Given the ethics of capitalism and its closeness to a meritocracy it is a mystery why so many dislike it. Of course, the ruling classes in the alternative systems do not like having their position in the established social hierarchy challenged by the new capitalists. Nevertheless, since feudalism, corporatism and communism (partly) have disappeared some time ago it is surprising that so many still continue to dislike capitalism.
The reasons may be analyzed through different angles – social class, political divide, ideology and history. For instance, the left-wing opposition to capitalism can be illustrated through the frequent attacks on McDonald’s restaurants by anti-capitalists protestors.
Given that left wing ideologues are often driven by envy and a false-hearted love for the poor and aversion of the rich, it seems paradoxical that they choose to vent their ire on a restaurant that serves well the poor rather than on a luxury stores like Prada or Bugatti which serve the rich.
McDonald’s is a successful American company in the fast food industry, which now owns 30,000 franchised branches in prime sites in over 120 countries. Its success is mostly due to its ability to offer quality fast food at affordable prices in clean restaurants to a diversified, mostly young, clientele. So, it may be heralded as the symbol of the efficiency of capitalism.
Yet many in the left see McDonald’s as American, authoritarian, abusive of animals, exploitative of workers, unhealthy, unecological, and ruthlessly profiteering. Let me examine some of these claims.
The anti-Americanism endorsed by the left is largely a result of the cold war. And, because many in the left were on the communist side, they needed an American symbol to attack beyond the USA flag. Now, after the collapse of communism, its former supporters sought to rationalize their past ideology by turning to protectionism and anti-globalization. Again, McDonald’s, with its restaurants in every major city of the world, provided a visible symbol of globalization.
In the same way, the left sought new constituencies. For instance, by claiming that McDonald’s was authoritarian as it forced its franchisees to stick to the company brand. Afterwards, since they could not contest McDonald’s superior sanitary levels in the fast food industry, they turned to animal lovers by claiming that it was abusive of animals.
In fact they omit the fact that McDonald’s does not run any farms. However, because they are the main purchasers of some farm produce they want McDonald’s (not the governments) to force its suppliers to follow the demands of the animal rights groups.
The same tactic is used by environmental movements with arguments that are even more ludicrous. For instance, some blame McDonald’s rigorous demand for consistent ingredients for the existence of large chemical conglomerates like Monsanto or Cargill producing soil-damaging fertilizers.
The charge that an irresponsible marketing used by McDonald’s promotes unhealthy diets and obesity is also common.
It is true that kids today do not follow good diets. But can the Big Macs or Chicken Nuggets be blamed for that? Obviously not. The blame lies with their families and schools which, for financial and work reasons, have progressively replaced home-cooked food with cheap frozen meals and takeaways.
Indeed, one of the reasons why McDonald’s is so popular with kids is that they consider a meal there as better than the takeaway around the corner or the fish fingers they eat at school. If anything, the McDonald’s experience shows that it is possible to offer decent meals at an affordable price.
It is not necessary to be an economist to understand that in economies run on a pro-profit basis quality will take over cheap production, since a race to the bottom inevitably condemns its players to failure in a growing economy.
So, the left’s dislike of McDonald’s is fundamentally ideological. Because it epitomizes a living proof that profit-seeking benefits the poor, they see McDonald’s as a threat to their own propaganda.