I had an interesting discussion a while back with sloth in the "Pope is a Marxist" thread. Sloth correctly identified some of the main problems with free market capitalism. I agreed with all of his criticism. I think the only point of difference we had was what to do about it. Personally, I don't believe that anything can be done to realistically deal with the inherent flaws of free market capitalism. I'm highly sceptical of utopian "fixes" for social, economic and political problems. So I champion the free market as the lesser of evils. But at the same time I remain highly sceptical of free market capitalism as the be all and end all.
I hardly know where to start with the problems of capitalism. It's such a huge topic and really goes to the very nature of man and society. I'll try to get into it more if a discussion develops here. For starters, I'll give a bit of background.
The Roman Republic remained throughout its existence a society still rooted in feudalism. The Senatorial class was largely an hereditary landed aristocracy. In the early years the Tribunes were tenant farmers and small scale land owners. Later they flocked to the city and the aristocracy began to turn the small tenant farms into huge agricultural holdings. A capitalist class(knights) grew from the trade of the Empire. Radical "left-wing" politics took two forms:
What we would "socialism" - mostly grain rations and handouts from the treasury.
What we would call "distributism" - agrarian "reform" bills that redistributed land to the poor.
Another "class" in a sense were the demobilised legions who became the major power in Rome and led to the rise of unscrupulous demagogues and pretty much brought about the end of Republicanism.
A similar process occurred in Europe with the decline of feudalism and the coming of the industrial revolution. One country that fared better than any other was England. The reason was the close relationship between the landed gentry/aristocracy and their tenants. This largely harmonious relationship survived for centuries and was expressed in the ideology of "agrarianism" - a concept that had a strong influence on Thomas Jefferson in the New World. However, this agreeable relationship between the classes declined and died with the industrial revolution. It was replaced by the hard, cold capitalism of classical liberalism.
The new order saw "progress" as an end in and of itself - progress being defined as productive capacity, industrialisation and science. This, as much as "social liberalism" has led to a cold, sterile culture and the transformation of the civil society. While socialism aimed to collectivise resources in the state, free market capitalism has led to centralised ownership of resources - corporatism - guided by the state. Some have even argued that this process of centralisation is akin to socialism in many respects. Many utopian "fixes" have been proposed - geoism, distributism, syndicalism - a return to the "guild" systems of medieval Europe in various forms etc. some of these ideas are appealing in nature yet they all remain impractical utopian models to my mind. But I'd be interested in discussing them on theoretical grounds. Any thoughts?