A Crisis in Worthwhile Opinions of Capitalism
The Financial Times has continued its series on ‘Capitalism in Crisis’ much longer than we expected. Longer than seems decent, actually. The crisis will be over before the series ends.
Each of the Davos-list celebrities to write on the subject basically ‘talks his own book.’ The politicians tell us that they can fix what is wrong with capitalism. The regulators want more regulations; do-gooders urge us to rely more on good works. The economists have their economic solutions. The entrepreneurs put their faith in can-do hustlers.
Bill Clinton used to be a sharp politician. Now, judging from his comments in the FT, he has moved rapidly from becoming an elder statesman to the kind of senility that affects aging world improvers. Try to figure out what this means:
“Governments, businesses and extra-governmental organizations [can] work together to share expertise and implement lasting solutions…
“What we need is innovation, imagination and commitment. The most effective global citizens will be those who succeed in merging their business and philanthropic missions to build a future of shared prosperity and shared responsibility.”
Those are words that could have been written by a dull-witted robot…or Thomas Friedman.
The words were empty; at least they were not stupid. But there were plenty of stupid words, too, in the series. A representative of Occupy London wrote to say that Friedrich Hayek had “helped us to find capitalism’s flaws.” Hayek pointed out that the widely distributed knowledge of a market economy was much better for making decisions than the centralized information and planning of a state-directed system. But the Occupy writer missed the point completely. He quoted Hayek and then went on to suggest the very sort of meddles that Hayek warned against.
Some writers seemed to have nothing to say whatever. Others seemed to have nothing to say about capitalism; it was as if they had not thought about it. And some, we couldn’t figure out what they were talking about.
All in all, the series has been a big letdown. Capitalism has no real friends and no clear defenders, not at the FT.
We will have to do the job ourselves. Look for our ‘Capitalists’ Manifesto’…