Essay / Benjamin Wachs: What is capitalism in reality?



Sometimes I wonder if people who call themselves defenders of capitalism really know what capitalism is. Or if they’re just hypocrites.

I don’t know, you tell me.

Just over a year ago some people were screaming that government had no place in forcing businesses to sell products to gay people because damn the government can’t tell businesses how they should operate. This is simply not true, they said.

What you can agree or disagree with, but they were pretty convinced.

Now Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has issued an executive order banning private companies from requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

Now you can agree or disagree with this position, but … many of the same people who have been shouting that the government cannot tell private companies what they can and cannot do are now encouraging the government to tell private companies what they can and cannot do.

Does it make sense to say that it is intrusive for the government to tell a business “you have to sell a homosexual the cake that you sell to everyone”, but it is okay for the government to say so? to a business “you can’t demand that your employees be vaccinated against a deadly disease that can infect you, your staff and your customers”?

I mean, if the government can say “you have to hire unvaccinated people”, why can’t it say “you have to hire homosexuals”? Or, “you have to hire black people”?

Isn’t that a positive action for the unvaccinated? And aren’t these guys against affirmative action?

I am in favor of affirmative action, but only for marginalized groups. If people couldn’t get vaccinated, then I would say absolutely, the government couldn’t fire them for not having them. But as they can – for free – I don’t know what the problem is. If their employer demands that they get vaccinated and they don’t want to be vaccinated, they can go and find another job … because that’s how the free market works. This is how capitalism works. And we love capitalism, don’t we?

Is not it ?

There have been a lot of complaints recently that companies cannot find employees who want to work for the pay and terms they offer. And people who swear to defend capitalism say that means the government has to step in and … what is … forcing people to work in jobs they don’t want?

Because that’s not how capitalism works. Capitalism says that there is a labor market, and if employers are struggling to find workers, then they should offer better wages and working conditions to attract more workers. This is capitalism.

Now some conservative governors and media figures have said that the problem is unemployment benefits, that if companies are having trouble finding workers we should cut unemployment benefits until people are so desperate that they will take any job.

A big problem with this plan is that it’s cruel, but whatever. Because – for the purposes of this discussion – the other big problem with this idea is that it ignores the fact that the government is giving companies a lot of money as well.

The government gives tax breaks to businesses. He gives them grants. He buys many of their goods and services. It subsidizes the health care they provide to their employees.

So of course, the government provides unemployment insurance to workers… but it also gives huge sums to businesses. And one way or another, the people who say they defend capitalism have no problem with government funding of businesses … but they do have a problem with the government supporting workers directly.


Capitalism is that workers choose who they want to work for and companies choose who they hire. Just as companies can say “we don’t want to hire you”, workers can say “we don’t want to work for you”. When workers don’t work for a company they don’t like, it doesn’t let capitalism down, it’s capitalism that works. It’s the market that does its thing!

Are people shouting “capitalism!” really don’t know? Or do they not really believe in capitalism?

Personally, I am leaning more and more towards the “hypocrisy” answer. Because… here’s a funny one… Fox News media figures are complaining about Biden vaccine mandates for big companies, which say employees must either be vaccinated or get tested every week. But Fox News’s own policy is that its employees must either be vaccinated or take a COVID test every day.

Do you see it? The same people on TV shouting that Biden’s vaccine mandate is a tyranny work for a company whose vaccine mandate is actually stricter than Biden’s.

In a way, it never comes back.

But, come on, we all know the talking heads of TV and most of the MAGA candidates running for office are hypocrites. That they don’t have real principles, that they just want to own the libs, and that they don’t care which part of America or capitalism or democracy they have to break.

The question is, do the rest of us have principles?

Benjamin Wachs archives his work on Email him at [email protected]


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