I'm not a big fan of capitalism -- not because it doesn't work, but because it works marvelously for a small group of people, works passably for a larger group of people, and completely screws everybody else. The legacy of colonialism and exploitation in the West means that we've been able to gank the system so that the first two groups are overrepresented in our sample. Capitalist nations are prosperous not because capitalism works universally but because we've been able to make capitalism work in our favor at the expense of others.
Poverty is a very real problem, even in America, but it's easy to point to places in the world that are much worse and say "See? Our way is better!" -- only because we've been able to essentially offshore the lower strata. The capitalist system demands a continuum of relative wealth, and our ability over the past couple of centuries to make sure that the bottom of the heap exists somewhere else is hardly a credit to the system itself which -- in case this isn't obvious -- is structurally unjust. The figure of wealth is only meaningful to us against a ground of poverty.
Defenders of capitalism will point out that wealth is not a zero-sum game, and they're right; however, this defense conveniently ignores the nature of market economies, especially with floating point currency. Wealth is relative, and this requires winners and losers. For some to be rich, others must be poor as a point of comparison. "A rising tide lifts all boats," but this ignores the people slaving away at the bottom of the boats, languishing below the water line regardless of how high the tide might be. The implicit promise -- that allowing some to be ridiculously wealthy is good for all of us -- has failed to materialize. Trickle down, my ass.
Capitalism purports to be a meritocracy. It is supposed to favor the industrious, the virtuous, the strong. It is the grotesque love-child of Nietzsche and (Weber's) Calvin in which the Übermenschen are characterized by the Protestant work ethic. But that's not what happens. Capitalism favors those who already have capital, or who are either lucky or smart enough to work the system to get it. By way of a very simple example, I can inherit a million dollars, invest it at 10 percent, and make six figures by doing nothing. My money "works" for me. I do not have to be virtuous, industrious, or even very smart. And the issue here is not inheritance, it's that I can make money just by having money.
Or I can be hard-working and intelligent, but born into poverty and not manage to be one of the fortunate Horatio Alger rags-to-riches stories. How many kids have to not make it out of the projects for us to celebrate the one kid who does? It is precisely because such a one is an exception that the story is compelling to us. More to the point, perhaps: someone can work in finance, creating new ways for people with money to get more money simply by having money and make ten or even a hundred times what someone with comparable intelligence and self-motivation might make teaching first graders how to read. Capitalism makes these scenarios possible. It guarantees that such scenarios are possible. Attempts to cover this up or explain this away are just so much capitalist theodicy.
Inasmuch as capitalism is the economic sea we're swimming in, I don't fault people, nor do I feel guilty myself, for treading water or even paddling a little bit. We're all complicit -- all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so to speak -- and one of the salient features of global capitalism is that there is effectively no outside. Everything's for sale, and even resistance is commodified. Some people's response is to duck below the radar as much as possible, to live in the negative space of empire. Some of them have books you can buy on Amazon. I'm not saying they're hypocrites; I'm just pointing out that there is no outside. No matter how much you might be able to go off the grid personally, there's something about the movement you're a part of, or what you stand for, that's eventually going to make someone some money.