We live in turbulent times. After many years of assuming inevitable growth in prosperity, the good times have rolled away. Instead we have had a decade of deep financial trouble with a misleading boom in the middle. The turbulence that replaced years of relative peace had a huge human cost as homes were lost and whole communities were plunged into economic decline as the industry upon which a city was built collapses.

And so we understand the frustration of the protestors who insist that capitalism comes with too high a price tag. When bubbles burst, people get hurt. However, the conclusion that capitalism must go is not so clear. Two factors suggest that the solution is not so simple.

Firstly, we are all still benefitting from the dynamism that capitalism has brought us. We live in revolutionary times. There have been other such seasons. And whenever new innovations emerge, old ways of life pass. When the automobile replaced the horse and buggy an entire industry shut down, and many had to work through a painful transition. There have always been Luddites who protested, but even the Luddites enjoyed lifestyles that reflected the revolutions prior to the latest one they objected to. The protestors who resent the upheavals of a dynamically growing economy are happy to use the social media that emerged from the dot com boom and crash, and happy to not have to use a horse and buggy to get them to Wall Street. There are those who suffer personal costs, but the net benefits to society as a whole have been enormous.

And secondly, even where there are personal costs, in our western nations those costs are widely shared in significant ways. Capitalism need not be heartless. Many companies share the cost in the form of severance packages, job training, and re-placement opportunities. The state steps in with unemployment insurance and re-training initiatives. Individuals and charitable organizations are privileged to use their affluence and security to be available to help those who cannot help themselves. Only people who are not living at a subsistence level have the spare capacity to do that. The wealth that our system has produced provides the safety net that other cultures do not have.

Our danger, in protesting the faults of the system without recognizing the unprecedented privileges that we enjoy as the fruit of that system is that we bite the hand that feeds us.

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