Reader’s Submission: Capitalism a contentious issue

Mr. Maechtle’s response to Ms. Malloy’s Feb. 16 Viewpoints contribution (“Consider Broader Impact”) seems, in my mind, to have missed the point of her criticism of the “Pro-Capitalism Rally” staged by the College Republicans. Mr. Maechtle seems to believe that Ms. Malloy has no right criticizing capitalism because she has benefited a great deal from the current economic order. Furthermore, he claims it would be unreasonable to see a celebration of capitalism as demeaning to anyone.

The truth is, the success of capitalism has historically relied on the privilege of few built upon the poverty of many. No serious student of economics or history could make the claim that the global North’s rise to economic power has not depended on advances made possible by the exploitation of workers, enslavement and colonization in the global South.

Though Ms. Malloy’s criticism was not of global capitalism, there is a lesson here. Mr. Maechtle may not consider himself part of the American elite, but the mere fact that he is attending a four-year university suggests he is. The 2011 Census reports that only 27.9 percent of Americans have a bachelor’s degree and fewer still have the opportunity to earn their degree from an institution as well-regarded (and expensive) as Marquette. While Mr. Maechtle rejects Ms. Malloy’s “narrow worldview” separating Marquette students from our neighbors, it would seem to me that this division is true: we are among the most fortunate people in the country and often forget it.

I was also concerned by the sentiment that suggests Ms. Malloy ought not to criticize capitalism because she attended “a private high school in Virginia with five-figure annual tuition.” I think most people could agree how much our parents earn, where we go to high school and the values instilled in us are largely out of our control — none of us choose how we grow up, but we do get to choose what we make of that experience. To suggest that a privileged upbringing undermines one’s ability to criticize the system that one benefited from is a position that runs contrary to the ideals of this university.

Lastly, I would resist Mr. Maechtle’s claim that rallying around capitalism is a reminder that “we can choose any career we desire and achieve anything we put our minds to.” While this sentiment may be true in certain cases, such a conclusion is not supported by the facts. The United States has relatively low social mobility — in fact, one of the lowest — amongst comparable industrialized nations. This suggests that our future success will be highly determined by our parents’ success. In the context of Mr. Maechtle’s claims, low social mobility means that a Marquette education is, for the majority of the underprivileged, very improbable.

Make no mistake, though we may not be part of the “1 percent,” Marquette students occupy the higher ranks of privilege in this country and would do well to remember how unequally wealth, health and opportunity are distributed in the United States.

 

Christopher Frenier

Senior, College of Arts & Sciences