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Word Count: 1,323
One of the most common complaints about capitalism is that it is inherently unfair That the operation of an unrestrained free market will inevitably lead to iniquity and a great disparity in outcomes Complaints usually proceed along the lines of - the rich get richer and the poor just keep getting poorer Thus government intervention is appealed to as protection against the vagaries and unfairness of free market forces Arguments against unrestricted capitalism include charges of exploitation of workers an obsession with efficiency and the consignment of unproductive individuals to the economic scrap-heap This essay is not intended to address each specific accusation but will identify the erroneous central premise behind these misgivings and the implications of correcting it The flawed premise held by almost all critics of capitalism is the view that it is a zero-sum game In other words that any gain in a free market economy must have occured at someone elses expense Ironically this misconception plagues capitalism and not other economic systems precisely because of capitalisms great success in wealth generation It is not hard to see why this is the case Before the advent of capitalism the vast majority of people in Europe were indentured peasants There was no political or economic freedom and the masses were unable to own land choose their employment or respond to opportunities in the marketplace In fact there was no market and most labour was unpaid with the peasants actually remitting produce to the landed aristocracy In feudalist Europe it was not merit talent hard work or creativity which decided ones economic situation or social standing but purely chance - namely into which family one was born The economic freedoms which are the hallmarks of capitalism - being the right of everyone to own property and the right to respond to the opportunities and conditions of the market rather than be governed by tradition or command thus being able to choose
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