Acton Institute Powerblog

G8 Summit Protests Sponsored by Capitalism

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

Leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.S., and UK will meet at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit June 17-18, 2013. These international negotiations among the world’s largest economies provide opportunities to discuss the fluidity of trade between nations but also provokes public protest. All over social media, various groups are set to organize protests about the global trade conference because capitalism and international trade are viewed as evil.

For example, the “Stop G8 Network” developed the following set of guidelines “that were agreed by anti-capitalist resistance movements from across the world who came together to form the ‘Peoples’ Global Alliance'(PGA):

1. A very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism; all trade agreements, institutions and governments that promote destructive globalization.
2. We reject all forms and systems of domination and discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds. We embrace the full dignity of all human beings.
3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organisations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker.
4. A call to direct action and civil disobedience, support for social movements’ struggles, advocating forms of resistance which maximize respect for life and oppressed peoples’ rights, as well as the construction of local alternatives to global capitalism.
5. An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation and autonomy.

StopG8 seeks to fight against capitalism because “capitalism rules the world we live in today. It is an economic system in which the wealthy few oppress and exploit the many.”

Anyone who knows the history of free markets has to wonder where this definition of capitalism comes from. It is the standard zero-sum fallacy. In fact, this is not the definition of capitalism so much as it describes exactly what happened within the context of communism. Concentrated political and economic power has historically proven to be oppressive and exploitative, which is exactly what free-markets protect people against.

Among the other oddities in protest movements like StopG8 is the glaring fact that the group is only able to organize their protests because of the success of capitalism and international trade. The computers used to type their ideas, the software platforms that allow them to create websites, the social media platforms used to gather followers and disseminate information, the cell phones used to text each other, the clothes they will wear, the food they will eat, the airplanes they will fly in, and so on are all available to them because of the very thing they are ignorantly protesting: international global trade. It is almost laughable to think about.

Because capitalism historically has contributed to more economic growth and human flourishing then any other system in world history, one would think that the source of protests at the G8 would be for all of those nations to eliminate the tariffs and in-country subsidies that are currently stifling more economic growth and opportunity all over the world. What StopG8 wants has proven to be a failed solution, however, as Pope John Paul II argues in Centessimus annus what is needed is capitalism defined as a “system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom–the core of which is ethical and religious.” In this sense, the world does not need less free trade and open markets but more and we should all be encouraging the G8 countries to keep their governments from interfering in global markets for the sake of the common good.

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.


  • Curt Day

    Can you please give examples of where and when Capitalism has not relied on exploitation to flourish?

    • RogerMcKinney

      Of course you have to define capitalism first. If you define capitalism as profit making and then define profits as exploitation, by definition you’re correct. But if you define capitalism as capitalists have always defined it, free markets under the rule of law, then capitalism has never relied on exploitation.

      • Curt Day

        Actually, either you or Bradley are free to provide a definition for capitalism as long as you point a place and time and then we will let history answer the question.

        • RogerMcKinney

          I did provide one: free markets under the rule of law. That has been the understanding of what became known as capitalism since Adam Smith wrote down the basic principles. No free marketeer that I have read has ever disagreed with it. Socialists have done a good job of convincing people that capitalism is all about corruption, monopolies and large corporations running government.

          • Curt Day

            Sorry but free markets under the rule of law is an oxymoron according to today’s neoliberal capitalism.

            Adam Smith also wrote other things about the economy of his day and it wasn’t very flattering. It was about the moneyed-interests of his day controlling the gov’t to their advantage.

            Finally, the basic motivation for capitalism is growing one’s personal profits. And how that plays out during each time period must become a case by case study. So how is capitalism working out in this present time?

          • RogerMcKinney

            Well I completely agree with you. You’ll have to define the term “neo-liberal” because in the US most people mean socialism when they use the world “liberal”, so neo-liberal would be some kind of new socialist? The system in the US and Europe today is nothing close to capitalism; it is more accurately described as market socialism. Some prefer the term fascism, which is a variety of socialism.

            Yes, Smith had some very harsh words for business people and he was right. Business people can commit all kinds of evil, just as politicians can. But read Smith’s book some time, or better read O’Rourke’s summary of it. Smith wrote that the evils of the politician are much greater, because he has more power, than that of the business person and the worst is when the businessman uses the power of the state to his advantage. To prevent that, Smith wrote that the state should enforce the laws prohibiting theft and fraud in business while letting competition force businessmen to serve the public. Competition forces businessmen to restrain their greed if they want to stay in business.

      • Curt Day

        You should also provide a definition of free market as well

  • Pingback: Opinion | theReadList()