Social Question

lilikoi's avatar

Is exploitation a necessary by-product of capitalism?

Asked by lilikoi (10079points) February 9th, 2010

In the real world, not in Eden, that is.

And, do you consider it acceptable to exploit people who are not aware and/or unconcerned that they are pawns?

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94 Answers

jackm's avatar

No, this is a common misconception. For someone to get ahead another person does not need to fall behind. Capitalism is not a zero sum game. For a trade to be made both people benefit.

marinelife's avatar

It is an excuse for greediness and laziness. Business can be operated in a win-win situation.

ragingloli's avatar

It is an inherent part. There is a reason why corporations move production to low wage countries.

Factotum's avatar

@ragingloli Yes, it is because when they do they can sell their products more cheaply which is what their customers want.

‘Exploit’ is a loaded word.

iphigeneia's avatar

It is definitely a natural by-product, in my opinion, but necessary? No.

lilikoi's avatar

@jackm One could argue that moving mfg to China is mutually beneficial – it saves us cost, it creates (perhaps relatively miserable) jobs for them. But, a wealth disparity must exist for this to work. Where there is disparity, people suffer, are exploited. There may be a direct connection or indirect, but it is there.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It depends on your use of the word “exploitation”. In a non-pejorative sense “exploitation” means “use” and “to exploit” means “to use”. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

But people seem to think that “exploitation” automatically equates to “taking (unfair) advantage of” (I’m reading the quicker typists’ responses here), and… it ain’t necessarily so.

Of course the goal of capitalism is to make profits, so naturally the capitalist wants to “exploit” the resources (materials AND labor) that make the best return for him. Sometimes that involves shopping for the cheapest labor, and sometimes it involves shopping for the best production machinery and technology.

It’s capitalism that we have to thank for our generally pretty damn comfortable lives in what we call “the West”. And China can thank capitalism for transforming that society from oxcarts to space shots in less than a generation.

Capitalism—every human system and “ism”—has flaws. But capitalism beats the shit out of just about any other “ism” I’ve ever encountered, and turns a profit while doing it. (If it weren’t for capitalism “exploiting” low wage countries, then they would always be low-wage countries. Korea, Japan and Taiwan—and now mainland China itself—are the proof that that ain’t necessarily so.)

I’m tired of trying to teach too many idiots the simple facts of economic life.

jerv's avatar

@jackm No offense, but the OP specified “In the real worlds, not in Eden…”

While it’s fairly simple to get some sort of win-win, mutual gain thing going on a small scale, once you get much past a county-wide scale things degenerate a bit. Also, the only way it can not be a zero-sum game is if you omit facts from your cost/benefit analysis in order to support your preconceived notions.

Then again, anything can be considered true if less than 50% of the data used as proof needs to be discarded.

jackm's avatar

Also, the only way it can not be a zero-sum game is if you omit facts from your cost/benefit analysis in order to support your preconceived notions.

That is absolutely, 100% false. Think about what you are saying. If that were true we would still have the same amount of money that we had in the stone ages.

You are one of those people who has these misconceptions I was talking about.

josie's avatar

No one that I am aware is forced to buy a particular product, nor are they forced to work at a particular job in a particular place. The fact that people truly need certain products, and that they need to work is not exploitation. It is simply the truth of life. Capitalism gives more people more choices regarding what to consume and how and where to work. The only time people are stuck buying a single product is when they must purchase from a monopoly. The only monopolies in the US are government mandated utility monopolies.

jackm's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I couldn’t have said it any better. I get sick of people who are too lazy to realize what capitalism really is.

lilikoi's avatar

@CyanoticWasp But how can you create something from nothing, gain without a loss somewhere else.

@josie Yes jobs, options, choices, these are all good things that come from capitalism. Working a minimum wage job with no benefits as a cashier at Wal-Mart may be a real opportunity for someone. Is this to no fault of anyone else? Or is it because laws are written by those in power, those in power are those with money, and they’d like to keep it that way, therefore the wealth disparity gets wider, creating a larger class of poverty, who need these crummy jobs to survive, upon which we can prop our defense that capitalism is always mutually beneficial.

SeventhSense's avatar

Not always but the basis of capitalism is profit and in the ultimate sense this implies a system which places people at odds with one another and competing for a perceived limited resource supply. The inevitability is that some will be expolited and some will die, starve and be overrun through war and the onslaught of industry. The pure profit motive has no human element at its core but simply the acquisition of wealth. There are always winners and losers in such a world view. It’s not necessarily bad if trade and wealth is balanced but it must be regulated as seen by the latest banking fiasco. Strictly laissez faire capitalism is imagining the lion without a leash in the yard will behave if he’s left to run free.

Drgrafenbergmd's avatar

The answer is no. It is not necessary but instead inevitable. The fact is that the exploitation is byproduct of monetarism (would you ever tell your customers that they can save money at the store down the street) but it shows through in the capitalist countries agenda. The capitalist and monetarist country will manipulate, exploit and kill to protect its way of life. It isn’t even socially necessary to have a capitalist society anymore with our renewable energy and automation capabilities but the companies and banks wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cruiser's avatar

Exploitation and get rich quick is in most cases a non-sustaining enterprise.and a non-entity as an economic force in a free market economy. It’s the salty, mega fat, super sugar bomb laden foods served to our time starved society that is IMO the real captitalistic crime these days.

wilma's avatar

I don’t think that exploitation is always a by-product of capitalism.

@Cruiser, ya I agree.

the100thmonkey's avatar

I think the problem is rather one of short-sightedness – as a part of the system – than any one paradigm of political economy being inherently exploitative (although this is not beyond imagination).

People will, by and large, discount long-term risk, and tend to take a smaller short-term gain over a larger long-term one.

Bugger, @Cruiser beat me to it!

phoebusg's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Agreed on the term to exploit.

The weakness I see in the rest of the argument is that. This profit you refer to – is only a profit within the box of that system of thought. Country, economical system, market, individual.
Leaving out, countries, socio-economic effects. Environmental effects and so forth.

Let’s look at examples. Let’s say company X is a company that cuts trees, creates a valuable resource – lumber – and generates a taxable profit. How is this for an example? Initial investment X amount, salaries etc – you hire people – people have work to do…
Overall everyone is happy. In the time and dimension of now. Well except for them crazy tree-huggers that is. But the only problem is, the capitalist owner of the business is indeed more short-sighted than those tree-huggers. We do need wood, because I too like nice furniture. I come from a family of furniture-makers… but we need to be able to have wood later on too. So if said person focuses just- and only on ‘profit now’, we end up with a huge problem and resource scarcity later. What is it going to cost to fix said problem in the not so unforseeable future? On another dimension, what is the cost of the environmental damage – and not even looking at the animals that lived there -f’k them, right? I’m talking about our own survival as species – provided we’re smarted than the single-celled organism that consumed carbon dioxide, spit out oxygen and eventually killed itself. We’re the opposite, but “much smarter”. Because we are driven by “profit”. Not by benefit, I could just read profit as greed as well ;)

Example B. Factory uses children, or if that is too unacceptable, how about parents trying to feed them getting a dollar a month – to make shoes and clothes for a company. Initial investment required – to motivate people to make the factory – know how etc etc.
You go to the market, buy your shining new shoes, we’re all happy – right?
Provided we don’t really care about the inequality this creates, everything should be hunky-dory. They get something to do, and they get a dollar – a month, and you get to ‘spend less’ and have more stuff. So in the short term, right after the ??? there’s profit. But in the long term there is social inequalities, rifts, violence, deepened hatred. Let’s look at a moment at a country where a lot of those factories were – pakistan. Are those symptoms in place? Check. Were they all caused by this? Probably not. What is the cost to solve this inequality problem and bring peace in the region?

I’d love a cost-benefit analysis, not simply a cost-profit analysis. For example A, also factor in the cost of creating oxygen, capturing carbon (necessary conditions for our survival).

And to get back to the original question, maybe it is. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen. If “smart” profit-promising businesses are free to risk our survival, peace and development – and anything else pertinent to our survival for the sake of a quick, greedy buck – we may end up surviving less than that single-celled organism mentioned :P

Some thoughts on motivation and economical systems. All money is – is a barter system, exchange A for B and C. It’s not a purpose, it’s not an end. The end is for us to survive, have a decent quality of life and better conditions. But a lot of people get trapped in the “system” rather than figure out what the systemis for and simply using it. You don’t even need ‘money’ or a financial system per se for a society to function.

Looking back to our biological past. People in a tribe had tasks, hunting, skinning, cooking, cleaning and so forth. Everybody had hands-on roles directly associated with survival. Now, due to the 6 billion others, or even less – the number. Historical events, pre-conceptions about how we like things to be – and how we’d like to keep them as – the whole thing may seem complicated enough for people to forget what it’s all about. It’s still about getting stuff done.

Maybe we’ll be able to give up our addictions to certain things in due time before our survival is further put into risk. And hopefully we will. A system of economy should stand in place of the old – do your part for the tribe – rather than confuse and risk all our butts for a few pairs of more shoes.

Fun topic, thanks for the question :)

Edit: one of the problem will full answers. Some people will beat you to it, hat-tipping to the two prev replies I now read :P

lilikoi's avatar

@Cruiser There seems to be a limit to exploitation – blatantly do it and people will revolt (e.g. election violence in Kenya), however a more complex scheme can have a longer shelf life (e.g. U.S. obsession w/ terrorism and national security).

@jackm Yeah, I have tried to get through that article many times despite its neutrality being disputed in one part, but have yet to read the whole thing. Of note is that even the article concedes that “There is no consensus on the definition of capitalism”, so it does not surprise me that some people – like me – do not fully understand it.

War is about profit. Soldiers are collateral damage; we deceptively lead them to believe they are admirably serving our country so that the Haliburtons of the world can rake it in. Would some of you argue that it is not exploitation because it is their choice? That it is okay to take advantage of someone as long as they consent? Or is the argument that they are being compensated for the risk they take on, and so it is mutually beneficial?

I wish those taking the position that capitalism is always mutually beneficial would elaborate a little.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@lilikoi, do you work for a living? I presume that you do something productive with your time (other than Fluther, that is) and receive some kind of exchange for it. You aren’t forced to do that thing, are you? I mean, forced to do that thing (whatever it is) and nothing else?

If I didn’t have a job, I would have a lot of time on my hands. Fortunately, I have an employer who values my talents more than I value all that free time I would have otherwise, and… they pay me to use some of my talents for 40 hours a week, give or take. That is the essence of capitalism from the employee’s point of view.

I very well could tell them to ‘take this job and shove it’ (and in fact I did once, for this employer), and they also have the right to say that “your skills are not what they should be” or “you’ve screwed up too much, too often” or “we think you’re spending too much time on Fluther” or any number of other things, including “the market for our products has declined” ... and “we have to let you go”.

And if that happens (again), because that has happened before, too (although not with this employer), then I’ll find someone else—I will be very eager to find someone else—who can “exploit” my meager talents. And if the talents that I have become outdated or un-marketable (fortunately the market for writing, database design and engineering hasn’t quite petered out yet), then I’d have to develop some of my other talents, including snow shoveling, lawn mowing, or delivering newspapers… unless I’d rather “exploit” my brain, which I prefer. (I don’t like to sweat at work.)

And there’s where we get to the nub of capitalism and how we can have “win-win” all around the world: human inventiveness. If I had to rely on snow shoveling to make a living, then I would… buy a snow plow instead, until I made enough money to buy another snow plow, and could also afford to hire another driver to do snow plowing with me. And so it goes…

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@lilikoi war is surely not about profit. War is nearly all loss, except for those making the weapons and ammunition. Everyone else is losing.

I forget which economist said it, but “When goods don’t cross borders, then armies do.” Do you realize that the United States precipitated its own entry into World War II… when it embargoed shipments of oil to Japan. Japan was then pretty much forced to declare war on us… to obtain the sources of oil, rubber and other raw materials that it needed for its armies and domestic production. Roosevelt knew when he signed the embargo orders in 1941 and then refused to lift that embargo that war would follow. (It’s doubtful that he knew at the time how brilliantly they would strike, and over how many different fronts, but he knew that it was inevitable.)

And the only reason the United States came out of WW II as well as it did is: our homeland was never seriously in jeopardy of strong attack (although the German U-boats on the East and Gulf coasts and throughout the Atlantic destroyed a lot of commercial shipping in 1942, in view of people on the beaches), and our factories had—using capitalist ideas and incentives, it’s true—become more productive than anyone had dreamed that they even could be prior to the war.

phoebusg's avatar

@CyanoticWasp there are a lot more details as to why they became more productive after WW2, more dimensions than one. Your example is only pointing at one correlation.
How about all the others? I’ve studied these before, but I’m no expert. I hope someone touches on that from the history dept of our experts :)

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@phoebusg you fail to take into account that because of capitalism, New England (to name an example that I know very well) now has more trees than it had prior to the American Revolution. There are several reasons for that, but the primary one is “private property / private enterprise”. (I agree that the problems of logging old-growth timber in National Forests is a special case, but if that land were in private hands there would be investors investing for the next two hundred years by planting the seedlings that would become ‘old growth’ in time.)

Prior to the Revolution, Connecticut, the place that I live in now, was a state (colony) that was pretty well farmland from border to border to Long Island Sound. You can hardly walk in the woods anywhere these days and not see an old stone wall. People don’t build stone walls in the woods; those used to be farms—but that farmland isn’t needed any more. And despite what people think, it’s not all plowed under into interstates and parking lots, either.

People are amazed when they come to this tiny little state with over three million people in it… and drive for miles and miles (even on the interstate, but less often there) and see nothing but trees. But we have plenty of people, plenty of jobs, and pretty clean air and water.

As for people working for “slave wages”, perhaps you’re too young to know that China was a nation of peasants when I was a boy. I’ve been there twice in the past three years now, and let me tell you: those people are no longer peasants! But how did they get there? How did they become as rich as they are? It was (and it wasn’t) by being “exploited”. At the rate they are going (and we keep having to teach this lesson to young people in this country), they are going to be exploiting us before too much longer.

Drgrafenbergmd's avatar

@CyanoticWasp “except for those making weapons or ammunition”

Also the rebuilding corporations, the companies whose products America will push into their struggling economies, The “world” (its American) bank getting to loan out even more money. Those and many more entities to stand to profit as from war, not to mention the furthering of our capitalist society, which is necessary for the corporations to succeed. so who stands to profit again? I believe the opposite of what you said is true, War is only for profit unfortunately its just not ours.

SeventhSense's avatar

You say war is not about profit and then go on to express how the nature of commerce is what precipitates war. And what do you imagine is the goal of those goods crossing borders? At times perhaps humanitarian aid but 99% of the time it’s to support economies which are of course driven by profit.

edit:War is rarely about anything other than economic interests or the fear of their loss at the hands of a different ideology or government. For example, we could have prevented millions of more deaths in WW2 had we entered sooner but we had no interest in the matter.

lilikoi's avatar

@CyanoticWasp But not all jobs are equally benign. Sure, there is nothing wrong with delivering newspapers or shoveling snow. What happens when you are writing a software program that will enable people to kill other people remotely. You and your employer may have a mutually beneficial relationship, but the result of your work could have far-reaching, ill intended effects on countless other lives.

Then there is the fact that not everyone has the financial freedom to simply up and leave a job that doesn’t suit their liking, and not everyone can find a job where they feel they are fairly compensated for their time and so they must settle for less.

World wars may not be the same as the wars we are currently involved in (I don’t really know those as well as the current events). Come on, the “war on terrorism”, the “war on drugs” these are all manufactured shams. I see a lot of people making a lot of money as a result of these conflicts at the expense of millions of innocent people. War is about profit for a concentrated few, and about loss for everyone else – that’s the point.

phoebusg's avatar

@CyanoticWasp is that all you got out of two examples geared more toward the short-sightedness? That’s alright.

So – the fact that the chinese are no longer peasants is going to help us how? They are the biggest polluter on the globe right now. But of course why should we worry, pollution is not global, or is it?

I’m sure there are lots of success stories where capitalist endeavors put their true interests to mind. While thinking about sustainability.

What does it mean to be rich? Can you eat gold when there’s nothing else to eat? Can you breathe gold? What is the definition of rich?

But most importantly, do you think this is the only reason and only way we can achieve development?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’ve taken all I can for the night in this thread; some of you apparently want to ride your hobby-horses and pretend that capitalism is so bad and the source of the world’s problems… as you type away on your nice computers. How blind can you be, really? Where the hell did you think that your computer came from? Someone who just thought you’re such a great person that you should have this? Why has the Internet matured from a relatively primitive tool to link Defense installations to the World Wide Web that we have now? Hint: it has nothing to do with Al Gore, and a lot more to do with AT&T, ComCast, and other profit-seeking entities.)

People spend their lives perfecting technologies and methods of production (and competing—peacefully—all around the world with other people doing the same thing) to make you newer, better, faster, nicer things than your parents could have dreamed of.

Apparently, most of you believe that you somehow just “deserve” it. Buy a clue, if you can afford one.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@phoebusg I did say that no human system was perfect, but… last answer for the night here… the biggest polluters on the planet are now and pretty much always have been… governments. Good luck if you throw in your lot with them.

phoebusg's avatar

@CyanoticWasp come back tomorrow. So, to make this clear. capitalism is great, but if it fails – all human systems fail? But you see no alternative system working?

Oh. The applications of science are only due to profit seeking?
I think this is by far the weakest statement I’ve seen until now. Most of science from antiquity has been fueled by the human desire to make sense of – and understand the world. You’ll claim lots of research has been supported by profit seekers, but if you de-construct every little bit of the sources, then track all the sources. You’ll find knowledge-seekers that actually came up with the stuff. AT&T and Comcast are only end-links of this huge process. Surely, they’re profit seekers.

There are a lot of examples of application-geared research failing, mostly because you have to seek to know and understand before you can seek to mimic, reproduce or create.

Great discussing with you m8 :)

lilikoi's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I never said capitalism is the source of the world’s problems, and I didn’t see anyone else say that here either. The point of asking this question was simply to discuss this, as I have a tough time wrapping my head around economics. I am the kind of person that will just give you stuff without expecting anything in return.

I see people suffering, and I see people profitting, and I cannot help but notice that they are consistently two ends of the same string. Obviously, many good things come out of capitalism; but there appears to be some very negative effects as well. I have no idea if there is a better way—there may very well not be. Is the trade-off worth it? I’m not sure. But regardless, I’d still like to understand how the damn thing works. You can’t improve something you don’t understand, after all.

Hmm…no one really answered the second question directly…

SeventhSense's avatar

Let’s just say Capitalism appears to be necessary at present but it’s shortsighted. It’s foundation is faulty and based on a philosophy of scarcity. If the basic needs of humanity were addressed and money were removed as motivation people could simply create value in that which they were perfectly suited. This would be a quantum leap in the development and advances of civilization. As long as one person every other second needlessly dies of hunger (of which approximately 85% are children), then our system is flawed.
On Tuesday September 11, 2001, at least 35,615 died….from starvation.

SeventhSense's avatar

I hope it’s contagious :)

CaptainHarley's avatar

Exploitation is a by-product of every man-made social system.

phoebusg's avatar

@CaptainHarley where are them aliens already – to hand down a superior system?
Hehe, just kidding. I really do think if we put our heads together – as a collective, we can crack this problem too. But it requires diminishing the ego, being open and putting those brains to work.

SeventhSense's avatar

Of course you’re both right. Though, history does not have to repeat itself.

jerv's avatar

@jackm I think that you and I have been through this before, but whether it was you or not that I went through this with last time, in the end it was decided that the human element has costs that cannot be measured and therefore never make it to the ledger sheet.
Of course, infection and disease never hurt a living soul until we came up with germ theory, so ignorance is bliss.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Capitalism. However, humans are inherently fucked up, so pretty much the only way to de-couple Capitalism and exploitation is to remove the human element entirely. Of course, that means that humans cannot be consumers either lest the whole thing get screwed up, so no matter what sort of economic system we use, it’s going to be flawed.

CaptainHarley's avatar


If we ever truly realized that there is only one tribe, one race, one people, we could accomplish wonders that cannot now be even imagined.

plethora's avatar

Exploitation is an undeniable byproduct of humanity. It is present in capitalism and in every other economic and political system. It’s not the system, it’s the people.

ETpro's avatar

I was thinking along the lines of @plethora that exploitation is a human foible, not inherent in a particular ISM. Communism is often pilloried here in the West as unworkable, but it simply fell victim to human greed. The New Testament mentions an early use of communism among Christians, and even then Paul had to exhort certain members of that community to get their lazy butts back to work if they wanted to eat.

Capitalism unrestrained eventually comes up against the same problems of human greed. Small businesses are very innovative. But massive global corporations can buy whatever technology they need and can actually buy politicians and stack the deck so they win.

In the final analysis, no ISM is any better than the people backing it.

Nullo's avatar

I’d say that this is an unfair question. Human activity, regardless of system, is going to exploit something.

12_func_multi_tool's avatar

I think it codifies that there will be haves and have nots with many people dying alone in borrowed beds.

Janka's avatar

Problem with any system is this: while most people are good and honest, some minor percentage of them don’t give a damn about other people’s welfare if they themselves benefit, and an even more minor percentage actively enjoy hurting others. Any system that does not have a failsafe for these people will end up being run by them.

Capitalism is no exception.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, exploitation is a necessary by-product of laissez-faire capitalism / turbo capitalism / predatory capitalism. A good example is manufacturing in China.

The social market economy in Germany seeks a market economic system rejecting both socialism and laissez-faire capitalism, combining private enterprise with measures of government regulation attempt to establish fair competition, low inflation, low levels of unemployment, a standard of working conditions, and social welfare.

Capitalism based on social market economy does not rely on exploitation.

plethora's avatar

@ETpro I would agree. Not so heavy on the communism in the New Testament. More socialism. But exactly right on the corporate abuses. I’m a small businessman and used to be in the corporate world, which I now think chews people up and spits them out, with some laudable exceptions.

mammal's avatar

@jackm…....even Alchemists don’t believe Gold is conjured from nothing, yet you seem to imagine you can somehow squeeze a profit out of the very Ether itself. Actually it is you that is Lazy, that would be a case of the kettle calling the pot black, because if you made even a rudimentary study of economics you would appreciate the concept of surplus labour, and if you were familiar with that concept you would be happy to offer an intelligible critique, which i’m more than willing to read.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Ah, @mammal, you slay me. If you were to do a rudimentary study of economic theory beyond Marx then perhaps you would realize that the theory of “surplus labor” is utter horseshit.

I’m not holding my breath until that happens, though.

In the meantime, why don’t you explain it to us, because even though I understand the words used to explain it in Britannica and Wikipedia, the collection of words makes no sense at all. It’s nonsense.

jerv's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I feel the same way about supply-side economics and many of the other cornerstones of the GOP economic strategy, so I guess we’re even.

SeventhSense's avatar

The first step is to fire all the politicians, lawyers and priests~

jerv's avatar

@SeventhSense Considering that most of our policy decisions are made by lawyers, priests, and/or CEOs, that might be a good start :D

Drgrafenbergmd's avatar

What about advertising agents? Do you fire them in this first step to Eden? Why would you need them?

Factotum's avatar

@SeventhSense It isn’t capitalism which makes people starve. Capitalist countries ship in free food. People starve in dictatorships that divert food and funds for power or private use.

As for meeting human needs leaving everyone free to excel at what they do best…this from a dude who spends his free time sitting on his ass writing Fluther posts? (Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that.)

When human needs are all met you can be sure more people will decide philosophy and art are their true callings than labor and construction.

ragingloli's avatar

By “capitalist countries” you mean Western countries. Western countries only manage to do that because they exploit the poor, and equally capitalist countries where they export their cheap labour to (extremely low wages, no health insurance premiums, no environmental regulations, no worker safety regulations, no legal worker protection) and from where they cheaply extract ressources. Most of the world is capitalist and most of the world is poor.

jerv's avatar

@Factotum Considering how many Americans are starving, I have to take what you say there with a big grain of salt (which I am lucky enough to be able to afford).

And since most people can’t compete with corporations who can buy lobbyists to woo politicians (or just buy the politicians outright) there is little that can be done unless we can somehow get the masses to shake of their fear, organize, and make our own government. Too bad that everyone who has tried that so far has faced off against the police and/or the US military….

There comes a time when something is too far gone to repair and must be replaced, or at least rebuilt from scratch. I don’t think that there is enough duct tape to fix our current system. As well-intentioned as it is, and as sound as the principles on which it’s based are, the execution is severely flawed to the point where hitting the reset button is the only real chance we have.

SeventhSense's avatar

It isn’t capitalism which makes people starve. Capitalist countries ship in free food.

It’s a vicious cycle. We also don’t kill hundreds of thousands of people in wars on the African continent but our arms sold to the right madman certainly do.

ETpro's avatar

@plethora I own a small business too. As to communism first being practiced by Christians, read Acts 2:42–47.

mammal's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Why should i explain something rudimentary to somebody with such a conceited belief in his knowledge of Economics, if you don’t understand the terminology of people who actually coined the term `Capitalism’ then what business do you or anyone else have in this thread, other than spreading your ignorance and fear?

Factotum's avatar

@jerv How many Americans are starving? Not ‘in danger of starving’, not going to bed hungry sometimes but literally starving in such a way that death is actually possible?

Regardless, we agree that the system – at least within the US – is not working properly. You’re quite right about the lobbying power of corporations but you’re wrong about where that comes from. It’s not the corporations’ fault they want more profit and less risk. Everyone and everything wants more profit and less risk. Plentiful food, comforts, safety from those who would harm us, some kind of cushion when things go wrong, when we make bad judgments – we all want that.

The problem is that there is so many favors and subsidies are available in Washington that corporations would be reckless not to try to beg, borrow or steal what they can get. This includes the government stepping in on behalf of unions, it includes ancient wool subsidies from WWII that exist to this day. It includes bailouts for some banks and institutions but not others and it includes many awarded government contracts which, regardless of how they were initially negotiated (lowest competitive bid) are frequently more expensive as reality and low bidding don’t usually agree.

@SeventhSense So…we should stop shipping in food?

As for the weapons being sold there they come through Germany despite the UN’s ten years of ‘peacekeeping’.

By the way, the most commonly used weapon in the Congo is the good ol’ Avtomat Kalashnikova. We don’t make those.

mammal's avatar

@Factotum anyone with a tin shack and a lathe can make a Kalashnikov, i think you’ll find that a Kalashnikov is no match for an Apache Helicopter or an F-16 fighter jet, which is something that the Palestinians and Israelis actually both agree upon :)

SeventhSense's avatar

I wasn’t talking politics but in citing an example of the Soviet weapon you support my initial argument in the competition for the perceived limited market. In this case the consumer who wants weapons for war. So regardless of which nationalistic ideology you side with whether it be weapons in the Congo or the Sudan:
( “U.S.-aligned countries resumed supplying Sudan in the mid-1970s. The United States began selling Sudan a great deal of equipment around 1976, hoping to counteract Soviet support of Marxist Ethiopians and Libyans. Military sales peaked in 1982 at US$101 million. After the start of the second civil war, American assistance dropped, and was eventually cancelled in 1987.” Wikipedia),
the end is still the same: a vicious cycle of death, starvation and subjugation under the international banner of profit.

Nullo's avatar

Oh, I bet that you could probably knock out an Apache with an AK. You’d have to be either very good or very, very lucky, and have something like a rifle grenade, but you could do it.

SeventhSense's avatar

I absolutely support the sending of aid to nations that are in need but would like to see more sustainable solutions. We throw money at many things endlessly to no avail.
You are certainly right to assume that there is more than the corporation at fault. There is a burden of responsibility that consists of the government, the corporations and of course the consumer. There is a complicity from top to bottom. There certainly needs to be a more conscientious approach to the effects of our choices in all strata of society.

Drgrafenbergmd's avatar

The sad truth is that a small few have us enslaved by debt and the media, and that we are being exploited right now from capitalism. So I guess I would have to reply: Who gives a s**t if its necessary, were living it right now, and lets get the hell out of here.

ETpro's avatar

@Drgrafenbergmd Capitalism can work with sufficient regulation. It is laissez-faire capitalism that gets us into trouble, especially when that is coupled with a move toward regressive, flat taxes so that all wealth soon collects in the hands of a tiny group of fabulously wealthy families.

jerv's avatar

…or progressive taxes that are too flat, like we have after the Bush tax cuts. Didn’t that boy ever hear of the Laffer Curve?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@phoebusg I want to answer some of your questions, but you started to pile them up, so I may lose track or appear to ignore some. That is not my intent; if you think I’m ignoring a question feel free to repeat it (or maybe reword it; I’m not sure that I understand the intent or meaning of some of your questions back in the thread). You seemed to raise some of the more valid counter-arguments against mine, so that’s where I’ll start.

All human systems have defects, yes. Some have more glaring and obvious defects than others, and some systems have better feedback and correction mechanisms than others. Capitalism and the free market, even as flawed as they are, have pricing mechanisms built in (the systems are designed around prices, after all) that tell producers what consumers want (as tastes and needs change, and demand and prices rise) and what is less valued (as demand drops off, or as production rises to meet relatively inelastic demand for whatever reason: cheaper and more efficient production methods from existing suppliers, or new suppliers entering the market, for example). “Prices” in a market system are “information”. They represent—quicker and better than any possible central database could—the relative abundance of and demand for particular items. The continual rise and fall of prices over time sends the clearest signals possible to producers that “we need to make more of this, and less of that”, or “we need to find a better way to produce this AND that or find new products or new markets”. (These examples are all simplified, obviously.) Obviously, “since Christmas is over it looks like we should put our Christmas decorations on clearance, because there’s not much interest or demand for that stuff now.”

Yes, there are defects inherent in some of the pricing mechanisms. Some companies are monopolies (at least temporarily) because of their ownership of new technologies (such as drug patents and other intellectual property, for example), and some others are monopolies by virtue of a government franchise (the one most of us are familiar is with our local cable TV provider). Governments influence and control markets all the time (the examples of weapons and munitions are a good example; I don’t know anyone who has bought himself an RPG launcher or Kalashnikov, much less an F-16 or Apache helicopter.) I would prefer to discuss the system that provides most of our goods through the freest markets that most of us know (and utilize in some way in every day): the example I prefer to use is that of supermarkets and restaurants.

It makes no sense to argue about military hardware being sent to Africa, for example, when none of us buys military hardware, none of us is prosecuting a war in Africa, and none of us is interested in world domination. But dammit, we all eat.

We all eat. Most of us eat at home, so we shop at supermarkets to prepare our food at home where we eat it. Some (even most of us, some of the time) prefer to buy prepared food which is served to us at restaurants (or delivered to our homes). Can we agree that these are pretty free and open markets?

So let’s talk about some of the relatively simple things in our lives, and work outward from there: farmers and ranchers grow crops (around the world; I’m not limiting this to Europe or the US), truckers and shippers transport goods to processors (or direct to retailers), processors ship goods again to distributors and retailers, and consumers walk in at all times of the day or night to buy a quart of milk, a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs at the market, or order a pizza to go.

Can anyone suggest an alternative to public and open supermarkets and restaurants as a way to feed us all? Can anyone come up with a more competitive market than either of those? Supermarkets in the US, for example, operate on the narrowest profit margins of almost any going concern. And they do go out of business from time to time (at least in certain areas; we just lost one near my home), but new markets open all the time. Do you have any strong objections the way food distribution works, for example, in the US or Europe? (Again, let’s talk about the 90% who do eat regularly; we can address the outliers later, but it’s silly and pointless to try to create a system to “save” a dwindling minority of people who are occasionally or chronically “in trouble”, and ruin a perfectly functioning system that feeds over 90% of us very well—maybe even too well. (We can address that, too—later.)

ETpro's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Hackles down, my friend. I’m going to mostly agree with your answer above. See, I’m not the loony liberal you must have me pegged for. :-)

My only hesitation is that we’ve become too reliant on the economic theory of market perfection. It works well in open, competitive markets. But take food production as a perfect example. It used to employ over 90% of all Americans. If I didn’t like my neighbor’s price for corn, I could walk on down the street and bargain with ten other nearby farms to get a better deal.

Today less than 3% of our population is involved in agriculture, and there has been a very rapid and continuing move away from family farms and toward big agribusiness. We will increasingly face a situation where a near monopoly controls something as vital as food. So here, the economic Theory of Market Perfection may not work so well.

We saw markket perfectin fail recently in the real estate bubble. Undoubtedly, that had a great deal to do with Government intervention. But that intervention was largely brought about by the influence of big financial institutions pushing for deregulation and for policies that would make risky lending incredibly profitable.

It seems to me that the problem laissez-faire capitalism runs into is that it inevitably ends up with a oilgarchy taking control of it unless Government prevents that from happening. If oilgarchy sets in, then the few with all the money buy the government and use it to do as the Sherrif of Nottingham did in the story of Robin Hood. They set the rules to “Heads we win, tails you lose.”

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@ETpro perhaps you could explain or give some explanatory links sometime to the phrase (I’ve seen you use it before) “market perfection”. If it’s a code phrase for something, I’m not familiar with it. Googling it hasn’t been overly helpful. If you’re really talking about “efficient market theory” or something else, well, that’s not especially applicable to the grocery store analogy, is it? Whatever… moving on.

Obviously the topic of how the USA managed to transform itself from an agrarian to an industrial society without the same upheavals as happened in, say, the Soviet Union—and managed to feed itself and much of the rest of the world at the same time—belongs in this thread. But let’s stick closer to the grocery store as much as we can while we still talk about those corn farmers.

I have heard at length since the 80s and the farm foreclosure crisis that families faced then about “the rise of agribusiness” and how “ADM is taking over food production in America”. Obviously those farmers and families losing the farm aren’t exactly dispassionate observers, so I discount some of the legend that has its source with those poor folks. (And in any case the legend of “the takeover of agriculture” even predates The Grapes of Wrath, and I hear contradictory accounts, too, from others who sometimes have their own axes to grind, who totally pooh pooh the idea of “vanishing family farms”.) I don’t know what the truth of that is; in such a massive transformation—which we know is obviously true—of over 90% of our production from agriculture to industry and information, there’s bound to be some emotion still attached to the folks who didn’t really embrace the transformation.

In any case, if oligarchs have taken control food production and distribution in this country, it sure isn’t reflected in supermarket (and independent farm stand) food pricing. Yeah, food prices are always rising, but that seems more to be a factor of the dollar’s value declining, and food (like oil) is fungible and sold internationally.

Someone asked rhetorically earlier in the thread, “What is wealth?” Wealth, to me, is supermarkets all across the country with shelves continually stocked top to bottom and front to rear with every type (and stage of processing) of nutritious, fresh, safe and healthy food (as well as fun food, snacks, and unhealthy choices for those who want that—“safe” within legal limits, even if health-conscious consumers wouldn’t buy it on a bet—but the markets serve all comers). Wealth is parking lots filled with vehicles bringing consumers to those markets and taking them to their homes with their “stuff”. Wealth is the homes, too. Sure, the groceries can be bought with a credit card, the car’s not paid for and the home may never be—but how can anyone have exclusive use of all those things and claim poverty? (I’m not ignoring that poverty certainly exists in this country, but I am sick to death of all those who decry “the death of the middle class” and ignore all of those supermarkets and malls with full parking lots day in and day out.)

I so want to take issue with your statements about the real estate bubble (which certainly did have a lot to do with government intervention! it couldn’t have have happened else) and about “deregulation”—which was really “different regulation”. (I was in California during their “electricity deregulation” of 2000–01. Calling that idiotic system any kind of “deregulation” was a joke on the voters and ratepayers.)

And I still think that your statement about laissez-faire capitalism “inevitably” ending up in oligarchy is wholly unsupported by any facts that I’m aware of. I don’t deny that it can happen and has happened, but absent government regulation that practically enforces that, it doesn’t seem inevitable at all.

For the record, I think you have a lot of sensible responses about a lot of things—except where it comes to US politics, where it seems (to me, anyway) that you lionize every Democratic politician and policy. I don’t know why that is, but that does seem to be a blind spot for you—at least from what I see of your writings. Even at my most Republican (a long, long time ago) I never thought they had all the answers—although their platform positions, if they had really believed in and stuck to them on economic issues—made more sense to me generally than the Democratic ones. Nowadays it seems to me that both parties lie to us and serve their own special interests first—which happens to primarily include their large corporate supporters, both inside and outside their particular districts. But I didn’t want to make this thread another political discussion / disagreement. I really would like to continue to defend capitalism as much as possible without resort to discussion of party politics.

ETpro's avatar

@CyanoticWasp The theory of market perfection suggests that free markets will always value things (goods, comodities, securities, etc.) perfectly. By that logic, there could not possibly be a real estate bubble, because that could only happen if the market got the value of homes wrong, and it can’t do that. For the foundations, look to Milton Friedman. Here’s a recent statement on the logic.

In 1980 when the handwringing about the loss of family farms began, 5% of the population was employed in farming. Today it is hovering a bit above 2%. So perhaps the fears were well founded. Certainly, coupled with deregulation of food production (The FDA has slashed its food inspection staff by 95%, outsourcing the patrol of the henhouse to the foxes) big agribusiness has brought us a rash of new food-bourne illnesses. To the cheerleaders of deregulation, this fact is dismissed as being only due to better reporting by the press, but such is not the case. Food is less inspected today. Where it is inspected, it is usually the responsibility of a private contractor hired by the factory farms or packing plants. Whistle blowers don’t get their contract renewed.

More on the other thoughts when I have time.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@ETpro don’t lose sight of the fact that even the citation you sent (thanks) doesn’t suggest, as your opening statement does “free markets will always value things… perfectly”. (Emphasis added.) Anyone who thinks about it will realize that even at a front yard lemonade stand there’s no such thing as market perfection. Different people know different things about their markets, and bring different values, besides. I didn’t see anything in the Friedman Wikipedia article that I didn’t already know, and nothing there about any ideas of his that correspond to your statement.

So of course there can be a real estate bubble, even without the Fed’s actions and regulations that do exist on banks’ lending practices (as well as the quasi-federal mortgage guarantors) that tended to push that market to its levels of “irrational exuberance”. The same can be said of the stock market, obviously, as well as many commodities. There is certainly no such thing as market “perfection”. So what? Certainly you don’t have any kind of idea that a “planning committee” or some such can do better, do you?

I don’t see why a drop from 5% of population to 2% is a problem (except perhaps for someone who wanted to be part of the 5% and no longer could). I’d like to be on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster, too, and I can no longer tell myself “maybe next year”. If farming has gotten so much more mechanized and efficient that we can still produce (and increase production) with half the workers we used 30 years ago, then that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Or was the Industrial Revolution the biggest mistake in history? (I know some others think so, maybe some in this thread, but I never will.)

I question your assertion that “big agribusiness has brought us a rash of new food-borne illnesses”. Yes, those things happen; they will always happen. Where’s the evidence that “now” is worse than some point in the idyllic past? I don’t equate a drop in FDA inspections to a decrease in safety, either. It’s a well known maxim in any kind of production and processing that “you can’t inspect quality into” a product or process. If the process is good—and improving—then the products be good and will improve, too.

To get away from the supermarket / food production scenario for a moment, the recent Toyota problems are illustrative. This is a big issue now because Toyota’s generally excellent production and process has been shown to be flawed. I think this means that we can expect Toyota’s processes and production to be considerably better than the very good processes they used before these problems came to light. And no government action, commission, investigation or inspection will have caused that. Rather, Toyota wants to maintain its image and its market and will do so; I’ll be buying Toyota stock shortly based in part on that strong belief.

Unless you point to actual harms that I’m not seeing, then I think the hand-wringing here is yours, and mostly unjustified. The things you’re pointing out as problems (other than food-borne illnesses and other real ills) I see as benefits.

SeventhSense's avatar

Again I guess I just must be that huge elephant in your blind spot or something. You conveniently ignore what challenges your indoctrination.
The great big happy American supermarket is an interesting but neo Conservative and I would say Neo Nationalist leaning. I like the Clash and their analogy better.

And this is an incredibly racist and nationalist point of view:
(Again, let’s talk about the 90% who do eat regularly; we can address the outliers later, but it’s silly and pointless to try to create a system to “save” a dwindling minority of people who are occasionally or chronically “in trouble”, and ruin a perfectly functioning system that feeds over 90% of us very well—maybe even too well. (We can address that, too—later.)

Unless of course that system is a great part of the cause of that “inconvenient trouble”. That pesky little kid starving to death.~ The 90% is Americans. The majority of the world does not eat regularly. And the outliers are “collateral damage” of the “system”. The outliers…THE OUTLIERS!! Are you kidding me? Almost 80% of humanity
IS STARVING. Only those insulated from the harsh realities of life can make such statements. And even among the general population people are not able to buy the things they need regardless of how stocked the markets. If one is insulated in an old money estate ensconced in Connecticut it’s hard to fathom the little people I guess.

Your ignorance is exceeded only by your arrogance.

I was born to white parents, as an American citizen in an African country that was a former freed slave colony . In Liberia the women were starting to use Borden’s milk products to feed their children. They had always breastfed their children which of course is scientifically proven to be the best thing for a developing child. But they were being influenced by the good folks over at Borden’s with their print ads of western women with shiny hair and colorful dresses to adapt this inferior but vastly more profitable bottle system. Furthermore the necessity of bottle washing was not something that was taken seriously nor even a possibility to the locals who had limited facilities. As a result of this their children suffered from a lack of natural antibodies that would be supplied them by the their mother’s breast milk leaving them susceptible to diseases. This is one among countless examples of the flaws of profit driven corporations unfettered in the world. And if they are unrestricted by the ignorance of local governments abroad that is no excuse.

Europeans are banning our food products because they are highly deficient in nutritional quality and high in growth hormones. Farmers are paid not to grow domestically. Farmers are paid to destroy crops. The futures market decides the basis of our production and attempts to control agriculture business. It has all to do with benefiting a minority of interests and has nothing to do with humanity. There is no longer a nationalist state that can survive without a presence that takes into consideration the world at large. It’s vicious, ugly and shortsighted. It’s not unlike the voices on the right who are still absurdly denying that the top of the world is melting so business can continue like a drunk at the wheel. There is no America without an international accountability, market accountability, agricultural sustainability and environmental responsibility.


P.S.- And whoever cares I’m also a small business owner.

Nullo's avatar

* makes popcorn *

jerv's avatar

* grabs drinks *
@Nullo I’ll share mine if you’ll share yours.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

* declines the bait… mostly *

80% of the world isn’t starving. If you want to have a rational discussion, use some realistic points.

SeventhSense's avatar

Living on less than 10 bucks a day is hardly “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It’s also not a statement that people are starving. In any case, it has nothing to do with supermarkets. Did ours come from heaven? Did we invade Africa and steal its supermarkets? Your polemic—it’s not an argument—is invalid.

SeventhSense's avatar

Did we invade Africa and steal its supermarkets?
Yes it started hundreds of years ago and the effects are still being felt today. Only they weren’t supermarkets but natural resources and people who were duped. The effects are still being felt today and still practiced today:

“Firestone, who for over 82 years has run the world’s largest rubber operation in the world in a financially exploitative relationship using child labor to extract rubber from Liberia without paying proper taxes to the government.”

In ‘The Great Divergence’,
Kenneth Pomeranz asked why Europe, rather than China, made the breakthrough first into a modern industrial economy. To his two answers—‘abundant coal’ and ‘New World colonies’—he should have added ‘access to west Africa’. For the colonial Americas were more Africa’s creation than Europe’s: before 1800, far more Africans than Europeans crossed the Atlantic. New World slaves were vital too, strangely enough, for European trade in the east. For merchants needed precious metals to buy Asian luxuries, returning home with profits in the form of textiles; only through exchanging these cloths in Africa for slaves to be sold in the New World could Europe obtain new gold and silver to keep the system moving. East Indian companies led ultimately to Europe’s domination of Asia and its 19th-century humiliation of China.

Dr Richard Drayton-Cambridge University

And China of course is playing catch up by exploiting the continent today.
To imagine that the role of colonialism did not have a catastrophic impact on the Third World is to look at history from the revisionist scope of one who shares the benefits from that theft but none of the accountability for it’s immorality. And what does it matter if you disregard the fact that a cup of rice and beans is starving or not. The inequity in the world is staggering.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Those are completely valid arguments against colonialism and slavery. Perhaps we still do owe a debt of reparations—to Africa (not to African Americans, I’d say; but I don’t want to hijack the thread in that direction). I won’t argue for or against colonialism or slavery here or now. However, given the world as it is today, or the world as it has been for most of the past half-century—the world in which a devastated Japan, an impoverished South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and now Indonesia and Malaya (to say nothing of India and China) are becoming world-class economic powers—why is Africa still (excepting South Africa) mostly a basket case?

None of your argument—against colonialism and slavery—explains why I can wander into Stop ‘n Shop at any time and pick up a week’s worth of groceries for the cost of a few hours of my working day—and people around the world are starving. Do you seriously believe that something I’m doing or permitting or indirectly requesting via my purchases in this market is deliberately and consciously holding people back from feeding their families?

SeventhSense's avatar

Six degrees of separation. That’s all. Is my insistence that I have fresh raspberries in February responsible for the way a migrant worker is treated in the West? Not directly but if my support of his business which encourages illegal labor practices using foreign help aids and abets its continuation, I can’t be said to be innocent. And I’m not claiming this as support for any argument but just that the complexities and interconnectedness of markets are indifferent. Neither am I saying I’m beyond reproach. I’m as guilty as the next guy. The indifference is simply that the machinations of the process have no objective nor agenda except to make a product. And this indifference is the very thing which makes them so damaging. It’s one thing to say I’ll give you a dollar for your wood and another thing to take a people and systematically involve them in a process which makes them beholden to your lumber industry.

If one purchases Philip Morris stock it’s clearly seen that one is profiting from a company which sells cancer but with most markets it’s just a little more obscure. And we all do this. We all participate and it may be difficult to accept but it’s the nature of the beast.
So yes in answer to the original question capitalism in its present form and by nature is exploitative. We just don’t like to think about it.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Now that we’re having a more nuanced conversation… what’s wrong with fresh raspberries in February? (Really… it’s a semi-serious question.) The fact is that they’ll probably be coming from Chile, and not the western US, but still, what’s the problem? If someone in Chile is free to work or not work picking raspberries, and willing to accept the wages paid, then why shouldn’t he pick raspberries for me to eat? If he’s a slave—I’m not condoning the reported slave labor practices in China, for example—then we’re talking about something other than capitalism.

In point of fact, Chile has a modern economy, and much of the industrial sector is highly unionized, just like in North America. I don’t know what farm workers’ wages are, but if they’re working of their own volition, I’m not particularly concerned about their wages… as long as I can afford my raspberries. “Exploitation” (if you’ll read my first post in the thread) is not necessarily a bad thing. (I think this is actually a poorly worded question; I’m answering its tone… and various respondents.)

SeventhSense's avatar

I guess I take issue with a nuanced definition of exploitation. It reminds me too much of another guy who questioned the definition of “is”. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Okay then, if we remove the “nuance” from the verb “to exploit” then it simply means “to use for one’s own advantage”. Everything in the world is exploited. It’s a good thing, or we wouldn’t be able to eat, drink or breathe.

The word has been freighted with “bad” meanings that it doesn’t carry. Like the word “discriminate”. People think that employers, for example, can’t discriminate. Which is utter nonsense. Of course employers discriminate; they are absolutely required to, or else we’d all be CEOs… and janitors, salesmen, telephone operators… everything. Discrimination is “making choices”.

So the answer to the OP’s original question is: Exploitation is a necessary condition of being human and alive; it has nothing at all to do with capitalism, except that capitalism happens to also be a human endeavor.

ETpro's avatar

@CyanoticWasp That is NOT a very nuanced view of what exploit means, nor is it what is obviously meant by this question. It is, instead, a cherry-picked version of the meaning.

Here’s what the dictionary has to say in full:
Synonyms: verb: use, utilize, operate, milk
noun: feat, deed, achievement

exploits plural, 3rd person present; exploiting present participle; exploited past tense, past participle

If you say that someone is exploiting you, you think that they are treating you unfairly by using your work or ideas and giving you very little in return. VERB
. . .Critics claim he exploited black musicians for personal gain. V n
. . .the plight of the exploited sugar cane workers. V-ed

exploitation N-UNCOUNT /‘ekspl??t’e???n/
. . .Extra payments should be made to protect the interests of
. . .the staff and prevent exploitation.

If you say that someone is exploiting a situation, you disapprove of them because they are using it to gain an advantage for themselves, rather than trying to help other people or do what is right. VERB disapproval
. . .The government and its opponents compete to exploit the
. . .troubles to their advantage. V n

exploitation N-SING
. . ....the exploitation of the famine by local politicians. + ‘of’

If you exploit something, you use it well, and achieve something or gain an advantage from it. VERB
. . .You’ll need a good aerial to exploit the radio’s performance. V n
. . .Cary is hoping to exploit new opportunities in Europe. V n
. . .So you feel that your skills have never been fully
. . .appreciated or exploited? V n

To exploit resources or raw materials means to develop them and use them for industry or commercial activities. VERB
. . .I think we’re being very short sighted in not exploiting
. . .our own coal. V n

exploitation N-UNCOUNT
. . ....the planned exploitation of its potential oil and natural gas reserves. + ‘of’

If you refer to someone’s exploits, you mean the brave, interesting, or amusing things that they have done. N-COUNT usu pl with poss
. . .His wartime exploits were later made into a film.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@ETpro I hardly think that’s what any decent dictionary has to say “in full”. Where’s the verb’s definition? All I see is a lot of examples. And I understand exactly the way the OP “meant” the question, but still “exploit” is not a “bad word”. It’s not as if he said “rape” or “assault”, and I realize that I’m in the minority (again), because “most people” with little discrimination see the word “exploit” used as a verb and think “bad thing”.

Maybe you need a better dictionary, too.

ETpro's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Dictionaries typically list all the senses of a word in the order they are most comonly used. You “selected” from the list the nest to last sense, and that’s why I call it cherry picking. If you prefer, I can use another dictionary. I just picked the one Google relies on for word definitions. I did not cherry pick.

Regarding the Chicago School of Economics, I must apologize. My memory was off on the most common name of the market theory. It is properly called The Efficient Market hypothesis. See

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@ETpro I used the sole definition provided by Wiktionary. (You don’t like them, then that’s fine.) But “to use for one’s advantage” pretty much sums up the sense of the word in a very general way.

But I just went to Google, too, and found the following definitions, in this order:
use or manipulate to one’s advantage;
draw from; make good use of;

Maybe we could agree that the word “exploit”, like the word “discriminate” in my earlier response, and the word “gay” for over a decade now, is overused and often so ambiguously used that it’s nearly useless in regular conversation.

“He was a discriminating consumer.” Does that mean that he’s racist, homophobic… or that he has good taste?

“It was a gay party.” Was it a party for homosexuals, or did everyone have a good time?

“We exploit resources of all kinds, including raw materials and labor.” Does that mean that we rape and lay waste to the world, or that we try to use things sensibly to our advantage?

I have no doubt that the OP meant “Does capitalism involve some people taking unfair advantage of others?” I still say that it does not, in a general sense. (I’m not going to answer every possible counter-argument; I know that sometimes it does involve that. I refer back to one of my first statements in the thread: Nothing we do is perfect.”)

SeventhSense's avatar

Okay so regardless of your choice of the term can we agree the implication of the question was an assumption of the term in its negative connotation? He didn’t ask for a happy definition of exploitation.

ETpro's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I do agree, there. And as much as you may think me a liberal of communist, socialist persuation, I am actually very much a capitalist. I own a small business. I believe in capitalism, but do not believe in pure free-market capitalism. I think it works best when there are regulations and checks and balances to avoid oligarchy.

SeventhSense's avatar

No need to be self effacing

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@ETpro I worry more about oligarchy as the government gets larger and accedes to “requests” from big-business lobbyists who (somewhat counter-intuitively, it might seem) lobby for “regulations” that they can afford to comply with, but which become huge barriers to entry to smaller businesses.

I worry about big business in league with big government.

In short, I worry a whole lot less about business on its own, because I generally have a choice to use or not-use its services and products. Badly run businesses generally go out of business. I don’t have any opt-out features with my government, and a badly-run government… just gets worse, and more expensive.

ETpro's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Amen to that, my friend. You and I both. Running a small business, I swim upstream against that each and every day.

Factotum's avatar

@ETpro I understand that the regulations small businesses run under are brutal. You also have a very complex tax schedule, and actually see what employees cost (not the money they make but the money you don’t because you pay the gov’t for the privilege of paying your employees).

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