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The Middle Ground

“Lou” is a 33-year-old single father of two daughters, he works as a manager at a retail chain store. He was born and raised in Baltimore and has a bachelor’s degree in business.  

Can you define capitalism?

Capitalism is an economic system that lets private corporations control our economy.

How would you explain your feelings on or relationship with capitalism?

I don’t really think I have a specific relationship with capitalism, I haven’t known any other system. I have mixed feelings about it because I think that in theory it is better in comparison to other economic systems. But it lacks certain levels of stability and I have seen the struggles that that lack of stability can bring to people who are in lower economic classes. I tend to feel that somedays I can lean one way more than the other but for the most part I hang in the middle.

Do your views on capitalism match with what your parents’ thought are on capitalism?

I would say that they have a more cynical view than I do. They are the reason that I am wary of the stability of capitalism. Growing up we were barely living paycheck to paycheck, and now a few decades later they are consistently bringing up some issues that they have found with our economy. They have also explicitly told me how they do not believe in the idea that if you work hard, you can make a good like for yourself, which is definitely where I have different thoughts.

What are your thoughts on the idea of being able to make something of yourself if you work hard enough?

I do believe in the concept; I do think that there is a limit to how much you can achieve by working hard depending on the opportunities you are provided. But I had more opportunities than my parents did when they were my age and I honestly believe that having experienced the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck as a child and seeing the stress it caused my parents, it is something that I wanted to work hard to not have my own children have that experience. Which is something I definitely feel I have done.

What advice would you give your daughters when they are older about living in a capitalist economy?

I actually have started, I think teaching them would be a better term, teaching them about the benefits of working hard, but also making sure that they are aware of the financial decisions that they make and that they also work hard on building a savings, if only for emergencies. And while now the financial decisions I am helping my nine-year-old is make is that maybe it would be better to buy two different dolls instead of the same one even though (he quotes his daughter) “She is just so cool and cute and what more do I need?” I am hoping that one day when it comes to bigger decisions, she will be able to make the best choice for herself, her situation, and her future.

Reflection

From the different interviews, I have conducted before I personally feel that “Lou’s” feelings on capitalism really do reflect the middle ground that many people stand on when it comes to capitalism. While he does not think he has a relationship with capitalism, I would say he does based on what he told me about his childhood (which I was told more of off the record) and how he hopes to help his children not feel that they have to learn about making money for survival, but for them to learn to make smart financial decisions in their future. I also had other questions planned than the last two but while we were talking I was interested in topics that he mentioned, like his children’s futures, and how he seemed to be able to see both sides of living in a capitalist economy.

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Freedom for us Regular People

Shay is in her mid-twenties and she just graduated with a bachelor’s in art. She currently has a part-time job at a coffee shop and is pursuing starting her own business.

Do you think that capitalism is beneficial to your life?

I feel inclined to say yes, I don’t really know s*** about other economic systems. But like, I want to start my own shop and I think that that is a positive for capitalism because I can do that. There is a freedom that comes with capitalism for us regular people.

How do you think that capitalism impacts the economy?

As long as everyone participates in the economy I’d say it helps keep money moving. I don’t have any specifics because capitalism and the economy are the same thing for me.

How do you think that capitalism interacts with the media?

One of capitalism’s biggest resources is the media. People put so much money and thought into advertisement that it’s no wonder that it became a whole job field, but the media is, I’d say essential now for businesses to thrive. So you have the whole field of people working in advertisement that is a part of the economy, but then there’s the effect of good advertisement which increases sales which keeps capitalism moving.

What are positive/negative aspects of capitalism?

The biggest positive is the amount of freedom it allows for people to pave their own way in the world. I can’t say if the changes in prices are positive or negative, because like capitalism helps with the economy balancing on its own (ish.) But also the fact that everything in the economy is connected and influence each other, I could see one wrong move really taking the economy down, and I don’t want to deal with a Depression.

What do you think of other economic systems other than capitalism?

Like I said I don’t know much about other economic systems. The only one I have some knowledge on is socialism, and the only thing I can really remember I think is that the government would be in charge of the economy, and I don’t trust the government (or even one single group) to be in charge of the entire f****** economy. (She also added in later “I don’t like monopolies, they feel rude”)

Analysis

Overall, Shay seems to have semi-solid beliefs from what she knows about capitalism, but was not afraid to show her uncertainty in her knowledge during the interview. It was also just really interesting to interview Shay partially because she is a good friend who I don’t have many serious conversations with, but because after she answered almost all of the questions she would say “hang on” and google something about capitalism to try and see if it would change what she thought or in her words “google is more reliable than my brain.”

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America’s Definition of Freedom

Ian is in his mid-fifties and co-owns a construction business. He is married and has three kids in some level of college. He has his general studies associate’s degree, and while he used to want to go back to school, he has lost that desire; but encourages his kids to complete their bachelor’s.

What is capitalism to you?

Capitalism is what allows me to make a decent living and pay for all three of my kids to go to college. 

What role do you see capitalism in your daily life?

Capitalism is a big part of my life because the economy is. I work for a business that is hired to build homes. People would not have the ability to spend their money to design and build a house if it would not for the freedom that allows people to spend their money on what and how they want. 

How do you think capitalism has changed over time?

The ability to spend money has gotten faster with new technology, although I still think checks are safer than sending your money out over the web. There are also a lot more self-started businesses and more ways to start businesses on your own than there were thirty years ago.

What do you think of other economic systems other than capitalism?

I think that other economic systems lack the freedom to make decisions about what to do with the money that you earned. I know that there is a whole debate about socialism and how better equality comes with socialism, but our reliance on the government grows. While it seems like that is not a big deal in the beginning, I see the definition of freedom in America changing from more government involvement in a socialist society.

How do you see people’s views of capitalism being generationally different?

The needs of capitalism shift based on what the needs of the people are at the time. Money and beliefs held different values in the past. Capitalism had to have some effect on changes in the economies of the past but how people use their money had and still has a larger effect on capitalism.

Analysis

Ian seems to have realistically positive views on capitalism. He also discusses how people spend their money and the importance of them being able to spend their earned money how they wish is important to the continuing flow of the economy. Overall I think that he does believe that capitalism is the best choice of economic system for America.