Why Capitalism Has An Image Problem

Charles Murray, the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, makes the case for capitalism in, where else, the Wall Street Journal:

Mitt Romney’s résumé at Bain should be a slam dunk. He has been a successful capitalist, and capitalism is the best thing that has ever happened to the material condition of the human race. From the dawn of history until the 18th century, every society in the world was impoverished, with only the thinnest film of wealth on top. Then came capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. Everywhere that capitalism subsequently took hold, national wealth began to increase and poverty began to fall. Everywhere that capitalism didn’t take hold, people remained impoverished. Everywhere that capitalism has been rejected since then, poverty has increased.

Capitalism has lifted the world out of poverty because it gives people a chance to get rich by creating value and reaping the rewards. Who better to be president of the greatest of all capitalist nations than a man who got rich by being a brilliant capitalist?

Yet it hasn’t worked out that way for Mr. Romney. “Capitalist” has become an accusation. The creative destruction that is at the heart of a growing economy is now seen as evil. Americans increasingly appear to accept the mind-set that kept the world in poverty for millennia: If you’ve gotten rich, it is because you made someone else poorer.

What happened to turn the mood of the country so far from our historic celebration of economic success?…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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38 Comments on "Why Capitalism Has An Image Problem"

  1. Liam_McGonagle | Jul 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |

    When your biggest image problem is that people are beginning to perceive you correctly, you know you’re f*cked.

  2. charlieprimero | Jul 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm |

    Charles Murray fails yet again.  The system the public today calls Capitalism is *not* Capitalism.  A more accurate term would be Corporate Socialism, or National Socialism.

    Murray also perpetuates the Orwellian mind-screw of using the word “liberal” to mean Leftist.

    Is it any wonder that Joe Sixpack is clueless about economics when nationally known commentators like Murray can’t even get it right?

    • Anarchy Pony | Jul 30, 2012 at 12:50 pm |

      “Can’t”? Try Won’t.

    • Harryheck | Jul 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm |

       so long as the institution of property continues, and is enhanced by and represents the accumulation of capital, it is still capitalistic.  national socialism was capitalism.  i refer you to franz neumann’s ‘behemoth.’

      • charlieprimero | Jul 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm |

        Come back and tell us about “the institution of property” after you figure out who owns your booty hole, and how to use capital letters.

  3. “The Inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” — Winston Churchill

    • Liam_McGonagle | Jul 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm |

      “Laissez faire capitalism is the delusion that an ever shrinking pool of companies can service an ever expanding volume of demand”


  4. The only thing to get is money | Jul 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm |

    Let’s be honest here. Capitalism as an ECONOMIC system and theory is the most powerful tool of wealth and wealth creation ever known. As a POLITICAL tool it is disastrous.

    • Liam_McGonagle | Jul 30, 2012 at 1:08 pm |

      I think the words you are looking for are “Capitalism is the most powerful tool of wealth CONCENTRATION and wealth DIVERSION ever known”.

      The accounting equation is:  Revenue (i.e., your income) less Expenses (ie, everyone else’s income) equals Profit (ie, capital lost to the system).  That’s so simple that even a bankster on taxpayer life support should be able to understand it.

      There needs to be a mechanism for ensuring a minimal flow of capital to productive segments.  The inherently antisocial philosophy of laissez faire is incapable of producing such a mechanism–it’s very stated purpose is to concentrate capital as much as possible.

      Financial economies are simply one specific instance of ecosystem.  The principles of wildlife management apply as well here as in any other realm of nature.  We need to declare hunting season on big banks.

  5. Harryheck | Jul 30, 2012 at 1:20 pm |

    maybe it is because capitalism is in its descendancy phase.  capitalism was good only during its ascendency phase, as it presented itself as the most advanced form of production that contained the potential for human needs satisfaction.  of course, this was 200 years ago.  since then, the freedom-seeking bourgeois revolutions inverted and turned against the “rights of man” in favor of capitalist exploitation; capitalism eliminated the freedom that created it, thereby enslaving the proletariat AND the capitalists.  the difference?  the capitalists feel at home in their reification, while the proletariat are threatened and alienated by the conditions of institutionalized labor.


  6. Anarchy Pony | Jul 30, 2012 at 2:15 pm |

    Completely ignores capitalism’s inherent un-sustainability. Its reckless use of and dependence on non-renewable resources, and vast overuse and draw down of renewable resources. It may have created a vast amount of “wealth” but it does it at great expense to future generations. It’s obsession for continuing growth of population and capital will ultimately lead it into conditions that no longer permit it to exist.

  7. emperorreagan | Jul 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm |

    Capitalism has an image problem because there is no longer a counter-point to demonize while extolling the virtues of “our” system.  As long as the devil was lurking out there ready to pounce, the excesses and inadequacies were easier to disguise.  Now they’re laid bare.

  8. This sounds like a CIA press release.

  9. Aerogear 000 | Jul 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm |

    I like how he creatively avoided the part in history right around the turn of the industrial revolution in the united  states where there are plenty of examples of how good old American capitalism was blatantly guilty of stifling competing, and preventing others from becoming wealth by means of shear market control and lobbying. John Rockefeller ring a bell, he was the pioneer of the now vastly corrupt petroleum industry we now have. Capitalism has potential to be good, however it is difficult to keep regulations fair and free of moneys influence. Another thing i thought was particularly cute is how the author tries to say that people are against success and getting rich through capitalism. People are against the idea of the  1% running the nation with money instead of the popular vote deciding what ideals pass through legislation .

  10. Failed

    China and the Chinese Communist
    Government has taken over where the U.S.A., lost control of
    Capitalism. The Chinese Communist Government uses the powerful tool,
    this “Capitalism” to reach its own ends, China has
    harnessed this force for the betterment of its own society. China
    wields the “Sabre of Capitalism” with astounding skill.
    China controls Capitalism. America lost this control, de-regulated
    business, gave huge concessions, even “human rights” to
    soulless entities, corporations, and patent rights on living computer
    languages. U.S.A., now beholden to the international gangster
    plutocrats, shareholders of large multi-national corporations, ( made
    of Americans, Saudis, Israelis, Russians Chinese, Indians,
    Pakistanis, Europeans, Japanese, Internationals, South Americans and
    more, all shareholders or controllers) suffers the indignation of her
    Capital riches being transported to other countries without even
    complaint, enriching those countries, giving them even America’s
    technologies, American peons developed for themselves, over hard
    generations, American peons held as their rightful “Stakes”,
    and in this process, reshaping America towards a “Third World”

    Capitalism is only a tool, only a means
    to an end, not an end. Americans neglected to see the avarice the
    greed, the sociopathic disconnect, hatred, the psychotic drive, the
    blood-lust, the dominance, that lay in the hearts of those they bred
    for corporate excellence. America took the harnesses off. Nixon
    unharnessed the “Gold Standard” limits, Reagan set rich against
    poor, Bush was a puppet, Obama controlled, Romney a mouthpiece for
    the real power. America lost its technologies, its Capital, its very
    spirit. Witness the change in Detroit City alone, the rust belt. the
    steel mills, the whole manufacturing sector, all in China now.
    Caterpillar courts Komatsu, Hummers made in China, BMW’s replace
    Oldsmobiles, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, all with “Asian” (read
    “made in China”) parts, displaced Fords, Chev’s, Plymouths
    and Studebakers, with no “Asian” parts at all. Even the
    Toyota Tundra pick-up trucks, Nissans, at construction sites now,
    made with engines, many other parts, built in China. Computers, TV’s,
    Electronics – all Asian now, much from China, Taiwan. All hard drives
    from Thailand, even superior Open Source Operating Systems, software,
    Linux based, free on net and from other countries that do not patent
    living computer languages for unfair profiteering, and the dumbing
    down, trapping, of their people. Capitalism has no “image
    problem” American use of this powerful tool has simply failed!

  11. He left out resources. Capitalism is about exploiting resources to create wealth. Now that all the resources (including people) are owned by the oligarchy, capitalism has nothing left that will help people prosper.

  12. Derek Fugelso | Jul 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm |

    Writers in the WSJ do tend to set themselves up for attack when using this kind of rhetoric. The fundamental flaw of Republican-brand laissez-faire is the weird emphasis they place on the same class denominations used by leftists. Does it really matter if someone is a “job creator” or a “success”? Mitt Romney is only a capitalist to the degree that he operates in a system of voluntary exchange, property rates, and limited interference. In other words, he isn’t.

  13. what is called Capitalism today
    is actually Communism
    not ideological Communism
    but the Communism of the old USSR & China

    where elites reap the rewards of proletarian labor
    while the proletariat is whipped into subjection by propaganda & force
    the fact the most don’t notice this
    is a tribute to propaganda techniques of the elites

  14. Capt_sheffield | Jul 30, 2012 at 9:05 pm |

    The biggest problem, image wise, is that what most people think of as Capitalism (and what that cute picture portrays as the “Capitalist Pyramid”) AIN’T Capitalism… it’s Mercantilism! Mercantilism is, indeed, a foul and evil system, a kind of Corporate Socialism, that often masquerades as Capitalism. A true, Capitalist free market system (and there is no other kind… if it ain’t “free market” then it ain’t Capitalism) is NOT a Pyramid… it’s as close to a level playing field as we will ever get. What that depicts is the very anti-thesis of Capitalism… Mercantilism (a system, BTW, that was born in Ancient Rome and perfected in Europe). 

    • Jin The Ninja | Aug 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm |

      mercantilism was an early form of capitalism. it is ‘capitalism.’  like how a square is a rectangle. or better like a species within a genus.  one of its features is that most commodities are produced through non-capitalist production methods. can you name any commodities that are produced through non-capitalist methods? and capitalism, whether mercantilism or liberal, has always been tied to state interests. can you name one country where this hasn’t been true?

  15. What the hall else will peoples need all them petroleums anyhow in the futures! Petroleums good for one thing… burn it…gahahahah…and drugs.

  16. As Above, So Below: An apologist for Wall Street can no more admit the impact that geography, rather than policy, had on America’s GDP in the Twentieth Century (hint: we still had unbombed factories at the end of WWII; the rest of the Allied and Axis powers did not) than a radioactive trust fund baby like Mitt Romney can admit the role that a fortuitous birth into high socio-economic status, rather than competence, played in his own “success.”

  17. The only thing to get is money | Jul 31, 2012 at 1:32 am |

    *sigh* all of you bastards here have benefited greatly from capitalism but you fail to see this or do not research outside of your preconceived notions. Capitalism is quite frankly the greatest system on earth and no that is not hyperbole.



  18. BrendanBabbage | Jul 31, 2012 at 3:33 am |

    The problem with “Capitalism” is that it’s an incomplete theory.  It always requires exploitation of resources and holds the individual in contempt.

    For instance, in unregulated capitalism you can have both famines and gluts at the same time.  Like say too many people grow grain, then the price drops to zero.  So farmers stop growing grain beyond subsidence, other farms are even 100% commercial so they fire the workers and close/grow something else.  Next season there’s almost NO grain and there is famine, riots as food becomes expensive.  Next year, tons of farmers start growing grain.

    But the “Capitalist” will only show a chart showing an “Even” price that treats the highs and lows as nothing.  He’ll also have bet on the boom/bust of grain, making it worse as long as he makes a profit.

    For all the “law of supply and demand” they only like it when it works for them.  When it works against them they scream for the teat of government welfare with far more “I’m entitled” than the worst media stereotype of the “Welfare Bum”.

    Frankly, there should be a flood into the public of “In a nutshell” pamphlets on why we should no longer need “Billionaires” and install “Wealth Caps” under some “non partisan” radical group.

    1.  The rich rarely make themselves rich.  Ones that start as “Children of petty millionaires and vow to never live in such poverty again do NOT count”.  Most of the time their only worth is dropping from the right dam and being greedy enough and of average intelligence.

    2.  The rich don’t improve or innovate.  They buy and sell the work of others.

    3.  They often hinder innovation, by buying patents and NOT using them.  Or by using the legal system to stifle competition.  Or by financial conspiracy to block markets from competitors.

    4.  They do NOT create jobs.  Ones in foreign countries or by hiring illegals do NOT count.

    5.  They do not improve the stability of labor if not controlled.  One of the growth factors they have is buying stock in a company, piling it with debt, stealing the pension and on tax dollars moving overseas if they don’t just run.

    6.  The elites are the worst “Welfare Bums” in history, taking a mammoth amount of money and tax breaks to keep operating, but as the earlier parts of this list prove, they do nothing to justify it.

    7.  One less Billionaire is 1000 millionaires or 100,000 people with an extra $10K in income.

  19. If capitalism was soooo goood, the idea of socialism would have never exist, and no idea to promote free market would ever exist, and there would be no poor countries. Why so much talk about how gooood capitalism is? Simply because reality is different? And may be because capitalism is antisocial and anti-human nature? May be because idea of “free market” is against human nature? May be it was just simply invented? Why no worker promote free market and capitalism? May be because promoting free market is a big business paid by capitalists?

  20. sam23sirius | Jul 31, 2012 at 5:00 pm |

    Let’s be clear here. Socialism, although I do not care for it, can work. Oddly enough most leftist tools will not recognize the only two economically successful socialist nations: Nazi Germany, and Gaddafi’s Libya. That being said, a free market system can work as well, one only needs to remove the jewish supremacists from your society. Truth Hertz, but it is still the truth.

    • Don’t forget Cuba!

      • sam23sirius | Aug 1, 2012 at 11:44 am |

        You know, I never really looked into the economic situation in Cuba much. I always thought that they were heavily subsidised by the Soviets. I will have to dig a lil deeper.

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