Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Understanding (And Misunderstanding) Capitalism
The latest from Williamson the Great.
"The aggregate effect of competitive capitalism is indistinguishable from magic, but we are so used to its bounty that we never stop to notice that no king of old ever enjoyed quarters so comfortable as those found in a Holiday Inn Express, that Andrew Carnegie never had a car as good as a Honda Civic, that Akhenaten never enjoyed such wealth as is found in a Walmart Supercenter. The irony is that capitalism has achieved through choice and cooperation what the old reds thought they were going to do with bayonets and gulags: It has recruited the most powerful and significant parts of the world’s capital structure into the service of ordinary people. And it would do so to an even greater degree if self-interested politicians in places such as India and China (and New York and California and D.C.) would get out of the way.
The difference between market and state — between the world of choice and the world of command — is that whether you’re an In-N-Out aficionado or a Shake Shack man, nobody is going to put a gun to your head and tell you that you can’t have it your way. To paraphrase that great national embarrassment: If you like your burger, you can keep your burger."
On a related topic, another recent offering from King Kevin --
"(Katrina) Forrester has no patience for the “unbridled individualism of the market economist,” just as John Nichols, also writing in The Nation, laments “unfettered capitalism,” a favorite phrase among so-called liberals (Chris Hedges invokes it in The Death of the Liberal Class). Which brings us back to a linguistic question: What is the opposite of “unbridled”? What is the opposite of “unfettered”? Excising the negative prefixes and considering the implications is a much more illuminating argument that “liberalism,” as we perversely call it, “doesn’t start with liberty” than anything one might read in The Nation lately."
As with all of Williamson's columns, excerpts don't do them justice - they should be read in their entirety to appreciate their full impact.