While capitalism is prevailing in the modern society, the issue on whether an amoral profit driven capitalist system is good for the society or not has been raised. Some believe that an amoral capitalist system is the best way to organize individuals together to serve the society. However, others argue that a amoral capitalist system will harm the society instead of benefit it. In this essay, I will be presenting the view of two neoclassical economists, Ricky Griffin and Adam Smith, who support the idea on the amoral capitalism is good for the society. I will also discuss the opposing view presented by Arthur Miller that suggests a profit drive, amoral capitalist system will do harm to a society . Furthermore, I am going to compare and contrast the two view and concluded with Miller’s view Capitalism encourages business men to make profitable amoral decisions will not benefit our society.
While Griffin, Smith and Miller are holding two significantly different views, they both agree on capitalism is an amoral system. According to Griffin, profit is the only incentive for any business to operate under a capitalist system. Smith, father of capitalism, shows his understanding of amoral capitalism by saying, “We address our self, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but to their advantages. ” (Smith 119) This quote clearly illustrates that people would act out of their own interest instead of considering others under capitalism. Further, Miller compare this amoral capitalism with uncivilized animals when the character, Christ, says “This is a land of great big dogs, you don’s love a man here, out eat him! …the world is that way…This is a zoo, a zoo!” (Miller p81) Although with a negative feeling and view, Miller believes capitalism is amoral just as much as Griffin and Smith do. Moreover, Miller suggests capitalism can force people to make amoral, profitable decision because capitalist system is an amoral profit driven system. Smith seem to a agree on Miller’s view on some degree.
Many capitalists assert the profitable decisions are efficient, and efficiency will benefit society. Adam Smith claims that “a society’s interests are best served by private enterprise–allowing individual within that society to pursue their own interests…” (Griffin p21) In the business context, “pursue their own interest” is best describe as maximizing the profits of their own companies. Griffin and Smith believe that encouraging business to maximizing profit will benefit society in two ways. First of all, business will try their best to produce large amount of goods and service for profits because profits are a very strong incentive to individuals within a materialistic society.
Furthermore, due to the fact that every business is trying to maximizing profits, competition will arise between the businesses. In order for businesses to success, business men have to make very efficient decisions and outperform others. Therefore, by being an strong incentive and creating competition amount and businesses, maximizing profit help to society achieve a greater efficiency and create sufficient goods and service. And both Griffin and Smith imply that an amoral, self-interest, profit driven system is the salient support for individual to make profits maximizing decision.
Miller, on the other hand, disagree with Smith and Griffin. Miller argues that encourage business men to make only profitable decisions will not serve our society, because what is good for the business is not equal to what is good for the society. In Miller’s play, he expresses his opinion by using a central conflicts that is created by Joe Keller ships out hundreds and twenty cracked cylinder heads to sustain his business, but also results the death of twenty one pilots. Miller uses his play to demonstrate a profitable decision, ships out cracked cylinder heads, is not consist with the social interest of helping the soldiers and winning the war.
What is even worse is that Joe Keller is been force into this immoral decision due to the competition and the demand of efficiency. Miller point out that amoral capitalist system is not just encourages business to make amoral decision, but forcing them to make immoral decision for their business. Miller implies that when Joe says,“ I’m in business, a man in business; a hundreds and twenty cracked, you’re out of business; you got a process, the process don’t work you’re out of business…you stuff is no good; them close you up, they tear up your contrast, what the hell’s it to them?”(Miller p69) This also shows capitalism is a cold-blood, insensible system because nothing also matters in capitalism besides business, profit and individual themselves.
Further, Miller also suggests efficiency is not always good for the society when Joe Keller says: “It is a madhouse. Every half hour the Major calling for cylinder heads, they whippin’[sic] us with the telephone. The trucks were hauling them away hot, damn near. I mean just try to see it human, see it human. All the sudden a batch comes out with a crack. That happens, that’s the business, a fine hairline crack.” (Miller p32) Keller’s line evidently demonstrates the cracked cylinder heads are resulted from “efficient” using of machines to meet the demand. Miller suggests that focusing on efficiency may lead to poor quality or in some case the immoral, cracked products.
Nowadays, China is facing the similar problems that is described by Miller, the 2008 China milk scandal is a perfect example. The China milk scandal is causing by the high demand of the infant milk’ quantity and high concentration of potent. In order to meet those demand, the companies have to adulterate the milk with poisoned chemical, melamine, to produce milk in a greater quantity as well as the high potent concentration. However, this action resulted over 300,000 infants’ kidneys damaged. Therefore, with strong real life, blooded proofs, focusing on a achieving efficiency does not always benefit society.
Another important argument holding by Smith and Griffin is the economy growth which is resulting from the profitable decision of all businesses. Griffin also point out amoral profitable decision would help economy to be stabilized and decrease the unemployment. As Griffin describes, “(Economy growth), increases in the amount of goods and service produced by our own resource. In theory, we all want our system too expand–more business, more jobs, more wealth for everyone” (Griffin p27) Griffin not only believes that economy growth will benefit the society, but also suggests that economy growth is what everyone wanted.
Furthermore, Griffin introduces some more measurement of economy and standard of living. Griffin implies the GDP and GNP would measure the amount products and service that is useful for people indicated standard of living for people in the society. He also strongly implicitly suggest the GDP per capital is salient indicator that shows the well being of the individual within the system. In a conclusion, Smith and Griffin claim that is a capitalist system will lead to economy growth and would bring wealth and improve standard of living for everyone.
However, Miller argues that economy growth does not benefit the whole society. Miller also implies that maximizing profits for business does not improve the people’s quality of life, instead it increase the inequality amount people. Miller illustrate that by presenting Joe Keller’s worrisome after Joe Keller has achieved his business success. Joe is a materially rich man. However, when George, Joe’s partner’s son, come to visit Joe, Joe becomes worried as his wife Kate explains, “He is worried. When he is worried we goes to sleep” (Miller p41)Furthermore, Joe’s economic success males him even more misery when his only son, Chris, turns against Joe and Joe’s amoral business.
Miller makes it very clear that even to a business man, making profits and economy growth do not bring him happiness. In addition, Miller exhibits that economy growth, making profits and business success may means much less important for a non-business man, such as Chris. Chris burst out, “What the hell do you think I was thinking of, the Goddam[sic] business? Is that as far as your mind can see, the business? What is that, the world-the business? …Don’t you have a country? Don’t you live in the world?”(Miller p70) Miller also implies that is wrong for Smith and Griffin considering maximizing profits as self-interests for all business men.
Miller believes capitalism forces men to make immoral decision will create conflicts between businessmen and the others or even between businessmen and themselves. Miller demonstrates the conflict between the business man, Joe, and his neighbors when Sue explains, “Who is he to ruin a man’s life? Everybody knows Joe pulled a fast one to get out of jail.” (Miller p45) Furthermore, Miller presents the conflict between Joe and Chris by having Chris criticizes, “You’re not even an animal, not animal kills his own, what are you?” (Miller p70) Miller suggests that amoral decision making create this conflict between Chris and Joe because Chris is criticizing Joe’s morality and his amoral decision that Joe did not wish to make. This self conflict that Joe has is shown when Joe explains, “I didn’t want it that way(the immoral way), either!” (Miller p76) Miller implies capitalism would not bring joy and happiness to society, but bring the conflicts.
Nowadays, as the debate on amoral capitalism is heating up. More and more people tend to agree Miller’s view in various degree, and believe that a business needs to have some moral responsibility other then profit making. While many believe that corporate social responsibility, also known as CSR, is a decent solution to help amoral capitalism to become moral. an article named “responsibility is good for the business” published by the Washington Post suggests that businesses which carry on social responsibilities would more likely to earn a greater profits and do better in stock market. The author Christopher Flavelle also presents many statistics and data to support his argument on CSR will help both society and the business. And he writes, “a number of CSR fund managers insist that responsible behavior helps companies’ performance and that a significant differential becomes visible over time.” (Flavelle p2) as to assist that business will also benefit from CSR.
Another author Jason Magder from The new internationalists believes that more information of all corporation become public, business will have to become more and more ethical. However, Magder seem to believe capitalism will not stand for that to happen when he says, “Capitalism worked because people couldn’t see into the kitchen” (Magder p1) I argue that business sense would always valued over the moral sense under a capitalist system. Flavelle also implies the same view when he says, “If they see CSR as contributing to their bottom line, they’ll continue to act responsibly. If they see CSR as a kind of a PR campaign, they’ll probably cut back on it”(Flavelle p1) However, Flavelle believe that is not matter because capitalists can make moral decision and also get reward.
So many years after Miller and Smith, this issue on amoral capitalism is still being debating. I believe capitalism forces business men to make profitable amoral decisions may not benefit our society at all. However, maybe Smith is also correct on capitalism is the best way to serve the society before other solutions appear. And with many evidences from different countries, I have to agree with Griffin and Smith that capitalism is efficient. However, I would only describe capitalism as an insensitive, bloody, efficiently machine that does not have feel and moral.
The core of capitalism is still profit driven, materialistic, and money. “money money money money, when you said it long enough it doesn’t mean anything.”(Miller p73) How important is efficiency and profits, when it does not bring joy and happiness to our society. How can we be well off without compassion, moral value, sympathy and all that feeling that make us as human being.
Courtney from Study Moose
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