Capitalism Dead or in Hibernation?

It seems as though every other day for the last couple of months there have been comments about the demise of capitalism or at least a radical governmental intervention into the market place to correct the perceived shortcomings of capitalism.   That has been  the lead story on the TV news networks and in the print media of late and has captured the front cover or front page on a few occasions.   That prediction has been made before for the US.  You are referred to the 1930’s and the very active movement of the left and the Socialist to bring socialism to these shores.   With the economic and social turmoil of that era and the aura of benign disregard of the abuses of the Soviets portrayed in the press of that time there was much talk then that the US would have socialism here.   The Roosevelt administration was on the march to a huge expansion of government and the unions were in the ascendency.   That union growth continued right into the ’60’s and then plateaued into the ’70’s and then began its  long but steady decline since then.

We Americans love our freedoms.  I believe this is true for all stripes of our political spectrum.  The far left and the far right both echo the calls for freedom.  They differ on which freedoms should be stressed and which should be more curtailed but the concept of maximum freedom for the people is a bedrock of our founding.  It has been true since the earliest Pilgrams first stepped ashore almost 4 centuries ago.   They were seeking greater freedom than allowed in their homelands in religion and in the broader area of personal freedom to move about and make of your life what you could with your own endeavors.  They were farther removed from the yoke of government and when the yoke became too heavy again we rebelled and our nation was born.

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are all about freedom and freedoms granted and guaranteed to the people and the states.  No other country was founded on the same basis in all of history.  Usually a country was created from common language, natural geographic boundaries, common religion and a consensus view of the power afforded the Emperor, King and autocrat in charge.  Freedom is at the heart and soul of capitalism.  Only and puny and diminished capitalism can exist with restricted freedoms.  The less freedom the less capitalism flourishes.  It has been with us in one form or another for several centuries now.   Capitalism as we would define it only came as the power of the monarchy or empire was lessened.  The greater the freedom the more vigorous the capitalist society.  The early experiments in capitalism were quite different than what we would recognize.  Under the Tzar there was a capitalism but it was based on favoritism and royal dispensation more than merit or worth of services or products offered.  The British used Mercantilism for quite some time to direct and control capitalist enterprise.   The capitalists had to conform to the needs of the state and its favorites more often than not regardless of whether the business made sense in the market place.  

The US has had the most productive and adaptive of the capitalist systems in the world.  It has been filled with abuses and downturns and dislocation throughout our history but over the long haul has served us extremely well.  For every Bernie Madoff we’ve had an Alexander Graham Bell, for every Enron there has been a Microsoft or Apple, for every downturn we’ve had an era of enormous growth.  It was bad in the ’30’s but great in the ’50’s, rough in the ’70’s but splendid in the ’80’s.  We should take care not to kill that golden goose.  The more freedoms the more capitalism and it has been ever thus.  If our capitalism is reduced you can be assured so will our freedoms. 

I recommond some reading for you.  Fernand Braudel wrote a triology about economic development.  The books are: Structures of Everyday Life; Wheels of Commerce and Perspective of the World.  Be advised he is left wing.  But the works do examine economic life going back for centuries and the facts are of great interest.  He does get on his socialist high horse.  He was a very bright fellow.  Of course he wrote the last of them before the ’80’s and was predicting the complete demise of the capitalist system.  It is always good to review a different way of thinking.  His history is quite good, his analysis of what events and facts mean are something else again.  No doubt if he was around today he would be one of the talking heads on CNN telling everyone that capitalism is finished.  He was an admirer of the socialist agenda even in spite of the abuses of the Soviets.  He thought there would be a kinder and gentler socialism even though he supported the general concept of the ruling party elite being in charge of everyone’s life.  Funny how those who disparage capitalism also always believe they know what is best for everyone and are willing to impose their view with the force of law.

Many smart people have written off capitalism before.  Smart doesn’t mean you are always right and certainly doesn’t mean you are decent or honorable–I offer Adolph Hitler and rest my case.

I see that there is finally some talk about putting guards on the ships passing the Gulf of Aden and the Somali coast.  I urged several weeks ago to revive the Armed Guard navy force from WWII to do just that.  It w0uld work and be very economical.   I would give the Armed Guard the same rules of engagement as in any other war–if it looked like a duck, quacked like a duck and smelled like a duck then open fire.  You could hail the vessel but it must respond or that lack of response would be considered hostile intent.  If it really was an innocent fishing boat then that is truly collateral damage.  Real fisherman would have no hesitancy in responding and identifying themselves. 



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Filed under business, Economics, government, history

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