Capitalism Is Only for the Rich?

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

***This column originally appeared in an January 2015 issue of Investor CAFE. I still am a presidential fellow at Chapman University and may well do the same exercise with my current students this year to teach them about capitalism.***

“The rich have only gotten rich at the expense of the poor.” — Marxist criticism

“Capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities.” — Andrew Carnegie

In my class at Chapman University, I do a little experiment with my students. I ask them to identify good quality products or services that are offered in the marketplace for:

— The rich
— The middle class
— The poor

I ask the students to come up with examples of automobiles, housing, restaurants, hotels and entertainment.

They come up with great answers:

For the rich, there’s a Lexus automobile… They may live in Newport Beach, California… Eat out at Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse… stay at a Ritz Carlton Hotel… and physically go to the Super Bowl .

For the middle class, they may drive a Toyota… live in Santa Fe Springs, California… Eat out at Olive Garden… stay at a local Hilton hotel… and go to a sports bar to watch the Super Bowl.

The poor? They drive a Chevy… rent an apartment or small house… Eat out at McDonald’s… stay at Motel 6… and gather a bunch of friends around the apartment or house for a beer party to watch the Super Bowl on their wide HD television.

Who’s having more fun?

When people ask me about the alleged growing inequality of capitalism, I hold up a smartphone and ask if the wealthy are so different from the poor. Practically everyone these days has a smartphone, whether you are from Beverly Hills or Yonkers, New York. It is the great equalizer.

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Andrew Carnegie was right: “Capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities,” and the poor benefit even more than the rich.

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