Is capitalism sustainable?

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Capitalism is the predominant economic system of our time. But can it remain so? Systems like mercantilism and serfdom lasted for centuries before the establishment of the Bretton Woods system. Have we reached what political theorist Francis Fukuyama has called the "end of history" where liberal democracy matched with free markets are the last viable option for organizing society? If capitalism is to be overthrown, what could replace it and would it be a step forward or back?

Arguments for[edit]

  • There's no viable alternative.
    • This doesn't imply that capitalism is sustainable.
    • An alternative will surface as soon as it becomes necessary. In war times, capitalism is usually put on hold in favor of central planning.
      • A war economy is much less sustainable than capitalism, and the peacetime failures of central planning are well-known. And the fact that some as-yet unenvisioned alternative might surface is pure speculation.
  • Although Marx predicted that capitalism is a necessary stage for an eventual worker's revolution, capitalists after Marx have been able to slowly adjust capitalism so that it can sustain itself indefinitely. The shifts from the Industrial Revolution to globalized financial capitalism have made it impossible for workers to ever overthrow the upper class.
    • This argument assumes what must be proven. The fact that capitalism has been slowly adjusting to sustain itself doesn't mean that it will continue to be able to do so. Economists will try, no doubt.

Arguments against[edit]

  • Capitalism requires constant growth,[citation needed] and constant growth is impossible in a limited planet.
    • The planet is not the limit. There's an endless Universe awaiting.
      • Massive space colonization is unfeasible in the near future. We need a solution sooner.
      • If we cannot manage in this planet, how can we even hope to manage others much more hostile?
    • Even assuming constant growth is required to sustain capitalism, this is constant economic growth, which is not equivalent to a constant increase in resource consumption. Economic growth based on intellectual property and more efficient use of existing resources (asymptotically approaching perfect efficiency) can be maintained in a finite system.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]