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uncommonwealth - Uncommon Wealth Sir Winston Churchill once...

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Uncommon Wealth Sir Winston Churchill once remarked, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings.” (Russo, 2005) This may very well be so. In fact, one of the most compelling difficulties currently facing capitalist society is the modern welfare state. There are two sides to the current debate circling welfare. Many state that welfare is necessary in order to protect the economy and the property of individual citizens – not to mention the role welfare plays in working towards a more secure society (i.e. reduction in and prevention of crime). On the other hand, there are some who argue that welfare only promotes sloth and encourages the recipient of the monthly welfare check to live more or less comfortably unemployed; others still believe that welfare is a farce and claim that fraudulence seeps throughout the entire welfare state. (Jost, 1992) Both sides are at odds against each other, for both have different ideas of the role that government should play in the lives of citizens with regard to an individual man’s property. To decide on the role that welfare should play (if any at all) in a capitalist society like the United States, we must attempt to understand capitalism and what it stands for. To truly understand any field, it certainly helps the effort if one considers its origins. John Locke is by no means the “Father” of Capitalism. This position has already been usurped by Adam Smith, due mostly to the ongoing influence his Wealth of Nations has had on the way nations form and run their economies. Adam Smith emphasized that the ideal economy necessary for the freedom to control one’s own finances is free market capitalism. There is as little government intervention as possible, for there is an “invisible hand” that guides the market. (Nationmaster, 2005) A most important facet of capitalism is the importance of labor in securing one’s finances. Labor is the ultimate resource to garner 1
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capital (money, valued possessions). (Nationmaster, 2005) John Locke took this theory and ran with it. Instead of concentrating on the purely economic aspect of capitalism, Locke adapted this theory to a body politic, focusing on the role the government should play in the daily lives of citizens; Locke concluded that the role of government, especially in matters of a man’s property, should be limited. Locke’s deliberation led him to further conclude that a truly free form of government would be one wherein each man is “endowed with certain inalienable rights”: life, liberty, and - no, not the pursuit of happiness - the pursuit of property . (Smith) The founders of the United States Constitution took Locke’s political philosophy and blended it with that of Smith’s – a melding of free market capitalism and a democratic government. Locke didn’t father capitalism; this wouldn’t be a fair assertion to Adam Smith. Rather, he did have a significant impact on it when the United States Constitution was forged; perhaps this makes Locke the “Great-uncle, twice removed” of Capitalism.
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