What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a capitalist society?

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The advantages of living in a capitalist society include greater wealth and opportunity, and the disadvantages include a tendency toward a large wealth gap between rich and poor.

In general, capitalism is much better than its competitors at generating wealth, which can then form the basis of a society's overall...

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The advantages of living in a capitalist society include greater wealth and opportunity, and the disadvantages include a tendency toward a large wealth gap between rich and poor.

In general, capitalism is much better than its competitors at generating wealth, which can then form the basis of a society's overall level of prosperity. Primarily, this is because—as the great champion of capitalism, the Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith argued—those who engage in economic activity are motivated by the desire to make a profit.

The things that we need on a daily basis, such as food, clothing, and shelter, are provided for us by people seeking to make a profit. Those who do this aren't motivated by the goodness of their hearts; they provide us with our needs because they want to make a profit.

And yet somehow, by a process that Smith in a striking metaphor calls the invisible hand, the selfishness of these economic actors ultimately redounds to the benefit of all through greater wealth, the provision of more products, and greater opportunity. These unintended effects undoubtedly constitute capitalism's greatest strength.

At the same time, it is impossible to overlook the obvious drawbacks of living in a capitalist society. For one thing, there is the tendency for large gaps in wealth to open up between the rich and the poor. The inner dynamic of capitalism ensures that those at the top of society are rewarded while those at the bottom have to make do with a tiny share of the wealth generated by the capitalist system.

Another disadvantage to living in a capitalist society is that profit so often comes ahead of people. Even if one accepts Smith's argument that everyone in society will ultimately benefit from the workings of the free market, in the meantime, many people seem to derive no benefit at all from the capitalist system.

They have basic human needs, such as healthcare, and yet so many people in capitalist societies have been deprived of this most basic of goods because they can't afford to pay for it. Capitalism puts a price tag on just about everything, to the extent that so many human needs go unaddressed because there is no profit to be made from fulfilling them.

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