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An Open Letter to Michel Martin

Ms. Michel Martin
All Things Considered
National Public Radio

Ms. Martin:

I do wish that in your conversation with the Marxist historian Malcolm Harris you would have exercised at least a modicum of critical scrutiny (“Author Malcolm Harris’ version of Palo Alto: a microcosm of a capitalist system,” Feb. 19). Such scrutiny would have prompted you to challenge Harris’s ridiculous assertion that the capitalist “technologies and forces that we’ve invoked” since the end of the 19th century “have been incredibly destructive.”

Did Mr. Harris refer here to modern health care? Near-universal electrification? The dramatic improvements in the quality and spaciousness of housing? The spread of air conditioning and central heating? Access of the masses to radio, television, telephones, and now smartphones and the Internet? The enormous decline in the cost of food? The ever-increasing affordability of books and other sources of knowledge? The incalculable fall in the cost – measured in both money and, especially, time – of travel courtesy of automobiles and airplanes?

Of course not, for no sane person regards these outcomes of capitalism as “incredibly destructive.”

The lone destructive product that Harris identified as caused by capitalism are weapons of war. Forget that such weapons were produced also by communist regimes. Instead recognize that no Marxist-inspired government ever came close to producing the cornucopia of consumer goods and services that ordinary Americans today purchase regularly and eagerly – goods and services that raise life-expectancy, increase leisure, and free women from backbreaking housework.

To identify weapons of war as the signature achievement of capitalism is the equivalent of identifying lobotomies as the signature achievement of modern medicine.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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