What is it about capitalism that ignites a firestorm of revulsion and criticism that cannot be extinguished with rain showers of truth and facts? In today’s toxic political environment, it is impossible to peruse a left-leaning newspaper or blog without some scathing rebuke of a system that has lifted more people out of poverty than any other in human history. An author always lists the typical clichés, like income inequality, the 1%, or some other leftist trope, as evidence that the free-enterprise system has failed.
But the lamentations have devolved into nonsensical denunciations and affronts, compartmentalized into progressive buzzwords, like fascist, racist, and sexist. Some have reportedly gone as far as referring to scripture to portray capitalism as a tool of the Devil. Speaking on Late Night with Seth Meyers, millionaire filmmaker Michael Moore claimed that Pope Francis told him capitalism is a “sin.”
Even certain schools of economic thought, particularly Austrian Theory, have not been immune to these ridiculous slurs. Economist Nouriel Roubini, otherwise known as Dr. Doom, tweeted that “libertarian decentralization” is “fascist at core!” He later added that legendary economist Ludwig von Mises “supported fascism.” Economist Michael Hudson noted in an interview that Austrian economics is “fascist.” On Halloween 2018, The Huffington Post bemoaned “How Capitalism Screwed Women Over.”
While these are comments espoused by private but prominent individuals, they have seeped into public policy. You need only to assess the Democrats’ 2018 proposals that abandon free markets and expand the state, whether Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s labor-distorting support of a “a jobs program to transition + expand healthcare work” or California Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris’s basic income guarantee.
To the occupants residing in the leftist bubble – Democrats, progressives, Keynesians, and socialists – fair is foul, and foul is fair.
Is Capitalism Fascist?
…as free markets and free enterprise, they are far from fascism.
According to Dictionary.com, fascism is defined as “a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism.” The same source defines capitalism as “an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations.”
Even when you study the various branches of capitalism, such as free markets and free enterprise, they are far from fascism. You voluntarily acquire goods from a vendor, and it is up to the merchant to sell items that are demanded by the masses. It can only be fascist if the businessman wields the blunt instrument of the state to coerce the public to buy his products.
The Austrian School of Economics, founded by Carl Menger in 1871, maintains the principles of individualism, not collectivism. Essentially, it promotes the virtues of the marketplace. Once again, it is antithetical to government, which contradicts the idea that the theory is fascist.
Fascism is centralized planning managed by a Machiavellian despotic regime. Capitalism is decentralized spontaneous order, leaving everyday decisions – prices, production, and purchasing – to the private individual rather than bureaucratic busybodies justifying their existence by micromanaging our lives.
As economist Milton Friedman would say, capitalism is about the freedom to try, freedom to succeed, and freedom to fail.
Capitalism Liberated Women
Feminists will typically allude to the suffrage movement, Roe v. Wade, and a myriad of legislative efforts of the last 25 years as reasons women have been liberated from the chains of the patriarchy – except during the current day, because of President Donald Trump and the Republicans. If it weren’t for the benevolent nature of the state, females everywhere would still be confined to the kitchen and sewing socks.
Columnist Richard Wolff went as far as claiming capitalism has hurt women, penning in his HuffPo article the generic talking points emanating from NPCs:
“For men, capitalism meant escape ― from belonging to a lord, being tied to the land, and from rigid hierarchies. Now, they were free to sell their labor to whomever they wanted, without any moral or religious obligation. They relished their escape from feudalism, even as they found themselves trapped within capitalism’s employer-employee relationship.”
What Wolff fails to mention is that women, for the first time in recorded history, also fled their obligations. When the Industrial Revolution was born, hundreds of women took the opportunity to flee their towns, get jobs, live on their own, and cook for themselves. That’s the type of economic independence that today eludes a lot of millennials – both men and women.
Fast forward to the present, and women are thriving more than ever before. They are entrepreneurs and executives, married and unmarried, breadwinners and dependents. They are on equal footing with their male counterparts, and this is all because capitalism transformed society at the beginning of the 20th century. Women are one of the greatest beneficiaries of the capitalist system.
So, no, capitalism hasn’t “screwed over women.”
What’s Going On?
Economist Ludwig von Mises, a champion of free markets and stalwart of the Austrian School, escaped the fascism of the National Socialists in the 1930s. If he had had an affinity for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, then he would have stayed and promoted the ideas of national socialism. Moreover, upon his arrival to the United States, Mises would have written glowing essays on the rise of Hitler, not contemptuous censures.
Therefore, it is befuddling to witness supposed intellectuals claim that Mises, libertarianism, and capitalism are fascist. It’s the same thing when they claim black conservatives are white supremacists or that right-leaning females hate women. At the same time, it shouldn’t be perplexing, considering that the left cries fascism at every opportunity while simultaneously dismissing the genuine fascist tactics of Antifa.
The important question is: What’s going on? The only reasonable answer might lie in Occam’s Razor: People haven’t opened a dictionary or a history book in a long time, relying on the Counterfeit News Network or 280-character tweets to disseminate information and redefine terms. So, perhaps it’s time to grab your old Merriam-Webster and be amazed at the true definitions of words. You might learn that fascism isn’t what you think it is, or capitalism isn’t a zero-sum game that benefits the few at the expense of all else.