Why Not Capitalism?, Indeed: You Should Read Jason Brennan's Latest
By Art Carden
A few years ago, Princeton University Press published G.A. Cohen’s Why Not Socialism?. I reviewed it for The Freeman and found it unconvincing. I also appreciated these reviews from David Gordon and James Otteson. I wasn’t impressed or convinced, and I thought it clear that the blasted rubble of the socialist project remains just that.
In Why Not Capitalism?, the insightful and prolific philosopher Jason Brennan (who blogs at Bleeding Heart Libertarians) argues that some of Cohen’s critics miss his fundamental point, which is that if socialism were possible, it would be preferable to capitalism. Brennan goes on to seize the moral high ground and destroy Cohen’s argument through a combination of parody and careful analysis. He makes a convincing case for an ideal theory in which capitalism is preferable to socialism. He cripples Cohen’s case for socialism by noting that Cohen is comparing an ideal world of perfectly benevolent people on a socialist camping trip to a non-ideal world in which selfish, grasping, and vain people are on a capitalist camping trip. Brennan notes (rightly) that Cohen is confounding different dispositions and different economic institutions.
It’s certainly worth a read, and I hope to write a more extensive review later. In the mean time, Jason is blogging some of the main points at BHL.