Another Attempt to Bluff Us All
Tibor R. Machan
Those aspiring to manage our lives, to take it over and run it according to their vision, never tire of trying to bluff us into letting down our guards. Now come Robert and Edward Skidelsky, in a book titled How Much is Enough? (Allen Lane, 2012), claiming that there’s just too much capitalism afoot and this must be contained. I assume by them and their pals. They urge us to re-examine economic growth “as an end in itself,” without any connection to “what a good life might look like.”
Who are these blokes kidding? First, most ordinary folks with solid academic jobs and are not writing widely promoted, prestigious books, could really use a solid dosage of economic growth these days. If they got that, they would know readily enough what a good life might look like–we do not need Skidelsky & Son to instruct everyone about such matters. Who are these philosopher king types to presume they have an answer for us all about something that is very closely tied to who and what we are as individuals and members of various families and communities of which this father and son team have very little of the necessary knowledge?
But of course beating up on an imaginary dominant consumerism and capitalism has a clear, not so hidden agenda motivating it. Supporters of the two have chimed in with even more nonsense than they produced in their book. Thus Larry Elliott in the UK newspaper The Guardian opined that we would all be so much better off if the stranglehold of “Anglo-Saxon capitalism” didn’t have us in its grip! What these people advise is that our lives be modified as follows: “Sprinkle in a bit of Keynesian liberalism and a pinch of social democracy, and the good society is within reach.”
Balderdash! Our lives are already fully ruled according to their vision. We have a bunch of Keynesian liberalism on both sides of the Atlantic–just recall the endless stimulus packages we’ve seen recently, following the Keynesian policies promoted by Professor Paul Krugman and his fellow statist tinkerers; consider the social democracy that’s been flooding Europe and the rest of the Western world (Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Australia, etc., etc.).
The last thing we have around the globe is the boogie man of global capitalism. At most we have some cronyism running amuck everywhere, but certainly no capitalism, with its strict adherence to private property rights, freedom of contract, personal responsibility for one’s winnings and losses and no politicians determining who are the winners and losers.
As to the malarkey of having “too much” and the need to have this curtailed by yet another team of elitists eggheads, the idea has been around since Plato’s Republic (who didn’t really mean it anyway), and by now we should know better than to place our trust in these meddlers who would eagerly rule whatever realm they can dominate with their crackpot opinions.
Consider, finally, just who the the most widely respected “thinkers” of our area and of the past two centuries. It is not the champions of capitalism and economic growth but the social democrats and their ilk who have been governing most countries around the world since at least FDR’s New Deal but more likely since onset of swishy-washy welfare statism foisted upon us by the likes of Otto von Bismarck. While not himself a socialist, Bismarck certainly gave the idea of statism in matters of economic security, education, and the like a powerful boost. More to the point, there hasn’t been much of a bona fide capitalist culture or economy since Bismarck’s rule in Germany and even America came more under his influence than that of Adam Smith, not to mention Ludwig von Mises or Milton Friedman, as intimated by the Skidelsky father-son team.
Honest intellectual and political economic history is vital to an understanding of society but the sort being peddled by the social democratic left is a distortion of the truth for unabashed ideological purposes.