26 Dec '13     home | previous

Heritage Foundation and "Radical Capitalism"

Continuing my look for substance in conservative thought, following my piece last week on Ann Coulter's book Never Trust a Liberal over 3 – especially a Republican, I've drifted over to the Heritage Foundation's website. Its "BLOG" for December 21 was titled, "What Capitalism's Critics Get Wrong." The blog begins:

Attacking capitalism never seems to go out of style. Over the past 100 years, few institutions have been attacked so fiercely, so falsely and so foolishly. Yet capitalism's resilience continues. Governments based on the idea that capitalism is evil and that the state can create wealth by controlling an entire economy have risen and fallen during this period, but capitalism continues to thrive.

What do these critics of capitalism get wrong, and of what relevance is "capitalism's resilience"? Are there significant people around who are so critical of capitalism that they are revolutionaries who want to replace it altogether? The enemy we hear conservatives complain about today is largely the welfarism of Europe's Social Democrats. The Social Democrats split with Lenin's Marxism in the early 1900s. Today, Brits, Swedes, Danes and Germans support and enjoy their capitalism and their welfarism, and we don't find the Communist Party of China making pronouncements about capitalism's evil.

There are "critics of capitalism" who want to mitigate some of its ill-effects. People with a lot of money are able to make more money faster than others, which creates unequal advantage. We have Pope Francis who has recently voiced his concerns about wealth distribution, and before him there was Pope John Paul II, who said,

Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces.

Can we associate the Heritage Foundation with what Pope John Paul II called radical capitalist ideology? I'll pass on that question. But the Heritage Foundation's December 21 blog does appear to be a bit too black and white considering capitalism's success. It would be a stretch to describe capitalism as a pure success. Big developments, wars included, don't move forward with pure success. Societies have responded to capitalism's failures as well as its successes, and choice has changed the culture of capitalism from what it was in the nineteenth century when the anti-capitalist absolutists including Lenin were forming their opinions. Anyone who knows Marx or Lenin and Pope Francis knows that Pope Francis should not be lumped together with either of them.

Accusations about getting "capitalism" wrong are best replaced with accusations aimed at individuals getting specific points in economics wrong, just as it would be useful for critics of capitalism to employ some specificity in their criticism.

Copyright © 2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.