by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The new generation of anti-marketeers appears wedded to a notion that there is something out there that must be better than what we have, that the global commercial culture can be and should be replaced. There must be other and fairer methods for structuring commerce that we would prefer if the powers that be would allow it.
This is ideologically blinkered ignorance, and we shouldn’t be afraid to call it so. Human civilization has attempted every form of social organization ever conceived. Free-market capitalism enjoys its present status because history has demonstrated it is objectively superior to its competitors. Capitalism’s critics have either forgotten the lessons of history or never learned them in the first place.
Privation and want entered a period of radical decline after the market revolutions of the late 20th century. Climate change—a source of existential dread for many younger Americans—is ameliorated by market forces as much or more than it is exacerbated by them. Organizing a society around competitive impulses does not inevitably lead to atomization and social isolation. In fact, progressive alternatives to competition that are predicated on government intervention in economic life are likely to strain communitarian bonds. Families, churches, civic associations, activist organizations, schools, community centers—the sources of human fulfilment and belonging that exist independent of economic life—are crowded out of the public square by the ever-expanding state.
Capitalism’s record deserves to be defended, and it’s a good story to tell. The critics of the marketplace have valid concerns about the effect that commerce has on the environment, social equality, community bonds, and public and spiritual health. But not only are the alternatives to markets undesirable, these concerns are in many ways already being addressed by market forces.