Free markets are a wonderful thing – here are a few of the reasons why. Excerpt:
When the Great Recession hit, late capitalism came back into vogue. Finally, markets and economies were collapsing all around the globe, comrades! And yet…here we are, a decade or so later and capitalism is still doing pretty well. To be sure, it’s nowhere near perfect, but what economic historian (and Reason contributing editor) Deirdre McCloskey calls “the Great Enrichment” proceeds apace, with fewer and fewer people living in what the U.N. calls “extreme poverty.” As everyone except Pope Francis will tell you, that’s because of free-er trade and more (not fewer) markets. As Ronald Bailey has documented, higher levels of economic freedom correlate strongly with longer lives, less disease, better environmental indicators, and even higher rates of life satisfaction.
Communists, socialists, progressives, and critics ranging from Fredric Jameson to Bernie Sanders to Thomas Frank to Naomi Klein to Hans Magnus Enzenberger continue to marvel at and grouse about the ways in which capitalism “absorbs” economic and philosophical challenges, “commodifies” them, and then keeps on truckin’. Capitalism’s genius, it turns out, is a form of repressive tolerance that, as economist Joseph Schumpeter observed, brought more and more stuff to more and more people. “The capitalist achievement,” he wrote, “does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within reach of factory girls.”
Or, to put it in slightly different terms, capitalism allows more people to express themselves through work and live relatively high on the hog. Which brings to me three examples torn from today’s headlines that show why capitalism persists—and why that’s not a bad thing at all.
Here’s an example for you: Wal-Mart (or, as it’s known these days, Walmart.) Some years back, the Old Man had to buy tools, construction stuff and housewares from the old Coast to Coast store in Decorah, Iowa, the nearest town of any size to his old homestead. He remembers buying a toaster-oven form there for $65, a year or so before the massive Walmart Supercenter opened on the edge of town.
At first, the Old Man didn’t care for the Walmart, thinking (correctly) that it would put some small locally owned stores out of business. He was a convert when next he needed a toaster-oven, and was able to buy one at Walmart for $25.
Markets, given time, usually get things right. No person or body of people could ever hope to “manage” the tens of billions of individual daily decisions that make up a national economy; only the people, freely deciding for themselves what they want to do with their money, their time, their talents and abilities, can properly make up an economy. And that’s the only way an economy should exist -free people making their own decisions freely.
If you disapprove of my choices, then you are free to piss right off, and the same applies in reverse. That’s the wonder of liberty, True Believers; that’s the wonder of liberty.