By Rachel Witherspoon
Americans have a lot to be thankful for.
We have freedom of speech, assembly, religion, press, and even free markets. Many other countries are not that fortunate and what it truly comes down to is the freedom of choice. Capitalism is the economic system of choice, while America is the country of freedom of choice. The two are complementary, and we should all be incredibly grateful for both every day in America, but especially on Thanksgiving.
How exactly is capitalism a system of choice? Unlike other economic systems like socialism and communism, capitalism provides business owners, workers, and consumers with the freedom to make their own choices and not have decisions such as what to produce, what job to do, or what to buy forced upon them. While freedom of choice in capitalism is what I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving, there are ten other important aspects of capitalism that we can all be thankful for.
Capitalism has been responsible for bringing more people out of poverty than any other economic system and at a much faster rate. Between 1990 and 2013, more than a billion people were lifted from extreme poverty by capitalism. 1
While there are still many living in poverty, those living below the poverty line have an improved quality of life in capitalist societies thanks to greater access to modern conveniences such as phones, cars, and refrigerators to help keep the limited supply of food from going bad. 2 Capitalism also provides consumers with the opportunity to donate more of their earnings to charitable causes they feel passionate about, including helping the underprivileged. Even better than that, many businesses are born from either direct charitable intentions or donate a significant proportion of time, resources, and money to charity. All of this is made possible through capitalism and is explored in more detail in my article, The Moral Case for Capitalism.
Capitalism has shortened our work weeks to five days and our workdays to around eight hours as opposed to fourteen hours of manual labor. 3 Better still, many of the jobs that have been created thanks to capitalism now enjoy climate-controlled buildings with modern-day comforts.
Capitalism has allowed for small businesses to grow and flourish. While it is often said that capitalism kills small businesses, the reality is that with socialism, only the largest businesses would survive and eventually end up under government control. With capitalism, anyone has the freedom to start their own business and build their own consumer base. It is beautifully American.
Capitalism allows consumers to choose which product they want to buy and what company they want to support. This has paved the way for local and small businesses to gain access to markets as consumers can choose to purchase from them as opposed to from a large corporation.
This competition allows for prices to fall as firms compete in trying to get consumers to buy from them. It also means that consumers can encourage companies who are making poor decisions, like operating sweatshops, to stop those operations and make more ethical operation decisions. Thus, capitalism can provide lower costs to the consumer and better ethical practices if consumers choose to demand them (I encourage you all to stop buying products made in China, see my piece here).
Capitalism fosters climate saving advances in technologies and consumer preferences more than any other economic system. Capitalist countries in the past four decades have been able to reduce their carbon emissions while their socialist counterparts have been increasing their carbon emissions. 4
Capitalism allows for employees to benefit from employers having to compete for their labor by creating good working conditions with competitive pay and benefits such as vacation time and flextime.
Capitalism supports the ability to own and maintain private property. Americans’ right to private property is thoroughly supported in the United States Constitution and is essential to American life. However, socialism and communism advocate for eliminating private property. As Hayek points out, when all property rights are given up to one entity, the government, they obtain absolute power, relinquishing the people of their control and enabling the government to use that power for corruption. 5 This was seen in the Soviet Union in 1932-1933, when the government took control of privately owned farms in Ukraine, causing a famine that killed 13% of their population (3.9 million people). 6
Capitalism has significantly reduced infant mortality rates and increased life expectancy by enabling medical discoveries and providing channels for development and distribution. 7
I cannot help but wonder if capitalism can do all of this in the last 150 years, what miracles does it hold for Americans in the next 150 years? I’m thankful to be aware of the blessings capitalism provides. This Thanksgiving, let’s show other Americans all they have to be thankful for with capitalism because while they all benefit from capitalism in extreme ways, an increasingly large proportion of them see it as an evil that must be demolished for a system that has killed over 100 million in the 20th century.
About Rachel Witherspoon
Rachel Witherspoon is a young American graduate student with a passion for utilizing the knowledge found in economics, business, and political science to help others. She is a fierce advocate for America and an even bigger advocate for the First Amendment.