Sir, Mark Mazower, in his Books Essay “On Your Marx” (Life & Art, August 6), says: “Communism may have failed. But it can scarcely be said that contemporary capitalism – with its intensifying tendency to increasing inequality, its propensity to crisis, its hollowing-out of political institutions, and its casualisation of the labour force – has succeeded.”
Professor Mazower is factually right: communism was an “ism” in the sense that it was a coherent doctrine for governing this world. It had its promises, and it failed in delivering them. Capitalism, on the other hand, is distinctly not an “ism”. It is no doctrine to manage the world but an evolving ecosystem, constantly coping with threats to its own survival, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much.
And yet “capitalism” succeeded – at the game of communism. If realised socialism killed millions, realised capitalism enriched billions. As Deirdre McCloskey puts it in Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World, until the 1800s the overwhelming majority of human beings lived with a real income equivalent to about $3 a day. Modern economic growth increased that amount roughly tenfold over the world population, 30 fold for developed, “capitalist” countries. Whatever the posh talk on inequality, today for the first time the number of people living with less than $2 a day is below 10 percent of the world population, which has grown enormously since modern capitalism’s debate.
This is not the triumph of an “ism”, but of the the people that, with relative economic freedom, could try to better their own conditions without waiting for marching orders.
Instituto Bruno Leoni,
The historical ignorance of people such as this Professor Mazower is astounding and disturbing – as is their distorted value scale on which wide differences in monetary incomes are equated with genocide. As I wrote here,
But let’s be clear about one indisputable fact: capitalism vigorously pursued has never produced the atrocities – starvation, tyranny, and genocide – that are produced by statism vigorously pursued. Nothing remotely close.