Thursday, April 13, 2006

Capitalism: The Movie

Clive Crook writes in "The Atlantic" [$] about why Americans don't value markets enough—and why that matters:

....Capitalism is not much loved, even in the parts of the world it has served best. If only one country were to dote on free enterprise, America surely ought to be it. With world-beating companies, breast-beating CEOs, a timid political Left, dwindling and unpopular labor unions, and extreme prosperity (by international standards), one might expect the prevailing climate of opinion to be ardently pro-capitalist. But no. American enterprise has its spokesmen, brasher than most, just as it has its critics, as fierce as any. In the main, however, when intelligent Americans with no axes to grind contemplate the market economy, they are neither angry nor adoring, just wary and distrustful. It was ever thus.

Seen a movie lately? Watched television or read a newspaper? The culture that speaks to Americans, and hence to the Western world, radiates suspicion of free enterprise—cordial and restrained, as a rule, but dubious nonetheless. Yes, the system does work, says this culture, and there appears to be no alternative. But what a shame this is, it continues, because capitalism rewards our worst and most selfish instincts. "Greed is good" may stock the shelves, but is somewhat less than inspiring.

The point is not that such movies, or the culture more generally, argue that capitalism is evil. Just the opposite: it is that they so often merely assume, innocently and expecting to arouse no skepticism, that capitalism is evil....

It is difficult to see where any heightened appreciation of the market system is going to come from. Economists, presumably, ought to be supplying it. Unfortunately, in most cases, communicating a sense of wonder is not among their gifts. In some ways, teachers of economics are probably making matters worse. As practiced in universities, economics continues to turn inward, with ever more emphasis on math, quantitative methods, and narrow specialization. You can make a case for that, but it silences the discipline on the thing that matters most.


Crook has another essay in the May Atlantic on immigration.

On the face of it, America's welfare system is harsher and less hospitable than Europe's, something that many liberals lament. But in this respect, at least, that appearance is misleading. The unintended consequences of Europe's milder regime are not just a looming fiscal collapse but also, in the meantime, intensifying and plainly self-destructive anti-immigration sentiment. America's harsher insistence on work is not just economically advantageous (which is self-evident) but socially beneficial as well (which some may find surprising). Jobs alone are not enough to ensure successful assimilation of immigrants, but jobs are a necessary condition. By insisting that immigrants work, the host country attacks the incumbents' intellectual and emotional resistance to immigration. The work requirement increases the dispersed economic benefits; it reduces or eliminates the net fiscal burdens; and it lowers cultural barriers. As a result, tempers cool. In these key respects, America's more brutal model is kinder -- in addition to bring more sustainable.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Powered by Blogger