We live in a capitalist society. That means we allow the free market to determine prices and distribute goods to us. The other option is to allow government to do the same task, but a bureaucracy is never as efficient as the free market. I remember walking through the shopping areas of East Berlin during the 1980s when the Soviet Union was still strong and communism was the wave of the future. I saw for myself that the items for sale in communist East Berlin were inferior in number, quality, and desirability to anything I could purchase in free West Berlin. We did pick up some items from East Berlin, mainly because they were Russian-made knick-knacks like matryoshka dolls, not because they were good quality. We had a wonderful dinner for six in one of the Communist Party’s elite back rooms of a classy restaurant for about $20, including the best borscht soup I’ve ever eaten. But as good as the food was, the reason why we could afford to eat there was because of the purchasing power of Western currency in the hard-currency-starved East. Decades of bureaucratic control via communism had failed to compete in any meaningful way with the free and capitalist nations of the West.
But not everyone likes capitalism. I’ve held onto the picture below long enough that I can no longer remember where I found it. I’m guessing I got it from Zombie’s protest page, but I didn’t find it in a quick look through her archives.
To badly paraphrase Winston Churchill, it has been said that capitalism is the worst form of economics, save all the others that have been tried. Capitalism is far from perfect, but it is the best system we have–at least in part because it takes human nature into account. Communism has been tried and found wanting, but there are still plenty of people who believe that it only needs the right people to get it to work. But the good thing about capitalism is that it doesn’t require optimal conditions, and you don’t have to wait for the best people to show up. It doesn’t rely on people willing to work for the greater good of the communist borg collective, but out of self-interest.
Adam Smith wrote about this self-interest in The Wealth of Nations. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love.”
The next time you buy a pizza, notice that the variety, quality, and availability are all direct results of capitalism at work. So thank the pizza guy for his willingness to make some money for himself by providing a great pizza for you. Then give him a good tip.