The moral justification of capitalism is the belief that businesses can only prosper by properly serving their clientele lest the paying customers choose some other provider to fill their needs.
A HISTORY OF CAPITALISM
The Progressive Movement ran from the late 19th century through the first decades of the 20th century. The movement consisted of politicians, intellectuals and social reformers in the United States who attempted to address the inequalities that had arisen due to the Industrial Revolution and the unbridled growth of modern capitalism in America.
Today, all vestiges of the Progressive Movement are gone, replaced by a Neoliberal philosophy that views the dynamics of unfettered, free-market capitalism as sacrosanct.
For Neoliberals, a company’s sole responsibility is to its shareholders – not to its employees or to society. Economics is no longer a means for achieving a desirable social end. For government, the only social end is the maintenance of the market itself. If workers are displaced because of automation, offshoring or any other solution that provides greater economic efficiency it is because the laws of the market demand it. To argue otherwise is uninformed opinion.
But as even Adam Smith noted in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, understood, society is not the same as the market, and price is not the same as value.
Markets are not free. They are controlled by a wealthy minority of individuals and corporations. Nor are they competitive. All markets tend towards monopoly with mergers, acquisitions, takeovers and buyouts dramatically reducing competition.
Rather than equilibrium, free market capitalism generates imbalance: If for whatever reason a company gets ahead of its competition, increasing returns can magnify this advantage to the extent that the company gains a lock on the market.
Faced with these dynamics, what can workers expect when they are no longer deemed to be economically efficient?