Through the capitalist lens, the world looks like a game. As in most games, there will be winners and losers. It’s better to be a winner, so all people are advised to learn, work hard, and be strategic risk-takers. Those who figure out the rules and exploit them most effectively will win big in the game of life.
In a world that is understandable and a game that is winnable, people are responsible for their own destinies. That’s why capitalists believe that winners should reap large rewards for playing the game well, and those who play poorly should not be protected (too much) from the consequences of their own choices.
The capitalist world can be harsh, because differentiating between winners and losers is an essential feature. This can be seen in the debate over income inequality in the United States.
There has been a great deal of reporting and scholarship related to income and wealth inequality in recent years. Many of these stories report that the gap between rich and poor in the United States is very large by historical and global standards, and they assume this is bad. Such reporting fails to see the world through the capitalist lens.
High levels of total wealth and income inequality are exactly what you would expect to see in a society that was allowing its people to play the game.
What does this inequality mean to somebody with a capitalist view of the world? As long as the overall level of wealth remains high, then this is great! High levels of total wealth and income inequality are exactly what you would expect to see in a society that was allowing its people to play the game.
Capitalists are vehemently opposed to socialism because socialism is often interpreted as a form of anticapitalism where successful players of the game are punished for their success (via high taxes) and unsuccessful players are rewarded (via government aid programs). Seen through capitalist eyes, this reversal of the proper reward system makes everybody more equal, but also cuts against the grain of reality (as seen through capitalist eyes) and makes for a poor and weak society.
The fact that the United States remains the world’s leading economic power and the source of so much scientific discovery and technological innovation helps solidify the capitalist view that income inequality is working. There are strong incentives to play the game of life well, and for a capitalist, that’s how it should be.