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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Capitalism not in danger, despite warnings”

    Is capitalism in trouble? Newsweek seems to think so, judging by this week’s cover, styled like one of those red, leather-bound editions of Chairman Mao’s sayings that would-be radicals used to carry around in their tote-bags, and blazing with the words “”The Capitalist Manifesto.”” Words to make any self-respecting socialist tremble in his grime-besmirched boots.

    If the cover prompted you to pick up the magazine, ready for the fire and brimstone of a revolutionary spirit, you were probably sorely disappointed. The “”manifesto”” turns out to be a puling squeak by one Fareed Zakaria, entitled “”Greed is Good (To a Point).”” With nearly 10 percent of all able-bodied Americans out of work, it might seem an inopportune moment for a national magazine to devote valuable space to a defense of greed, but no matter – Zakaria has no intention of offending anyone. He writes like he’s got gruel running out of his pen instead of ink.

    The economic crisis isn’t really the fault of capitalism, he writes. It’s more the responsibility of finance. Yes, governments may be partly to blame, but “”the problem goes well beyond Washington.”” Really, it has more to do with “”the global economy,”” though he can’t quite explain why, except to remark that “”people became increasingly foolish”” over the last decade. Reading the work of popular economists, I sometimes feel like I’m reading a higher form of astrology.

    Zakaria does suggest that the financial “”elite”” needs to clean up its act, sort of. “”If it doesn’t feel right, we shouldn’t be doing it,”” he declares. Forget about more regulations; what Wall Street really needs was a nighttime visit from the ghost of Jacob Marley.

    What is remarkable, and telling, about Zakaria’s article is how far removed it is from the concerns of the vast majority of people. For a purported defender of capitalism – you know, the free market – he seems to think that the only people that matter are elites: financiers and tycoons on one side, politicians on the other. The actual citizens who make up the vast majority of that “”productive economic engine”” he so fulsomely praises, are nowhere to be found in his “”manifesto.””

    The truth is that capitalism is in no danger at all. The pretended hysteria over its supposedly imminent demise is nothing more than foolish hand-wringing and pathetic bellyaching from people who ought to know better.

    It takes more than a recession to overthrow an entire economic system. No one is proposing we go back to the rural world of centuries past and enslave ourselves to landed aristocrats. Americans have always supported a capitalist order, and this isn’t likely to change any time soon.

    They support capitalism, however, for rather different reasons than Zakaria. Most Americans couldn’t care less how impressive our gross domestic product is. What they care about is the freedom to do what they like with their lives and the right to benefit from their labor

    Americans do not judge liberty and equality by how useful they are to the capitalist order; they judge capitalism by how well it supports liberty and equality. That is worth remembering in this age of self-appointed economic philosophers like Zakaria, who seem to fancy themselves as remote from the affairs of ordinary people as Plato’s philosopher-kings.

    Not every “”pro-business”” proposal is necessarily pro-enterprise. Neoliberals who pretend that corporate mergers are good for “”growth”” may be in favor of capitalism, but they can hardly be said to favor a free market.

    One often hears that Americans are “”turning toward socialism.”” The truth is that more and more Americans are realizing that a degraded form of socialism already thrives in our republic, and that the official line, trotted out by elites – that saving Wall Street billionaires from financial ruin is prudent and wise policy, but that Social Security will bankrupt the country -ÿis nothing more than self-serving prattle.

    When, after all, does our government ever act to secure a free market? Think of how infrequently the federal government bothers to enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which forbids businesses from forming cartels and monopolies. Any ordinary American knows – if only intuitively -ÿthat an economy dominated by a wealthy few is no sort of free market at all. They know that, but elites like Zakaria – who actually blames the supposed lack of cartels and monopolies in our economy for the crisis – don’t.

    The only thing endangered by this economic crisis -ÿbesides the mere livelihoods of millions of ordinary Americans – is the rule of the elites. Though Barack Obama may be a sweet-tempered moderate, the movement that swept him into office was nothing less than revolutionary. Capitalism may not be destined for the dustbin of history, but a few of its more passionate fans may well be headed there.

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