Capitalism, that is, the making of money by an individual, using supply-and-demand economics, works only when the aforementioned individual has something called “enlightened self-interest.” The founders of capitalism knew this, but forgot to build in a fail-safe in case the individual was not “enlightened”.
Let me break it down into a bit simpler terms. The United States of America was founded by Christians, more specifically, Protestants, who were fleeing the religious tyranny of the Church of England. Within Christianity is a moral structure that clearly states the way one person should treat and interact with another.
As the people in this nation have slowly abandon Christianity for a variety of beliefs, including no moral beliefs at all (not to be confused with Nihilism,) the central moral structure began to decay.
I don’t mean to imply that capitalism is right, or Christian (though, Max Weber in his book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” might disagree). In fact, it’s taking on a very interesting form as its manifesting in China, which is neither Christian, nor does it follow the American moral tenants, but that’s another discussion. Moreover, there are plenty of other viable moral structures in which capitalism might do quite well. However, since I live in the United States, Christianity must be discussed.
As you might have already concluded, the abandonment of the moral structure means the individual is no longer enlightened, no longer making choices that better both himself and the group, the viability of capitalism is beginning to decay.
I could cite myriad examples of this, but I’ll just pull one from recent memory: the banking and mortgage crisis of 2008-present. There are certain economists and documentaries that have espoused the notion that no one saw it coming. This is both erroneous and misleading. The people at the center of it saw it coming so clearly that many of them made quite a tidy profit. The NPR radio show This American Life did an excellent series on who did it and how they pulled it off. I highly recommend a listen.
The reason I bring up that point is because the people at the center of American capitalism chose personal profit over the well-being of the entire nation, deliberately leading people and institutions into a near-total economic collapse.
There are other aspect to this, but this post has gone on long enough already. Come back next week for more.