extensively by my opponent, capitalism leads to unfavorable treatment of human beings and the immoral actions of people in the system. Therefore, we can conclude that the system favors immorality and is not neutral as my opponent claims.

3. A System Based on Greed

My opponents next arguments point out how capitalism is greed based and therefore only has one goal: profit. This goal, if left unchecked, will consume the system and lead to morally ambiguous choices. Instead of being neutral, capitalism favors immoral practices in order to try and obtain the goal of increased profits. It's a system that, according to my opponent, lies and gives us "empty promises". Is lying a morally ambiguous action? Or is it seen, through a moral lens, to be immoral? Society would say lying is immoral.

"Other examples of rampant greed: trading in hedge funds, derivatives and speculation on water, food or fuel resources that are vital to life."

All of these things, trading on hedge funds, trying to create a market for things "vital to life" do not sound morally neutral in the slightest. They sound immoral as they do not adhere to what society would consider right and just. My opponent goes on to say Wall Street, the face of Capitalism, is addicted to "gambling" and is resistant to regulation. If a system is so resistant to regulation, which seems to take into account human wellness, society would say that capitalism is against human wellness. All of these things seem to be immoral. Something that is morally neutral would do neither good nor bad but stay completely neutral. Having addictions, lying, gambling, denying human rights, resisting laws to protect human well being and focusing primarily on greed all are things indicative of a immoral character.

If you applied all of these things I have just listed to a single person, society would call such a person a monster. Not morally neutral. Say you meet a person who is addicted to gambling, lies and makes empty promises, denied human rights for profit, resisted laws to protect wellness and was driven by greed you would NOT call this person amoral but immoral.

A. Capable of Right and Wrong Action

One of the definitions of moral is that an entity is capable of right and wrong action. To be completely amoral, capitalism would have to be capable of only neutral action. However, due to the nature of the system, capitalism causes plenty of immoral actions (and some moral ones as well). The greed driven nature of the system causes actions to happen such as lying, death and ignoring the public voice. All of these things are actions that are considered immoral by society.

Capitalism can also cause moral action. In recent news about the Carnival Triumph that was stranded at sea, Carnival is offering full rebates and extra money to the passengers. This can be seen as moral because it is seen as just compensation for a trip gone wrong. An amoral action would be to refund the trip but the trip only since that would be only fair, but capitalism as a system of competition and pleasing the customer, has led Carnival to go beyond the amoral action of equal compensation and drift into the realm of moral compensation by giving the people more than they deserve. (3)

Therefore, capitalism is capable of right and wrong action and is therefore moral and not amoral.

Conclusion

Capitalism influences many immoral acts and behaviors of people within the system due to the nature of the system to favor things such as greed, lying and human exploitation. Using two definitions of moral and one definition of immoral I have shown that capitalism is not morally neutral but indeed has immoral and moral actions, consequences, outcomes, tendencies and attitudes.

The Resolution is negated.

Thank you.


(1) http://www.merriam-webster.com...
(2) http://www.merriam-webster.com...
(3) http://www.kltv.com...
Debate Round No. 2
daerice

Pro

Con writes: To hold up the Burden of Proof, Pro must prove that capitalism is not capable of right and wrong action and does not conflict with generally or traditionally held moral principles.



False, I must only prove that Capitalism itself is without moral considerations. The human beings who enact it upon any given society may be immoral, or moral, it is not their agency that I am judging, it is the form of the theory itself. I must only prove that capitalism in theory is a neutral force, which may be used for good or ill. I shall reprint this caveat from my opening statement:



"However, this is not to imply that capitalism has no value, indeed it does, as an engine that runs an economy. It is a powerful force, a market economy has the potential to improve standards of living and quality of life, but only when it is directed to do so. Capitalism is a force without conscience and so it must be balanced by ethical considerations."



This is the crux of my argument. The force behind capitalism is strong, it provokes competition and, if not stifled by monopoly, it can engender innovation. One of the key components lacking in purer forms of socialism, is motivation. Capitalism is a force that can drive a market, but like any raw force, it can be destructive. Fire is destructive, but it is not immoral – even when used to commit arson.


I am not against capitalism, nor am I a communist. I stand resolved that capitalism lacks a moral compass, and that it is up to society to give it one. A horse will pull your cart anywhere you send it, the question is where is it going, and what's in the cart?


My original statement was purposefully noncommittal. I do not believe that capitalism is either moral, or immoral. I stand resolved that it is amoral and therefore society must harness its power for the common good. Although my arguments showcased the destructive side of capitalism, I only did so because I predicted a straightforward defense of it as a moral code. However, the contender's choice to frame the flip side of my argument doesn't change my stance. Capitalism is neither one nor the other, it can be used for good or ill. The fact that it is currently being used for mainly destructive purposes doesn't discount my argument as much as support it. The current abuses of capitalism clearly reinforce the need for regulation and direction.


Nowhere do I state that private ownership in and of itself is immoral, or the conducting of business. My points illustrate abuses of power, and instances where regulation has failed or is lacking.


My argument stands: capitalism is amoral, and therefore in need of societal restraint to force it to operate on the behalf of the public good.


ConservativePolitico

Con

I am struggling to grasp the nature of my opponent's latest comments in this debate. I laid out specific examples as to how capitalism can be seen both as a moral actor and as a force that causes moral and immoral actions in order to negate the resolution. My opponent has refuted none of my arguments and instead has gone on a tangent while providing no counterarguments at all.

Vague metaphors and comparisons are used but there is nothing substantial to support his claims. The crux of my opponents argument here is "Capitalism is amoral because it is amoral." I honestly am at a loss of how to respond to such a statement. My opponent made this claim in the prior round to which I thoroughly replied and the response now is "yeah well it's still amoral because I say it is."

My opponent throughout this debate has been contradicting, confused and unclear about his points and resolutions. This round is full of tirades against the destructiveness of capitalism, how it needs to be regulated and such profound points as "nor am I a communist."

While the last round was not a forfeit I feel as though I must say that I extend my arguments since none of my points were specifically met or countered.

My opponent tries to say capitalism is a "force without conscience" but in Round 2 they claim that capitalism is a self serving force based solely on greed. Isn't a force without conscience an immoral force? If you have no conscience are you not more inclined to act immorally than those who do indeed have a conscience?

Capitalism in its unregulated form is not a neutral force. Quite the opposite. Left to its own devices capitalism will, due to the nature and structure of the system, corrupt itself and the men working in it in the single minded pursuit of profit. You pointed it out yourself, if left unchecked lives will be damaged, corruption will set in and people will be ignored as cogs in the system. You claim this is amoral, but it is not. It is immoral. Capitalism will play to the immoral side of people's natures making it a moral agent pushing immorality. It influences actions and outcomes which, as you said yourself, if left unchecked will ultimately be negative in the eye of society.

Capitalism is not amoral.
Debate Round No. 3
daerice

Pro

"Amoral" is the term I used to begin this debate. Amoral is a term which is necessary to the understanding of my point, and yet my opponent has ignored its meaning from the onset. Judgments can be made against people for being immoral, and they may be praised for being moral, but there is yet a third option: amoral.

We use this term when a given entity operates without a set of moral standards. This is not the same as being immoral, because the given entity may not purposefully, or meaningfully intend harm, and yet they may cause it.

Here are some examples that I hope will tease out the meaning of amoral, as opposed to immoral:

We can say that Hitler was immoral because he was dedicated to a program of genocide. He purposefully, and with conscious intent directed the deaths of millions of Jews and other people he found distasteful. It wasn't a lack of care that caused the deaths of millions of people, it was a hatred and violence perpetrated willingly against them.

When BP spilled oil into the Gulf of Mexico lives were lost, there was great destruction to the environment, and resources of that area. Many people lost their livelihoods and suffered as a result – but no one would say that BP was equivalent to Hitler. BP's actions were amoral, in that they didn't care enough to prevent the harm they caused – but we cannot say that they intended it willfully.

When Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge directed the killing of over one million Cambodians in the early 1970s, we can speak of the immorality of this tragic event. Millions were purposefully killed, in a dedicated reign of terror and murder that destroyed an entire generation. Pol Pot was immoral; he acted with a purposeful violence against the people of Cambodia. In the plainest speech possible: he meant to kill them.

When Wall Street traders speculate on the price of food and it causes famine in Africa, the famine is an indirect consequence of that speculation. It is not that Wall Street traders begin their day with the goal of causing famine in Africa – they begin their day with the goal of making money. The famine in Africa is a side effect, one that they do not take into account because their actions are amoral.

Herein lies the confusion my opponent is struggling with. Like many people, he is unable to conceptualize beyond polarities. Just because something is not moral, doesn't mean it is immoral (it could be amoral). Just because something is not white, doesn't mean it is black (it could be gray, or pink). Just because it is not light, doesn't mean it is dark (it could be twilight), and just because someone is not happy, doesn't mean they are sad (they could be baffled, nostalgic, or bemused). In every case there is a spectrum of possibility, and the world is full of finer shades of meaning.

I understand that many people long for the simplicity of an either-or choice – but that is not what I set this debate up for.

I was hoping to dissect and analyze the complexities of capitalism. I was hoping my opponent would strike at the true intent of my statement, which is that capitalism is in need of regulation because it is amoral, yes, AMORAL, not in possession of a right or wrong motivation.

Capitalism's motivation is the acquisition of wealth, which I hold to be neither moral, nor immoral. I work to acquire wealth, so do ants and squirrels, we are not immoral by seeking what we need.

I hold that capitalism is a force; it represents the codification of human striving into an economic system. The system in and of itself can be regulated or mediated to prevent harm and encourage good. This is what I am proposing.

Comparisons, analogies, and metaphors may seems vague or difficult to understand for my opponent, but they are very useful for explaining concepts in the abstract – I encourage him to make a deeper and more thoughtful reading of what I have said. I did not engage with any of his points because he snags himself on my definitions at the outset.

To win against my resolution, my opponent would have to prove that capitalism is either completely immoral, and should be done away with. Or, that it is moral and does not need regulation.

To prove that it was completely immoral, he would have to show that Wall Street set out to collapse the world economy, that BP meant to spill oil in the Gulf, that businessmen hope to destroy their local market economies, and that mining companies are made to kill miners etc.
This is just not the case. Harm is a by product of capitalism, not the intent.

Further my opponent would have to engage my positive arguments that capitalism can be a force for good as well. He has not done that.

I stand resolved that capitalism is neither moral nor immoral, but a force of human nature which needs to be controlled and regulated so that it can operate for the benefit of society.

ConservativePolitico

Con

ConservativePolitico forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by dylancatlow 4 years ago
dylancatlow
Thank you for your opinion, daerice. You criticize Ayn Rand's philosophy for the right reasons -- something all too rare in today's society.
Posted by daerice 4 years ago
daerice
Thank you for the recommendation, I have read "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" - I also survived two semesters of Political Philosophy with a libertarian professor. I've heard some good arguments for capitalism.
Rand has a more abstract definition of capitalism than most people accept, one which I suspect may be impossible to actually realize. Her ideas are elegant within their own context, within her tight definitions - but in application, like much theoretical thinking, she misses the mark. There are some things I value in her philosophy, particularly the idea that the seat of human rights must rest within the individual, not any group or state. However, her forays into justification for these ideas take too much for granted about human nature, and belie a naivete for current technology and the reality of living on a planet with limited resources.

My own position is complex, and has been explicated through a series of academic writings, and I am also here for sport, and so may not always debate as I truly think......I am always open to hearing other views, and revising my own. Thank you again for your thoughtful comments.
Posted by dylancatlow 4 years ago
dylancatlow
I recommend it because it's the best case for the morality of capitalism out there -- and maybe the only one. If you want to understand beyond the superficial practicality, you need to read it :)
Posted by dylancatlow 4 years ago
dylancatlow
"But, to base a system on greed is to deny that ethical considerations are important, or necessary, in our mode of production."

I recommend you read "Capitalism: The unknown ideal" by Ayn Rand. You can get a free sample on amazon that lays out a very compelling case for capitalism. You don't have to agree with what is written, but try to keep an open mind. In my opinion, capitalism is the only moral economic system in the history of the World.
Posted by daerice 4 years ago
daerice
Sorry for the small font!
Posted by daerice 4 years ago
daerice
A milder claim is easier to defend...that's why I chose amoral.
Posted by Flip 4 years ago
Flip
Amoral: "neither moral or immoral."
-M-W

If I were Con, this would be my next speech:
Extend my opponent's arguments. Capitalism is immoral, not amoral.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by rross 4 years ago
rross
daericeConservativePoliticoTied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: This was an interesting topic. How disappointing that Con forfeited.