… is from pages xxi-xxii of Historical Impromptus, a 2020 collection of some of Deirdre McCloskey’s work on economic history; this quotation, specifically, is originally from a 2018 interview of McCloskey:
What are the virtues of capitalism?
Trying things out. The only way to get new things, such as we have to an astonishing degree since the liberal revolutions of the 19th century is to let ordinary people “have a go” (as the English say), is through trying out commercially tested betterment. If an electric car in 1900 is a failure in the market, the age of internal combustion engines comes. If it succeeds in 2000, the age of electric cars comes. The government is ill-equipped to choose such winners.
The other virtue is massive altruism. A novelty does not survive a commercial test unless it is profitable. Being profitable means that the entrepreneur has found something that masses of people find desirable, such as central heating in cold countries or cheap air conditioning in hot. Being unprofitable means that you are harming people on balance, wasting resources to make things they do not want. Markets are the most altruistic system we have. Governments, by contrast, are systems of coercion, by definition producing what people do not want, worsened by corruption impossible in mutually advantageous exchange.