Capitalist ethics?

A work ethic is just another way of being honest. Say I have a construction business and hire a worker to build a deck for a customer. A worker with a bad work ethic will do nothing and not build the deck. From a societal standpoint that is a bad thing because there is an unfilled need (the deck) and wasted resources (the raw materials and the worker’s salary). If a worker with a good work ethic had taken the job and built the deck society would have been better off since the value of a deck is much greater than the value of the raw materials.
Likewise a capitalist can be dishonest as well. I can hire the worker but then fail to provide the raw materials needed to build the deck. From a societal standpoint this is bad because there is an unfilled need and wasted resources (the worker).
In order to produce wealth both the worker and the capitalist need an ethic to produce what society wants.

I think that the best example of Capitalist ethics would be Henry Ford(anti-Semitism aside). Here is a Forbes article on him, which contains many good quotes of his. He paid twice the wages of his competitors, and was still able to undercut the prices of his competitors due to the high work ethic and productivity of said workers. If every CEO in America were to espouse his ideals, the market would work like a libertarian’s dream. Unfortunately, anyone pushing his ideals forward today would be laughed out of the boardroom.

“There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.”

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

“A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”

-Henry Ford

Sorry, it was the wiki article on him that says that he raised his workers wage to $5.00/day when his competitors were paying $2.34.

I agree with your assessment except the part I bolded.

I have worked for two companies in the last 17 years and both have gone out of their way to adhere to these ideals…one is on the list of most ethical companies in the world that I linked to earlier.

In my 25 years of experience, only one company that I worked for (less than 2 years) was a ruthless piece of crap. They went bankrupt in 2000.

For the most part, they do. Or at least, that’s what they’re willing to pay for. There’s plenty of high quality products on the market that are niche or high end. The quality of the “cheap crap” is adequate for most consumers’ needs and arrives at a price point that they couldn’t have otherwise received in the past.

Wait. Cars used to last 40 years? On what planet was that? Cars used to last 5 years and then they were scrap. I’ve had my current vehicle for 20 years, and it runs fine. That would have been unthinkable when I was growing up (in the 60s).

The problem you are conflating is, I think, the complexity of products. Used to be I would work on my own cars. Now, I lift up the hood and I don’t even know what’s in there. But that’s because their much better-- they get better gas mileage, they pollute less, and they’re a lot safer, quieter and more comfortable.

That doesnt mean they want cheap crap. That means it’s what they can afford to buy. Right?

So, according to this the average hourly salary (this would be the non-loaded salary, from what I can tell, not including benefits) is $27.83 for the job category of Motor vehicles manufacturing. Are you saying that you think US car manufacturers should be, what? Double that? Will that help things?

Basically, do you think that US auto workers today are underpaid relative to their worth? Do you think that, today, Henry Ford could double workers and have that work out well for the Ford Motor Company? And if so, if it’s such an obvious way to make better cars that people will want, why isn’t everyone doing it? I mean, ok, Capitalists are evil and all, but surly SOMEONE (maybe in a less evil country than the US) would see this and go :smack:…we should just pay our workers more than everyone else and this will obviously give us a leg up on everyone else.

They last far longer, they use less gas and are certainly more complex. They also take far fewer humans with far fewer waste to make.

The big difference is that back then cars were simple enough that a mechanically minded person could keep his old car running for decades by systematically replacing each individual part as it wore out. These days cars are so sophisticated that it is hard for a hobbiest mechanic to fix his computer controlled fuel injection system.

“Didn’t require them to do so,” maybe, but companies that have “gone green” get great tax breaks for doing so – thereby lowering their bottom line and providing an incentive that is sans ethics.

That’s the one failing you can see?

The problem with a system that is largely run by private entities operating for the means of profit, is that you don’t have entities operating for the means of bettering the world. Of course there are the exceptions, like Elon Musk and Tesla doing great things for the world right now. Charity organizations helping fight disease and poverty, etc.

But by and large it is capitalism that has positioned the world to where it is right now. The Fukushima disaster, the Pacific Ocean garbage patch, to name a few, and the lack of government involvement in fixing these problems.

I don’t know the whole history behind Fukushima, but if I recall my facts correctly the reactor was old and ill-maintained. If you had a society that built quality items for the sake of building quality items, especially as important as nuclear energy, then odds would be greater that Fukushima wouldn’t have happened. But when you have a society that builds items according to a cost-benefit analysis that pushes to provide for their bottom line – as long as their product meets whatever government mandated quality assessments there are, then you don’t have quality items being created for the sake of quality itself. Same goes for maintaining such an important piece of industry; it costs money to maintain a reactor and to pay people to do so; again, in a different society money wouldn’t be the deciding factor of “should we replace that support strut this quarter?” It would just be done, out of the need to create a safe and efficient reactor. People talk about nuclear energy as being scary, too unwieldy, that “humans shouldn’t use it,” and, “we aren’t ready for it.” That may be in our current system – it requires too much money to maintain such a luxury. But if we built nuclear reactors and maintained them based not on money, but on a desire and need for relatively clean and abundant energy, it would be safe.

Right now no government is stepping in to help clean up the garbage patch in the world’s largest ocean, which affects every human’s health on this planet, because it’s in international waters and no one wants to touch it. Also, there’s no profit in it. A serious decision is being made based on profitable outcome rather than what’s better for humankind. It’s disgusting.

In another stream of thought, think about Big Pharma. Do you think Big Pharma makes more money in curing diseases, or treating diseases? What would the world be like if our scientists were devoted to eradicating diseases for the sake of eradication, not for shareholders’ investments? Something to chew on.

I’ll close here, but I for one can certainly see failings of capitalism. You’re on the right track – quality of items. But quality of items can translate to quality of life.

Huh…and here I thought it was a big freaking tidal wave/tsunami caused by one of those earthquake thingies that caused Fukushima. And it was Capitalism all along? Damn, Capitalism is more powerful than I thought!

Yet it’s Capitalism that gives government the funds TO fix problems and deal with issues, give the highly elevated life style we in the western world have and those in developing countries increasingly better lives and access to better goods and services.

Your ‘facts’ are wrong (well…it WAS an older design and relatively old wrt it’s overall life cycle). You should really look it up. The main thing is it was hit by a natural disaster that was much larger and much wider spread than it was originally designed for. This had nothing to do with Capitalism and more to do with engineering and basically living on planet Earth when it threw the Japanese a curve ball.

Anarchist theory is that, given freedom, people can figure out how to interact with each other in a positive and successful manner. From that, they would further argue that, “thus we don’t need gubmint”. I’d basically say that, they’re correct on the first part. We were free to figure out how to interact with each other in a positive and successful manner, and consequently we created government and implemented some baseline rules and societal fallback mechanisms.

Capitalism is supposed to be about creating value for the individual which in turn will increase aggregate societal value. Capitalism does this better than any other system we have every created but what we have seen in recent decades is the creation of personal wealth at the cost of societal value. What capitalism doesn’t do is allocate that created value most effectively. We used to say that I would be unequally rich than equally poor but this free market fundamentalism has led to wealth allocating paradigms that are destructive to societal value.

When we allow you to put trillions of dollars of value at risk in order to put a few million in your pocket, then it is a failure of society to regulate the markets. The way we allocate value in our society encourages (or at least permits) people to gain personal wealth at huge societal costs.

Sometimes, when they’re at a competitive advantage (having just buried the opposition) they make a show of donating to charity, for P.R. reasons. Never for ethical reasons.

Okay, I didn’t know that, thank you for the clarification. But a valid question to ask is, was it purely the tidal wave that caused the incident, or out-dated engineering? Could a better design/updated design have withstood a tidal wave?

Well, it was an older design coming to the end of it’s life. When it was designed and built it met the then current requirements for sea wall height and redundancy that were based on the then prediction of worst case event for a tsunami/earthquake. Later designs were updated as the standard changed with new data, but this wasn’t a failure in capitalism, it was merely a failure to plan for the disaster they actually got instead of the worst case one they thought they might get. Could a better design have done better (in retrospect with 20/20 hindsight)? Sure…if you designed one today you could take into account 50+ foot waves, perhaps making them 60 feet high (and hope you don’t get a 70 foot+ wave that hits you), and, most importantly, don’t put your tertiary power backup in a basement that might get flooded (and perhaps use a pebble bed design that can’t melt down even if you completely lose power for weeks, which is what happened…in the end it was this loss more than anything and the inability to get power back on-stream during the critical time and through the devastation that was the final nail in the coffin). But really, when you get hit with something that devastating you are going to have issues, regardless of how you design things. Sometimes shit happens, and this was a practically off the scale event that happens once in a thousand years.

So you’re attributing a low-probability design/maintenance flaw solely to capitalism(while conveniently ignoring Chernobyl) and using that and a few other cherry-picked examples to label the entire capitalist system flawed beyond usefulness? And are you’re proposing that some new fantasy type of government/economics would have performed better? I’m calling weak sauce on that and your other arguments (it is Great Debates after all).

-Medicine is progressing at a prodigious rate from what I understand mainly because of Big Pharma R&D by that evil capitalist USA.
-Energy and computing and communication technology is progressing extremely well (Silicon Valley?).
-And the admittedly unwelcome ocean-garbage patch may get cleaned up at some point or maybe not, but the world will still be in undeniably better shape than it was.
-Non-Evil companies? Try Johnson & Johnson and Google to name a few big ones. And frankly who cares if companies are profit motivated? They enable better reallocation of resources for everyone else. Every charity is better for having Microsoft Office and Apple’s OS available. The network externalities are amazingly beneficial. And the Gates Foundation is probably doing more for charity and human health that any non-capitalist country ever did.

If you can show another practical system on whole that has provided a better benefit/cost ratio to global society I’m all ears. Capitalism with some guiding although hotly debated regulations and boundaries seems to be doing a darn fine job in the real world. Things are getting better and will continue to do so.

p.s. I apologize to global dopers for my U.S. centric examples, it’s what I know best.

Sitting in my shed is a landcruiser from the 1970s, a fiat tractor from the same era, a bulldozer from the 1950s (!) as well as a collection of hand tools made in goodness knows when all in good enough nick to work. The bulldozer does need a bit of help around the cables (no hydraulics!) but the engine still runs and it could move dirt if it had to. Hand tools especially today seem to be a pile of crap that lasts a year. I once worked in a white goods retailer where I had customers talking about thirty year old washing machines and fridges all the time. Thirty years out of a washing machine or fridge today is just not going to happen.
A modern car lasting as long with fewer problems? Don’t make me laugh. Diesel vehicles in particular used to be unkillable. Now they have the same lifespan as petrol vehicles. I admit, the added complexity of stuff helps things fail, and that was partly my point - the megacorps forget about making simple stuff well and focus on making flashy stuff that is crap, while convincing people its all the same and pricing any little guy who wants to actually make good stuff out of the game.

Most of everything made in the 50s or 70s was so unreliable and poorly built that people were forced to constantly mend the damn things because they were always breaking down. The variable result of production meant that a small percent of every batch would turn out overly robust and continue functioning for decades, but mostly it meant that everything was inefficient and unreliable. Higher quality of production allows us to give everyone the same experience and a guaranteed lifetime of usability.