Is capitalism more preferable than collectivism? Which is more just to the individual? To the society as a whole?
More preferable? I guess so, since there are few examples in large countries where collectivism has been successful. I still can't say I prefercapitalism though, as it creates so many economic and human tragedies and inequalities. It is still better than any other current conceivable system. I also like the hybrid of collectivism/capitalism - some socialized industries and services within a capitalist system seems to work well.
This is a fairly loaded question that will bring out many different responses. I think that the answer depends on how one defines the term, "preferable" and upon which principle one places primacy. If one lauds individual rights and choice over all else, then capitalism naturally becomes more easily embraced. The protection of individual choice and the notion of government being a tool to enhance this element of privacy and individual liberty makes it a system more desirable to these preferences. At the same time, there are others who feel that privacy and freedom have become a front or a facade where individuals have engaged in actions which go against the spirit of public trust. For these individuals, the safeguarding of individual freedom comes secondary to the idea of collective freedom and public security. In these settings, a more collectivized notion of the good has to be embraced for the social order as a whole to advance.
This is interesting because I was just talking to a Japanese friend about how the American love affair with free markets (she wanted to know why there are so many Americans without health insurance). That is closely related to this topic.
Capitalism tends to be more "just" to the individual IF the individual has a true opportunity to reach his/her potential. If individuals have that, then capitalism allows them to get the most out of their skills and abilities. In a collective society, they might be forced to have less than their talents can earn them in our society.
To the society as a whole? Depends on what you mean. Capitalism tends to make the society as a whole richer. However, along with that comes inequality. The US has a much higher degree of inequality than many other countries (including Japan). The more collective a society, the more equal people are. But that may come at the expense of the overall standard of living. So what's more just? To have some very poor people while the rest of society has a really good standard of living, or to have no poor people, but a lower standard of living for everyone?
Capitalism and collectivism are two different aspects of life independent of each other. They are not mutually exclusive and can coexist at the same time in a society. A society can practice capitalism as well as collectivism. As a matter of fact the very existence of a society is a result of collectivism.
Collectivism refers to any moral, political, or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of individual in a group, and the priority of group goals over the individual goals. Capitalism on the other hand refers only to the economic system of a society which is marked by private ownership and control of means of production. We can contrast capitalism with socialism, which is an economic system frequently considered opposite to capitalism, which is based on public ownership and control of the means of production. Theoretically, public ownership and control is intended to mean joint ownership and control by all the people in the society, but in practice it amounts to control by government, which is supposed to act on behalf of the people.
While socialism is a form of economic collectivism, it is not the only form of economic collectivism. On the other hand, capitalism is not necessarily opposed to collectivism. Capitalism is also but a way of managing the economic interdependencies of a complex society marked by high degree of division of labour and use of expensive and complex capital assets for producing goods and services to support a high standard of living for the people.
What we need to examine is if capitalism in USA has served the collective interest of the people better than the the alternative systems of economic organization have served in some other countries. The available evidence is very much in favour of the system of USA. There are just two points of caution that need to be taken note of. First,the system in USA is not a pure capitalistic system. The US government also controls the means of production to some extent by way of many legal provisions such as minimum wages, regulation of monopolies, and consumer protection acts. Further, the government also performs some public welfare functions. Second point to note is that, the system of USA is not perfect, and further improvements are definitely possible and required.