The Capitalist Manifesto

Why the Global Free Market Will Save the World

(paid link)

I continue to keep the Interlibrary Loan staff at the University Near Here employed while other departments are ruthlessly cut. This book came up from UConn. The author, Johan Norberg, is Swedish. But he's affiliated with Cato, and his English is pretty good. This book is (more or less) a followup to his In Defense of Global Capitalism, which came out about 20 years previous.

Free-market capitalism can always use defenders, but I admit Norberg was pushing on an open door in my case. In each chapter, he takes on an anti-capitalist canard and rebuts it ably.

Has life under capitalism become "savage", as Naomi Klein claims? Is it only designed to help the "rich get richer"? No, in fact, it's been the gateway out of poverty for billions.

Well, does it (um) make rich countries like the US poorer, as politicians on all sides like to claim, and have done so for decades?

Begin aside.

And they invariably use a very tired phrase.

Ross Perot, 1992: "We've shipped millions of jobs overseas".

CongressCritters Sykes, Pascrell, and Deluzio, just last month: "For too long, American companies have shipped jobs overseas […]"

Republican Kari Lake, back in March: "When I’m in the Senate, There will be no more shipping American jobs overseas".

And if you'd like more examples, here are some I gathered in 2010, and here are some I gathered in 2012.

You'll notice that those American jobs are always "shipped" overseas. They never take planes.

End aside.

Ahem. Well, anyway, that's inaccurate as well.

Is income/wealth inequality a huge problem? No.

How about monopolies? Also not an issue.

But the wise hands of government are uniquely qualified to guide us to the future, via industrial policy, right? Nope; other than funding basic research, those hands should keep to themselves.

How about China? They're in the process of stumbling off their once promising path of free markets.

How about climate change? Don't we need government to put us on the path to net-zero carbon emissions via mandates, subsidies, etc.? Here I am a little more skeptical than Norberg about the crisis. But he firmly opposes the green de-growth advocates, who would condemn large swaths of the planet to miserable poverty, forever. Instead he favors a simple, revenue-neutral carbon tax. Arguable!

So there's nothing really surprising or new here, but there's a lot to like. Norberg digs out this bit from Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae from 391 BC, where an early progressive says the quiet part out loud:

Proxagoras: I shall begin by making land, money, everything that is private property, common to all. Then we shall live on this common wealth.

Blepyrus: But who will till the soil?

Proxagoras: The slaves.

(I think Norberg's excerpt differs slightly from other translations)