Capitalism Isn’t a ‘System’

Socialists err dangerously when they assume a market economy is a conscious project.

Global View: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hopes to make religious freedom the centerpiece of American human-rights policy in order to protect Christians and others of faith around the world. Image: Erin Scott/Reuters

Airy, abstract words are the currency of democratic politics. Conservatism, liberalism, nationalism, democracy, socialism—you have to use them, but they can easily gum up your thought. George Orwell famously objected to the haphazard use of “fascism,” and before him Samuel Taylor Coleridge complained bitterly that “Jacobin” has “either no meaning, or a very vague one: for definite terms are unmanageable things, and the passions of men do not readily gather round them.”

香蕉视频苹果下载The ill-defined word of the moment is “capitalism.” After Soviet communism fell, capitalism seemed to have won the argument. But anticapitalists didn’t concede. Maybe socialism and communism hadn’t worked as envisioned, they argued, but capitalism was still the corrosive, dehumanizing force it had always been. This viewpoint expressed itself in riots outside World Trade Organization conferences and also proposals for “participatory economy,” “eco-communitarianism” and “postcapitalist” arrangements.

These ideologies all involved economies planned by elites according to abstract goals. There was only this difference: Unlike communism, they envisioned no violent overthrow of existing power structures. All their adherents could do was hope and advocate. This was 21st-century Fabianism—the doctrine, dating to the late 19th century, that socialism would come about through gradual reforms, not revolution.

But although capitalism keeps producing historically high levels of prosperity and order, its critics on the left keep hurling new terms at it. Capitalism is now called “neoliberalism” or “hypercapitalism” or, question-beggingly, “late capitalism,” and left-wing intellectuals keep pretending they have something wonderful to replace it with.

香蕉视频苹果下载In a recent , Time’s Anand Giridharadas writes that capitalism is on the run, and he’s jubilant about it. The Business Roundtable has announced its members’ dedication to maximizing “stakeholder” interests. Democrats are endorsing single-payer health insurance and the revolutionary Green New Deal. One serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders, is an avowed socialist; another, Elizabeth Warren, avoids the label but favors vast, debilitating taxes on corporations and the rich; and a third, Pete Buttigieg, wants to replace “neoliberalism” with “something better.”

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