Contempt for Generic “Capitalism”
A comfortable feeling to avoid studying alternatives
Owen, the democratic capitalist, cut the hours at his spinning mill to ten and was lobbying Parliament to limit hours for workers under 18 to 10 ½, to prohibit children younger than 10 from factory work, and older children from working on the night shift. As part of his research he visited many operations with his son who wrote this about the work culture of mercantilism:
Greed of gain had impelled the mill-owners to greater extremes of inhumanity, utterly disgraceful to a civilized nation. Their mills were run fifteen hours a day with a single set of hands, and they did not scruple to employ children of both sexes from the age of eight. Overseers carried stout leather thongs, and we frequently saw even the youngest children severely beaten. In some large factories one-fifth of the children were either cripples of otherwise deformed by excessive toil or brutal abuse.1
This mercantilist culture contributed to an ugly perception of generic capitalism. Unfortunately, educators did not respond to the empirical evidence of Robert Owen or the writings of Mill, Marx and Engels and have yet to study the alternatives. Professors with this cultural conditioning still respond to “democratic capitalism” with: “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”
1 Robert Dale Owen, Threading My Way (New York:Augustus Kelley), First edition 1874, reprinted 1967, p, 126.