How to Criticize Capitalism

I have just finished presenting my thesis for my Jane Austen class on the relationship between economics and Jane Austen. My argument was the Austen held to the means between the extremes when it came to the realtionship between economics and society (and love), rejecting both materialism and blind passion. Furthermore, I argued that Austen's economic ideal was closer to the capitalist instinct than to the mercantalist instinct. (The former defines wealth in terms of intelligence and wit, the latter in the amount of goods one owns).

Most critical responses focused on later critiques of Capitalism from anti-capitalist authors. The main thesis of their criticism is that Capitalism, with its focus on efficiency and mechanism, is antithetical to true human love and virtue. Fair enough, but such a criticism is missing the bigger picture.

A substantial number of these criticisms against the system fail to understand or grasp the alternative system they are proposing, namely socialism. If capitalism can be a bit "cold" around the edges, than socialism is at absolute zero.

Socialism shares many of the same presuppositions of extreme capitalism. It desires to master and vex nature, subordinating it to man's needs. It believes in economic progress, growth, and development. Socialism wants to alleviate poverty and create a substantial income for all. To do this, bureacratic accountants (as I call them) use mathematical theories to allocate resources...yada yada yada. In other words, same end...

But different means. Socialism, whether the critiques will admit it or not, is nothing less than complete and total tyranny. In order to get socialism to work, one must first empower a government WITHOUT any regard to its limitation (how can you? Who are the people to decide they do not want this progress...). The people, being divorced from any individual incentives, must now be forced at gunpoint to do whatever the government sees fit to develop the economy. Socialism, anyway understood, is not the answer to the problems facing capitalism.

The answer to the problems facing capitalism is to read Jane Austen and John Paul II. Both recognize the legitimacy of the discipline, argue for its importance, yet recognize its limitations (Austen: economics in the service of (fill in the blank). The Pope, and Austen, argue that divorced from morality capitalism leads to misery (note Sir Thomas and Lady Catherine De Bourgh). Thus, the solution to problems associated with capitalism is to to recognize that the economy exists for man, not the man for the economy.

This is the key point these writers are missing.