Overall, has capitalism made the world a better place?
No. The world has become a better place DESPITE capitalism. People make the world a better place, not a political system. Name ONE thing capitalism invented that made a positive impact in the world (sub-prime loans? hedge funds? credit default swaps?)
This is none of the subjects that get me fired-up quite regularly, and there was no space to expand on it on that website, so I thought I would write about it here.
First of all, how can we reasonably evaluate what contribution capitalism had to the world current state?
I suggest to limit the scope of this discussion, first of all in time, to the "beginning" of capitalism: the generalisation of private ownership of the means of production, around the fourteenth century. Second, the geographic scope of the discussion. Far from wanting to limit it to England or Europe, I would like to observe the effects of capitalism on the whole world.
Here are my justifications for doing so:
- On the time frame: ownership of the means production (mostly land) was largely distributed between Royalty, Church and Commons before that time. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw the development of the castes of merchants, artisans and industrial producers. The ownership of human labour (in the form of slaves at first), became widespread as money started circulating and enabled the owner's class to purchase labour power.
- On the geographic frame: a lot of simplifications are made, treating uncomfortable consequences as "externalities", but as has been demonstrated amply lately, globalisation makes the whole world the stage for our antics.