Capitalism: The known ideal

By Alexander G. Markovsky

Senior Fellow

Published in THE HILL

The American free-enterprise system is the foundation of our economic freedom and is at the core of our industrial democracy. It is called an industrial democracy because economic freedom and our democracy are deeply intertwined and mutually inclusive. They epitomize the ultimate expression of our rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Democracy cannot exist without economic freedom, and economic freedom cannot exist without the guarantee of property rights and an enforceable legal framework.

This ultimate interrelation has not been lost on the forces committed to converting this country into an egalitarian “paradise.” The conceptual problem with the conversion is that the government can’t control people’s lives without controlling the economy. Therefore, discrediting capitalism became a critical part of the American socialists’ strategy of converting free markets into a government-controlled political economy.

During the years since Marx’s “Das Kapital” was published in 1867, there have been no shortage of critics of capitalism. The critics are divided into two principal camps — constructive and destructive. Constructive critics aim at restraining corporate influence on the political process, limiting the environmental impact of industrial activities, and preventing system fraud and abuse.

The destructive camp, which consists of liberals, progressives, socialists and communists expresses disagreement with the principles of capitalism in its entirety, advocating complete or partial dismantling of the system, and replacing it with a “fair” socialist economy.

The annals of history, however, provide a stunning demonstration of economic realities and an objective assessment of the respective economic systems.

Despite its inherent warts and blemishes, capitalism established its overwhelming superiority after World War II. The defeated countries of Germany and Japan, which were completely obliterated and whose economies were destroyed, adopted capitalism as an economic model. Twenty years later, those countries were rebuilt and prosperous. By contrast, the Soviet Union, which was victorious in the war, proceeded with a socialist economy, as did its Eastern European satellites. Twenty years after the war, they were still floundering in the ruins of economic stagnation. Forty six years after that, the Soviet Union ceased to exist and all of its Eastern European socialist satellites adopted free market capitalist economies.

Although socialism has never fulfilled its aspirations — in fact it has crumbled every time it’s been tried — the Democrats want us to believe in the anomaly and its virtues. As Bernie Sanders professed in his campaign slogan, this is “A Future to Believe In.” But this is the thing — nobody has to believe in capitalism: It is here, it exists, and it works.

Even Karl Marx agreed. And Karl Marx did not just agree, he wrote it in “The Communist Manifesto:”

“It [the bourgeoisie] has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, or Gothic cathedrals… The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization.

“It has created enormous cities… and thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life… The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarcely one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.

At the dawn of capitalism masses of illiterate peasants migrated to the cities willing to accept any working conditions in exchange for what they saw as a secure income. Karl Marx called them “lumpen proletariat” (poor underclass laborers), who owned no means of production and had “nothing to lose but their chains.”  Continued increase of wealth, however, elevated the “lumpen proletariat,” into a wealthy social order that had property and means of production. This new class of citizenry — the modern bourgeoisie, or middle class, became the economic backbone of this country.

From horse carts and chalk boards to passenger jets and iPods, from polio vaccines to heart transplants, capitalism has done it all. From companies started in family garages to giant corporations, industrial plants, and laboratories around the world, no other system in the history of civilization has produced such innovation and such positive results for individuals, as well as for humanity at large.

Innovation and prosperity became the defining characteristics of capitalism. The information revolution has opened a new frontier of unlimited possibilities to anyone with a computer and imagination to transform limitless potentials of the human brain into the means of production.

The truth is that Karl Marx would never recognize modern capitalism.

The striking irony is that what Marx and his followers were dreaming to accomplish through violent revolution has been accomplished through a peaceful evolution of the free-enterprise system that proved to be the most powerful engine for prosperity in the history of humankind.

And no amount of falsehood can deny this record.

Alexander G. Markovsky is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a conservative think hosted at King’s College, New York City, which examines national security, energy, risk-analysis and other public policy issues, He is the author of “Anatomy of a Bolshevik” and “Liberal Bolshevism: America Did Not Defeat Communism, She Adopted It.” He is the owner and CEO of Litwin Management Services, LLC. He can be reached at info@litwinms.com

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