We had an awesome discussion in my afternoon class today about capitalism. I taught them the idea of capitalism, and demonstrated how ideally it should work. Then they figured out that while it sounds nice, it doesn’t ensure a good life for the workers or for small businesses. It was so exciting to relate it to current events, such as Wal-Mart putting small stores out of business. So much of the economic ideas we have today all came about in the Industrial Revolution. Guarantees, installment payments, interchangeable parts are all so common to us, but just 150-200 years ago, they were new concepts.
So then when I asked how things should be – what do they think about capitalism and government intervention, one student said that she thought things were bad back then, but the way things are now is good. So then I talked about how many things we buy in America are made in factories in other countries where the standard of living is much lower and the government doesn’t have so many restrictions: so they can hire children, pay less, work them harder. And we discussed how complex the situation is, because it’s hard to know what we can do in our position, or how the problem should be fixed even if we had the power. But it was cool to see them worked up about it and caring about it, and yet also see the complexities of the situation. It was a stimulating discussion.