Capitalism has a PR problem
By Scott Sumner
Here’s one of my favorite Deirdre McCloskey remarks, from her Bourgeois Virtues:
I don’t care how one defines capitalism, as long as it’s not defined as evil incarnate.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly how it is often defined. Here’s a recent example from Yahoo.com:
Satellite photos and testimonies of defectors show there are now about 400 mostly outdoor markets, called “jangmadang,” in the North. Recent surveys of refugees suggest most ordinary North Koreans resort to market activities for a living as the country’s public rationing systems have never been fully restored. Four defectors who talked to The Associated Press said they received no rations at all. . . .
There are risks in the business, whether authorities are hunting for contraband, cracking down on foreign currency or simply committing graft. Lee O.P. says she decided to flee after police officers confiscated her whole savings for unauthorized phone calls with her daughter who already defected to South Korea.
Now in South Korea, Lee O.P. said she was amazed at social welfare programs directed at her and other underprivileged people.
“For me, it’s like North Korea is a capitalistic country while South Korea is a socialist country,” she said. “In North Korea, if you don’t have money, you’ll just have to die.”
My image of capitalism is the rich and happy bourgeoisie of Zurich, Switzerland, and my image of socialism is the tens of millions who starved in famines in China, Russia, the Ukraine, Cambodia, North Korea and elsewhere. But that’s not the image of Pope Francis, it’s not the image of Bernie Sanders supporters, and it’s not the image of most intellectuals.
Today there’s a desperate need around the world for more capitalism. One goal I have in blogging is to give capitalism a more positive image.