A Conversation on Capitalism (with the Tea Party)

I keep track of the movements of my school's Tea Party club, for two reasons. One, because it's good to know what the other side is actually arguing, so as to avoid making strawman arguments, and two because my appetite for political debate has been growing recently. As a result, I ended up finding this article on the Tea Party Tribute website, about the morality of free market capitalism. If you'd rather not read the whole article, I think this about sums it up:
Free market capitalism is morally good because of its respect for freedom, hard work, perseverance, and creativity, in addition to preserving the property rights that are so vital to individual freedom. As a philosophy that denies limits, a free market optimistically grows the individual power of success and liberty to the benefit of the entire world.
I tried to post a comment on the article, but the Tea Party Tribune admins have their site set up so that comments have to be approved before they appear publicly, and given the fact that my comment has since vanished from their site, I'm assuming that that approval was denied.

I bear them no grudge for that. Certainly, I cannot claim the right to control this space without also acknowledging their right to control theirs. Of course, as I do control this space, I can do things like post the comment I created here on my blog, so that people can judge for themselves whether or not it was worthy of deletion and possibly start a conversation on the merits and disadvantages of free market capitalism here, instead.

So, without further ado! Keeping in mind that the following text is a direct response to this article, so it might not make a whole lot of sense out of context. The last paragraph of my response (the one that starts with "in a more general sense") relies much less on that context, so you might want to skip to it if you haven't read the Tea Party Tribune article.
Your examples are an interesting commentary on capitalism's advantages versus disadvantages. Particularly, I find it highly interesting that you talk about transportation, especially given that railroads are a particular pet peeve of mine, and because I think transportation is a field in which capitalism is particularly ineffective and indeed potentially harmful. What happened in 1873 is one thing, and it makes the perfectly valid point that government-run systems are more vulnerable to waste (although, that doesn't mean they're always more wasteful).

If we look at the situation today, though, I would argue that capitalism is not going to be promoting any collective good as far as efficient and cheaper public transportation is concerned. What the U.S. railroad system needs today is damn near a complete overhaul - new tracks laid, among other things, to support the full effectiveness of a true high-speed system. Despite the public good that such a rail system could provide, I seriously doubt any private company would be able to provide one, given the massive amounts of start-up funding required and the lack of any immediate return. In this case, public funding is likely going to be necessary to at least kick-start that, just as public funding is necessary to maintain the highway system and the air traffic control grid.

In a more general sense, capitalism does not directly promote the benefit of the entire world. Capitalism rewards behavior that creates profit. When behavior that creates profit ends up benefiting the entire world, capitalism produces a positive result. When behavior that creates profit ends up harming the general good, though, or when behavior that promotes the general good doesn’t create profit (as I addressed above with transportation), capitalism ends up harming society as a whole. For that reason, I believe that capitalism is best when tempered by reasonable regulation and when accompanied by public programs that provide valuable public services that a purely capitalistic system would never support.

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