Capitalism, Socialism, and the Future
Posted November 12, 2021
I just participated in a debate on international television in which I was pitted against a dedicated socialist in England and a financial professional in Germany. It lasted thirty minutes, just long enough to discern the problems in the world. The host was astounded that we all completely agreed. Here are the points on which we were all nodding our heads in a yes direction.
- The major victims of the last 20 months of disaster are the working class and small businesses. Their interests have been completely disregarded.
- Government policies are benefiting large corporations, ruling-class financial houses, and well-connected and monopolized elites in the pharmaceutical industry and digital tech.
- Major media seems only to serve the interests of the winners, while shutting down voices of dissent through exclusion, ridicule, and aggressive censorship.
- Existing economic trends amount to a massive transfer of wealth from small businesses and workers to the already rich. Inflation is going to worsen and exacerbate those trends.
- Political establishments have been thoroughly discredited throughout the entire world to the point that ever fewer people have any trust in the system at all.
- Expertise in general has utterly failed and publicly so. The reputations of trusted voices for decades are now in tatters.
- Whole systems that worked well since World War II are falling apart: supply chains, shipping, technology, medical services, and even the mail.
That was more than enough to take up the entire show. Right at the very end, the socialist from England was given the last word. She said that the workers of the world need to organize, take back power from the capitalists, and implement a planned economy that will make all goods and food and provide all services.
I didn’t get to respond but I’m sure my demeanor gave away my views. I rolled my eyes and threw back my head. The system of planning that she advocates is precisely what got us into this fix in the first place! The intellectual disconnect among these people is truly hard to fathom. In fact, I’m actually shocked that such people still exist. It’s a tribute to the power of fanatical ideology that people can mouth hoary century-and-a-half old cliches from the Marxist playbook.
Where Is the Opposition?
So yes, I was completely dismissive of this prattle. And yet, she probably does speak for many among the “woke” intellectuals educated over the last two decades. For them, everything bad with the world traces to capitalism, which they failed to distinguish from a state-managed system of private monopoly control. The possibility of a genuinely laissez-faire economy is completely lost on them.
I promise you this: the best way to make a terrible situation worse is to put dedicated socialist ideologues in charge.
But here is the problem. There certainly will be some great reset. It will affect every area of life. Demographics are shifting. People continue to flee blue states for red. The dollar is under enormous pressure. Inflation will prompt de facto price controls and lead to growing shortages in many products and services. Public anger will intensify. The ruling class will be targeted and so will all existing office holders who have pushed and championed these lockdowns and mandates.
It is not at all obvious to me what is next. The last truly transformative crisis we had in this country was not 2008, but 1979. That resulted in the tossing out of Jimmy Carter and his replacement by Ronald Reagan. The “left” ran from their own policies and retreated from many aspects of public life. Actual smart and responsible people took charge, lowered taxes, deregulated business, and shored up a monetary system that had become reckless. We took real steps as a country toward embracing freedom.
Those conditions do not seem to be in place right now. The “libertarian” impulse that rallies around free enterprise, wealth accumulation, associational freedom, and property rights has been crushed by the failure to step up and speak out over the last 20 months. The “right wing” in this country has been thoroughly convinced by Donald Trump that the real problem is “globalism” and free trade, and so aspires to a kind of reactionary autarky.
More typical in the case of a crisis this large — I’m drawing here from F.A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom — is an intensification of executive dictatorship. It’s bad enough right now, while living under the deeply unpopular Biden administration. Looming large right now on the horizon is the prospect of yet another Trump presidency. The only theme of such rule will be revenge. That might sound sweet, but actually it’s extremely unproductive. He is nothing but the perfect foil to Biden — hate going one way and coming back again in an unending war of all against all.
That is not a genuine path to recovery. It is more disaster and breakdown. I doubt seriously that Trump will ever bother to learn about economics, trade, enterprise, or anything else. He has been remarkably consistent in his belief that the real problem is too much global trade, plus too little in the way of his own personal power. It was that impulse that led to the lockdowns in the first place, the very decision that kicked off this disaster.
After the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of recession, the Hoover administration attempted to inflate the country out of the crisis, introduced various controls to keep wages from falling, massively increased government spending and debt, and generally used government power to fix the economy. It was the first New Deal. Not one person in 10 million knows that today. Most historians ignore that reality and instead pretend as if Hoover was a do-nothing president, when the opposite is true. Based on the reputation, however false, FDR came to power with an attempt to try something new, but it was actually nothing but a continuation of the old.
There is a weird historical analogy to the transition between Trump and Biden. Trump initiated the lockdowns, but to hear Biden supporters today, you would get the impression that Trump was a Covid-denying do-nothing president and it took Biden to come to power to really wage war on the virus. This story is complete rot, but so is the story about Hoover. Lies have a way of persisting in a political climate.
Thus have most Trump supporters never held him personally responsible for initiating the pandemic response and pushing Operation Warp Speed that have foisted these surprisingly ineffective vaccines on the world population. He certainly has never admitted it.
What about Ron DeSantis? What about other challengers to Trump in the Republican primary campaign? From what I hear, none will step up. If Trump is running, they will keep their safe seats at the state level or in the US Senate and wait it out another four years. What will those four years consist of? We’d be dreaming if we really believed that Trump would allow some kind of return to normalcy. I certainly don’t believe it.
I often hear that we are living under a fascist regime. I don’t dispute that. But it could get worse, as left and right trade punches for years while leaving the rest of the population in the lurch. The best possible outcome of this impending wreckage is the full restoration of what we call traditional freedoms and sound money. That is also the least possible outcome. But who knows? Maybe George Gilder’s next book will save us all….