Book review: A vital tome for those fighting for capitalism
Imagine someone programmed a Twitter bot which, every time somebody describes a problem of some sort, responded with some variation of “I think you will find that the root cause of the problem is capitalism!”
That bot would easily get tens of thousands of likes, retweets, and supportive replies every time. Anti-capitalist platitudes, no matter how lame and clichéd, almost always do. More, the bot would probably soon receive invitations to appear on Question Time and Good Morning Britain, and to write for the Guardian and the Independent.
Anti-capitalism is extremely in vogue: it is the conventional wisdom of our age. This is not limited to the social media bubble. A recent report by the Fraser Institute, “Perspectives on Capitalism and Socialism”, shows that one in three British Millennials believe that “the ideal economic system for the United Kingdom is communism”.
This makes Dr Rainer Zitelmann’s latest book “In Defence of Capitalism: Debunking the Myths” all the more timely and relevant. Dr Zitelmann takes aim at ten of the trendiest anti-capitalist clichés, and rebuts them thoroughly. This includes some which are as old as capitalism itself (e.g. “Capitalism is responsible for hunger and poverty”), some recent additions (e.g. “Capitalism is responsible for environmental destruction and climate change”), and some which have been added to the mix at various stages in between.
Dr Zitelmann is not preaching to the converted. He engages seriously with the arguments he is rebutting, and quotes their proponents at length, giving them a fair hearing. He neither misrepresents his opponents, nor does he pick on their weakest arguments.
You can read this book at more than one level. It is accessible enough for someone who is new to these arguments, since Dr Zitelmann does not expect extensive previous knowledge from his readers, and keeps economic and sociological jargon to a minimum. But a more advanced reader, who is already familiar with the basic arguments, will still find plenty of new information.
Kristian Niemietz is head of political economy at the Institute of Economic Affairs
Dr Rainer Zitelmann is a historian and sociologist whose new book, In Defence of Capitalism, is widely available