Why I am for entrepreneurs, but not for capitalism

Does this sound like a contradiction? This is due to a linguistic ambiguity. On the one hand, there is a usage in which the owner of a business, i.e., the employer, is referred to as a “capitalist.” But, on the other hand, capitalism is considered as an economic market system. Let us distinguish between a business owner and someone who ideologically supports the capitalist system. Thus, let us refer to the owner of a business as “capitalist1” and the supporter of a capitalist system as “capitalist2.” Once this distinction is made, it is clear that a capitalist1 may not be a capitalist2, i.e., a business owner may not support the capitalist system.

But to properly understand this distinction, it is necessary to understand the nature of capitalism. And the easiest and clearest way is to note the difference as to how “primitive” or “stateless” people live and the rest of the modern world. And the difference is that primitive and stateless people have a free access to subsistence land, and the rest of us do not.

The consequence of this deprivation of access to free subsistence land is that we have to enter into a market economy. This is the essence of capitalism, and its proper name should be, as George Bernard Shaw advocated, “proletarianism.” It is a system which creates a class of people dispossessed of access to free subsistence land and forces them to be workers for others.

Given this predicament of having to enter the market, one can do so by becoming an entrepreneur, an owner of some business, rather than as an employee. A business owner may or may not like the capitalist system, but he, as everyone else, is forced into the market economy.

I think the complaint of employees is not against employers in general, but against employers who “exploit” them, meaning that they mistreat them. And what does this mean? It means that the employer can make their lives better, but deliberately does not because he can have a greater profit for himself.

Let us remember that the employer himself is caught up in the capitalist system and his business must be successful so that he can hire workers.

Some employers are very kind to their workers. One famous example of this is the textile factory at New Lenark in Scotland run by Robert Owen at about 1817. Let us call him a philantropist.

Some employers, on the other hand, are ruthless. A famous example of this is George Pullman. He owned a company town near Chicago for workers at his Pullman sleeping railroad car company. Unlike Owen who tried to provide welfare programs for the workers, Pullman tried to squeeze as much as he could out of the workers, which led to a strike in 1894 which had a national impact.

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