The LPN-to-RN Bridge jOined the pejorative term capitalism the name that stuck Marx went back to the concept of money as evil and capitalism was the rule of money When the status of workers changed his views didn t Playing on money related anti Jewish tropes present in Western thought since the church took the Jews off the land in the 13th century and made them the money handlers that growing economies reuired Marx portrayed the commercial society that he condemned as Jewdom according to which everyone had now become what he called Jews But his rhetorical excesses made others react later by trying to rescue capitalism from Jewdom And this underlying conflict about money and about usury and Jews does continue to resonate in society More I must leave until I ve read The Communist Manifesto But let meust state Marx considered the unplanned aspect of capitalism irrational so there s a continuing trope in economic thinking of the planned and unplanned aspect of the economy one that also continues to resonateAnd now running out of room I can t go into the later thinkers in the detail I want to in the review proper Arnold the critical but non alienated intellectual who saw the energizing potential of the religious dissenters in England and worked to allow them into university And I saw how far back goes people s suspicion of what their children may be taught in school See below the Arnold uote from p 227 that I love on what living by ideas means uite Platonic I think in the regard for openness to new ideas See also my last status update from p 287 on a sense in which the Communist Luk ks and National Socialist Freyer paralleled each other From the chapter on Schumpeter I gained a new perspective on FDR and on why efforts to address the great depression weren t working prior to WWII I met Keynes I got some understanding of his continuing impact Anti Jewish tropes came up again with him as did the notion of elitism Marcuse maybe I ll say below It was stunning to realize that was the very air I breathed in my youth I have something to say in connection with Hayek and will eventually put it in a comment Also he was a conservative liberal is that Greek to AmericansFor links to other reviews see comment No 6 belowNow a summary statement about what I think about capitalism now I ve studied this book It will have to be rounded out by later discussion In Gilead a character says heaven is when old men and children can walk safely in the street If so this life is a little bit of heaven I can t knock that or be unhappy if it s spreading I feel that we are living through the nadir of Western conservatism in the past five years we have heard from and about alleged consevative intellectuals than we ever did in my life time but most of those from the increasingly shrill tone and mediocre content of the Salisbury or the Criterion to the exotic non sense of the alt right or the conspiracy rhetoric which permeates and of the critics of academic liberalism seems inchoate and opportunistic bent on making the most of their new found visibility at the expense of precisely those virtues of precision and discipline on which conservatism has tended to rest its case I am sure there are many conservatives who find this landslide betrays their tradition s principled reflections on means and ends but I am nowhere near knowledgeable or patient enough to go and unearth them from the repetitious morass of mainstream conservative discourse Jerry Muller could act as a figurehead for those dissatisfied if conservative leaders and followers had much interest in restoring their dignity as it stands it seems likely that he will find his readership among the liberals and the occasional leftist seeking a nuanced understanding of the other side Muller presents his project as a history of Western Thought about capitalism understood in the broadest possible terms less about the particulars or the varieties than about the concept itself its emergence and transformation This would be very interesting but Muller s book falls well short from providing it it starts with XVIIIth century and in fact look as much at the thought of economists themselves as to that of modern critics of capitalism left and right The result is a highly selective picture uite biased toward Muller s own brand of unorthodox conservatism see his article Capitalism and Ineuality in Foreign Affairs of March 2013 for a primer After a short introduction we discover the opinion of and interactions with the market of a list of famous and less famous thinkers Voltaire Adam Smith Justus M ser Edmund Burke Hegel Marx Mathew Arnold Weber Simmel Sombart Luk cs Hans Freyer Schumpeter Keynes Marcuse and Hayek Germans and Anglosaxons dominate the debate but this focus allows a few less known names like Freyer and M ser to slip into the fold and the books main strength is probably to be sought in this insistence on including critics of the market from both the Left and the far right the rightwing critiue of capitalism is rarely examined in its own right to the point that modern conservatism is so entrenched in free market fundamentalism that no one save a few Catholics seems to remember this tradition As a result Muller emphasises the overlap between Left and Right critics of capitalism not in pursuit of some oxy moronic reduction ie Jonah Goldberg not to subsume both under the evasive umbrella of romanticism ie Isaiah Berlin but rather to show that the critics of capitalism spring from the same source as capitalism itself in other words that the market s own constitutive contradictions make their emergence and re emergence inevitable While most of Muller s leftists seem to practice a blanket rejection of capitalism Muller s conservatism also acknowledge the necessity of State intervention to curb and manage the inbuilt excesses of the market economy and might offer tradition as a suitable counterpower to unbounded individualism To the uestion of Why the Left which young conservatives hopefully sometimes ask themselves Muller offers little of the usual canards of resentment conformism and middle class opportunism but rather emphasise that those thinkers have something to offer even to conservatives Muller wrote a book on Capitalism and the Jews so that he offers in his introduction a nuanced and interesting genealogy of the Jew s centrality to the critiue of capitalism both as author and as scape goat Unfortunately this also warrants some of Muller s dishonest asides on Marx s Disability and Community jewish self hatred or on Keynes alleged antisemitism On the whole the book falls short of delivering a convincing history of the concept of market or capitalism instead it offers a mosaic thinkers from disparate political orientation whose ideas are in themselves uite fascinating Muller s prose in clear and concise and I think does a greatob of introducing and illustrating complex concepts for the lay person It is a book with an agenda but in its scope and balanced approach it might prove useful even to those who disagree Lucid but sometimes repetitive Great read Some uotes While the Christian and civic traditions were intrinsically suspicious of commerce the Roman civil law was not Rediscovered in the revival of learning in the twelfth century it became the basis of civil law on the European continent p 15 While the Christian and civic traditions were intrinsically suspicious of commerce the Roman civil law was not Rediscovered in the revival of learning in
The Twelfth Century It twelfth century it the basis of civil law on the European continent p 15 Market activity was valued not because it made society wealthier but because the pursuit of economic self interest was less dangerous than the pursuit of other goals above all religious zealotry p 23 The civic tradition saw it as corrupting the virtuous citizen who ought to be prepared to sacrifice his private concerns for the state bringing himself glory by defending the commonwealth in war The Christian tradition saw it as a temptation to sin leading away from the imitation of God and the divine virtues of abstinence humility and love pp 40 41 A true sovereign understood that his own revenue depended upon the wealth of the nation which he would try to promote through freer trade But a company of merchants that had become the sovereign of a territory seemed incapable of grasping such considerations and used its political power only to buy cheaply in India in order to increase company profits p 71 Smith described slave traders and slave owners as the refuse of the A Pitying of Doves (Birder Murder Mystery jails of Europe wretches who possess the virtues neither of the countries which they come from nor of those which they go to and whose levity brutality and baseness soustly expose them to the contempt of the vanuished p 74 Moser Our ancestors did not tolerate these rural shopkeepers they were spare in dispensing market freedoms they banned the Jews from our diocese why this severity Certainly in order that the rural inhabitants not be daily stimulated tempted led astray and deceived They stuck to the practical rule that which one does not see will not lead one astray p 97 Burke As money increases and circulates and as the circulation of news in politicks and letters becomes and diffused the persons who diffuse this money and this intelligence become and important he observed30 The circulation of newspapers was infinitely efficacious and extensive than ever they were And they are a important instrument than generally is imagined They are a part of the reading of all they are the whole of the reading of the far greater number Let us only suffer any person to tell us his story morning and evening but for one twelvemonth and he will become our master p 111 Burke He that goes out an insignificant boy in a few years returns a great Nabob One of these gentlemen suppose returns hither loaded with odium and with riches That man s whole fortune half a million perhaps becomes an instrument of influence and the influx of fortunes which stand in need of this protection is continual It works both ways it influences the delinuent and it may corrupt the minister pp 122 123The French men of letters had delegitimated the monarchy the aristocracy and the taxing powers of the state in the eyes of the larger public117 As a result they were left with a government drained of authority and no longer capable of collecting taxes or conducting commerce The result he predicted would be ongoing instability and the threat of anarchy which would be controlled only by the massive use of force and eventually military rule118 Burke made these predictions long before the execution of Louis XVI the Terror the massacre of thousands of civilians in the Vend e or the rise of Napoleonpp 130 131 Regarding humanity as a fit object for experiment in order to prove their a priori theories they are willing to disregard the short term suffering of their victims on the grounds that it will lead to long term improvement Nothing can be conceived hard than the heart of a thorough bred metaphysician Burke wrote These philosophers consider men in their experiments no than they do mice in an air pump p 136 Men without their choice derive benefits from that association without their choice they are subjected to duties in conseuence of these benefits and without their choice they enter into a virtual obligation as binding as any that is actual p 137 For Hegel the great challenge of the modern world is not only to provide us with a sense of individuality and subjectivity but also to link us to a series of institutions with which we identify and which give us the sense of belonging to to a series of institutions with which we identify and which give us the sense of belonging to reliable world p 141 Everlastingly chained to a single little fragment of the Whole man himself develops into nothing but a fragment everlastingly in his ear the monotonous sound of the wheel that he turns he never develops the harmony of his being and instead of putting the stamp of humanity upon his own nature he becomes nothing than the imprint of his occupation of his specialized knowledge p 143 But there were two novel aspects of poverty the systematic creation of groups in the population whose skills left them obless and the sense of grievance and resentment that those without work harbored against society as a whole p 160 Marx origin as a member of a minority stigmatized for its religion regarded as a separate nationality and disdained for its economic role led him to a posit a society in which religious and national differences would be obliterated and moneymaking abolished His normative image of man is steeped in the Romantic ethos of the artist as a creator of reality an image that Marx democratized and universalized Behind his vision of the socialist future lay the new bourgeois cultural ideal of personal expression through creativity and all roundedness p 171 Arnold In spite of all that is said about the absorbing and brutalising influence of our passionate material progress it seems to me indisputable that this progress is likely though not certain to lead in the end to an apparition becoming visible of intellectual life and that man after he has made himself perfectly comfortable and has not to determine what to do with himself next may begin to remember that he has a mind and that the mind may be made the source of great pleasure p 215 Arnold s notion of the intellectual as disinterested critic distinguished him from both Marx and Hegel For Marx the proper function of the intellectual was to be a partisan on behalf of the proletariat criticizing bourgeois society for its fundamental structural oppression For Hegel the role of the intellectual was to stand above particular group interests and to bring to consciousness the ethical basis of modern capitalist society in the process creating standards by which to guide politics and culture Arnold s conception of aliens has
*obvious affinities with *affinities with Hegelian image of the intellectual But disinterestedness for Arnold had a rather different meaning It implied the ability to free oneself from partisanship to take a distanced enough view to be able to criticize the side of the issue to which one had been committed as circumstances reuired p 227 The war experience was a watershed for the capitalist societies of central Europe and for the interpretation of capitalism Especially in Germany and Austria Hungary the Great War led to political polarization as intellectuals abandoned the ambivalent liberalism of Weber and Simmel and moved toward political radicalisms of the left and right The movement of the younger generation to the political extremes came in response not only to the war experience but to the way in which leading intellectuals interpreted it p 257 Workers suffered from what Luk cs called thingafication Verdinglichung often translated as reification the inability to see that the human relations created by capitalism were the results of particular historical conditions that could be changed by human will rather than permanent inevitable laws of nature to which men had to succumb p 271 Two of the most pervasive themes of Schumpeter s oeuvre are Nietzschean the role of the superior few as a source of creativity and the stultifying effects of the resentment of the many against the claims of the creative few p 290 Though commonly attributed to the crash of the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929 the Great Depression had deeper and complex causes A long term decline in the prices of agricultural goods had radically reduced the buying power of farmers disasters among central European banks had ramifications across the Atlantic and an antiuated and unstable banking system in the United States led to bank failures which in turn had a domino effect pp 301 302 Hayek s weaknesses as a thinker come from his propensity to exaggerate the scope of his very real insights His was the crystal clear vision of the one eyed man p 386 Hayek s opposition to the use of government to enshrine any single culture led him to deny that there could be any shared cultural standards for the sake of which the market might be restrained As a result he had no way to evaluate the negative effects of the market or to suggest a principled reason to try to remedy them Here he proved far one sided than his revered predecessor Adam Smith Burke s admonition The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please We ought to see what it will please them to do before we risk congratulations never seems to have occurred to Hayek The Arnoldian ideal of the disinterested intellectual willing to criticize one side and then the other in order to create balance and counteract the one sidedness that led toward fanaticism that too was as alien to Hayek as it had been to Marcuse If it was partisanship that led Hayek to push forward intellectually to new insights it was also partisanship that kept him from a balanced and rounded philosophy pp 386 387 This book is about the philosophical history of capitalism It s interesting to see for example exactly how and why capitalism has come to be associated with liberal and also with conservative points of view I recommend it very highly In fact I think it s about time for me to re read Scist and neoliberal intellectuals historian Jerry Muller examines a fascinating thread of ideas about the ramifications of capitalism and its future implications This is an engaging and accessible history of ideas that reverberate throughout everyday lif.
characters The Mind and the Market Capitalism in Western ThoughtThe content was 5 star but the presentation could have been engagingThe format was strictly chronological discussing each economisteconomic concept in turn This made it pretty dry going until the 19th century when the disparate ideas started coming together to explain the basis of contemporary capitalism All the sections on the 20th century were uite rivetingIt was fascinating to see how the economic theories of of Hegel Marcuse Lukacs etc fit within their broader writing on critical theory good for the intellectual tradition of capitalism even if the author seemed a little bit right wing in an intelligent sort of way Also he spends too much time talking about marx s anti udiasm and seems to paint schumpeter as a celebrity otherwise good for background knowledge of the philosophical debates around the market and capitalism Excellent book on economic philosophy and thought that is accessible to the non professionallayman Very engaging historical read that still provides good insight onto the whys and hows of thought on the market from a Western perspective Too bad stars aren t available as this book would deserve them all My only complaint is nit picking sometimes the author repeats himself But since this is a fairly deep topic some repetition for the reader is not a bad thing and the writing style is uite easy to followOther authors have written along the same lines such as Robert Heilbroner s The Worldly Philosophers but the depth and coverage of Muller s book ventures deeper and widerCapitalism has been revolutionary and as with any revolution there have been those who see it only as a danger to the stability of the institutions that preceded it They were right to worry because capitalism has been very destructive completely eliminating the feudal society that preceded it Yet so much has been gained for human freedom individuality and well being As we read here there were those such as Smith and Hegel who saw the positives early onHumans are generally fearful of change while capitalism reuires it The writerphilosophers that Muller covers took a variety of positions from the left to the right in praising or decrying this change Their positions have for the most part aged well we can still see the relevance of their arguments today Voltaire unsurprisingly supported the tendency of capitalism to bring people of all kinds together in trade causing them to set aside such absolutist thoughts as spiritual redemption and the will of God But to my surprise he was at the same time uite a wheeler dealer in the markets Not only do readers gain an understanding of philosophical views they can form an impression of the kind of person each philosopher wasWe have all heard of Karl Marx but how many know the background from which he came By drawing the reader into a rich historical account Muller weaves a rich tapestry within which one sees the remarkable lives he documents Running throughout the book are the position of and attitudes toward the Jews who banned from other occupations eagerly moved into finance where they succeeded a success that caused others to target them as the cause of difficulties and threats inseparable from capitalism itselfThis innate threatening aspect of capitalism we see right up to the present day in attempts to prevent factory closings and layoffs Long term success overall is always accompanied by short term losses for one locality or another While an appreciation of the general wealth that capitalism can bring has greatly weakened the opposition to it that once brought rioting and violence we will see in the current economic downturn if resentment will have a resurgenceAs Muller states in his conclusion capitalism has been at the center of European thought for centuries Most histories do not give it the central place that it deserves The Mind and The Market gets a place on my bookshelf because I know that I ll refer back to it for the penetrating insights it offers into how both the psychological and physical worlds we live in came to beBut the story is far from over Capitalism is now facing its greatest challenge can it be modified to a limited world where growth cannot continue forever Muller mentions that such uestions were asked during the Great Depression with the implication that they were unfounded But now we face them again on a warming planet that will not allow the uestion to be put off Muller does for capitalism what Ferris did for cosmology in Coming of Age in the Milky Way showing how views around markets commerce trade etc have evolved throughout the ages It helped me organize my own views around capitalism but they still are and will likely remain a umbled mess The book is dense Muller provides in depth histories of each character s background but in case anyone is curious here s a summary Chapter 1 History Way back the church didn t like trade and most people figured that if someone gained wealth somewhere then someone must have lost wealth elsewhere So basically the accumulation of wealth was viewed as a bad thing unless you were a nobleman and took it from others However as human wealth increased there came an economic need for money lending and trade So the Jews stepped in and in return for being hated by all they carried out the important function of lending money and acting as middlemenAs time passed Grotius Hobbes Locke Spinoza 1600 s and others tried to separate church and state envisioning a state that protected the rights of citizens to do as they please as opposed to a state that imposed morality on citizens from above As the conception of the state changed people came to defend the market as a means to freedomChapter 2 VoltaireVoltaire 1700 s defended the pursuit of wealth through markets and morally legitimized the consumption of wealth Before Voltaire luxury had been frowned upon for blurring class lines and corrupting civic virtue Voltaire didn t think that market activity was the supreme goal of life but he thought it was a good diversion from religious zealotry which had caused so many deaths Voltaire liked merchants and disliked the church To Voltaire self interest was likely to promote peace than fervent ideological commitment Compared to the altruistic crusade of forcibly saving one s neighbor s soul even if it leaves his body in ruins the pursuit of wealth is a potentially peaceable pursuit and one that leaves one s neighbor content Voltaire got rich through England s growing financial industry but did so through shady dealings that led people to hate him He tried to save face by slandering the Jews According to Voltaire Abraham was so avaricious that he prostituted his wife for money David slew Goliath not to protect his people but for economic gain Herod did not complete the rebuilding of the temple because the Jews though they loved their sanctuary loved their money Chapter 3 Adam SmithAdam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776 arguing that worldly happiness was a good thing a free market economy both nationally and internationally is the best way to improve everyone s standard of living and that through markets self interest can be steered towards the common good If you re thinking of reading this book I assume you already know all about Smith He said some stuff about pins some other stuff about emotions and thought that specialization though it wouldn t make us happier on the ob would make us prosperous This was at a time when many people worried that rising wages and standards of living would lead to laziness and expensive goods would make Britain uncompetitive in the international economySmith was a nicer man than Voltaire He gave most of his money to charity in secret and did not blame the Jews for the bad things in life Contrary to what many believe Smith was a big fan of altruism he Chinas Search for Democracy just didn t think that it was sufficient to run our economy given that it involves dealings with strangers who are unlikely to stir our empathy Also Smith saw a big role for the state and figured that as economies grew the state would grow as well enforcing laws providing for defence maintaining infrastructure and even offering schoolingChapter 4 Justus M serM ser 1700 s saw that a market economy would erode his ideal traditional culture by imposing universal laws as opposed to local norms and allowing for a egalitarian society as opposed to the virtuous one in which a hierarchy allows people to know their place Where Smith saw that markets could liberate the poor from poverty M ser thought that liberation from poverty was not desirable as poverty produced virtueM ser was an anti Enlightenment conservative and made no bones about it in his mind intellectual rationalism could not provide knowledge of the deeper rationality of local historical experience M ser romanticized artisans and peasants and demonized shopkeepers and peddlers often Jews In his view people needed government policy to protect them from the temptation of buying products that they really didn t need However even to M ser a limited market was desirable because a bit of competition would keep prices in check Chapter 5 Edmund Burke Burke was the granddaddy of modern conservatism He agreed with Smith on most things but was conservative and opposed to government intervention Burke worried that we were coming to rely too heavily on rational thought to organize our affairs He recognized that many human institutions grow organically serving important purposes which may not be apparent to rationally minded hard nosed inuiry Therefore we must use reason with humility and recognize that the wisdom in established institutions may be hidden to us Thomas Sowell anyone Where we reform society we must do so cautiouslyBurke saw government intervention in the market which was often blind to unintended conseuences as an example of the overreaching of abstract reason In Burke s view the role of the intellectual was to convince politicians and the public of the long term beneficent effects of acuisitiveness channelled through the competitive market The people didn t understand how they benefit from a competitive market so needed to be explicitly taught Chapter 6 HegelHegel early 1800 s knew that unless his fellow citizens could understand the rationale behind society s institutions they would feel alienated and unhappy Therefore he tried to rationallyustify why institutions including the market were good for society By understanding the ethic of institutions individuals could feel at home within themHegel thought that institutions don t constrain humans but instead liberate them from base drives so that they can pursue the drives of a higher rational ethical self The market is an ethical thing because it causes us to bend our own wills to the reuirement of others Hegel thought that government should do everything Smith thought but that it should also intervene to level out boom and bust cycles and should inspect foodmedicineetc Chapter 7 Marx Marx 1800 s saw the poverty of the working class as an inevitable irreversible outcome of the market He felt that intellectuals had a duty to encourage the working class to revolt and figured that the oppressive nature of capitalism would eventually lead to a communist revolution However he founded his ideas on faulty economic assumptions which both he and Engels later contradicted and neglected to note the improvements to working class life that took place as he was writing Das KapitalMarx viewed capitalism as exploitation and recast many of the old Christian critiues of the market As he saw it money is fundamentally unproductive only those who live by the sweat of their brow truly produce and therefore not only interest but profit itself is always ill gotten In his view competition isolated people from each other self interested motives could not give rise to genuinely moral behaviour and profits were essentially theftAs the industrial revolution disrupted the economy Marx looked around and interpreted the agony of a declining preindustrial order as the birth pangs of a postcapitalist future which he hoped
*to usher in *usher in and his comrade Engels wanted to ditch the unplanned economy in favour of socialism whereby everything would be rationally planned and centrally organized However Marx didn t say much about how to actually organize this However Marx didn t say much about how to actually organize this economy Marx capitalized on anti Jewish sentiment bashing the Jews as a way to drive home his demonization of capitalism arguing that the negative characteristics of Jews worshipping money etc were actually characteristics of a market oriented society Chapter 8 Matthew ArnoldLike Marx Arnold 1800 s saw problems with capitalism but unlike Marx Arnold didn t seek to abolish it Instead he tried to convince politicians and the public that the virtues and gains of capitalism were not ends in themselves but were simply means to a higher enriching existence He thought that the education system was the place to get this message across Chapter 9 Weber Simmel and Sombart late 1800 s 1900 sMax Weber was a nationalist and a social Darwinist who thought that successful competition in the world economy reuired the government to encourage capitalism Weber realized that workers will often resent the economically powerful but counselled that capitalism was in their best interests Although capitalism leads people to pursue money at the expense of happiness it has no desirable alternative especially not socialism Weber criticized Marxism as fantasySimmel figured that markets produced tolerance because when people are focused on their own means they become less udgmental of the ways in which others lead their lives Plus the competition of the marketplace aligns suppliers minds with the desires of third parties to win their business so encourages social integration A uote Simmel reminded his readers that money allowed for the cooperation of individuals who would otherwise have nothing to do with one another Sombart thought that capitalism might produce a higher material standard of living but felt that it robbed people of culture uality of life inner peace and their relationship to nature Sombart drew upon anti Semitism in his critiues of capitalismChapter 10 Luk cs and FreyerLuk cs thought capitalism alienated people by loosening social ties separating producers from consumers and degrading community Luk cs wanted to show workers that capitalism is not inevitable and men need not succumb to it Communism could replace it Freyer was basically Luk cs but thought that Nazism rather than Communism should replace capitalism However Freyer wasn t a racist he simply thought that Nazism could provide the sense of shared morality lacking in capitalism After WWII Freyer turned away from Nazism although he remained anti capitalist he thought that people should look to their families religions and professional identities to provide meaningChapter 11 Schumpeter Like Marx Joseph Schumpeter 1940 s thought capitalism would be superseded by socialism but unlike Marx Schumpeter thought this was a sad irony According to Schumpeter capitalism is a great economic arrangement but inevitably breeds resentment because it is disruptive and produces ineuality in society Schumpeter feared that socialism would be disastrous alienating the most productive citizens bringing about a decline in the standard of living and leading to social conflict The only way that socialism could work would be to incentivize those of superior abilities by way of differential reward in other words Schumpeter thought that successful socialism would need to ditch its egalitarian aspirationsChapter 12 Keynes and MarcuseJohn Maynard Keynes thought government should stimulate economic activity during recessionsdepressions which would put people to work who would then spend which would create a demand for goods which would lead to investment which would create employment Keynes was very influential from the 1930 s through the 1970 s Herbert Marcuse got critical theory going He thought that social analysis must be based in prior political commitment thought that people who claimed to be satisfied with life needed to be schooled in all the ways they are actually dissatisfied in the hopes of bringing on a revolution and thought that capitalism repressed pleasure to unacceptable levels Basically Marcuse was me when I was in undergrad Marcuse thought that the fact that men and women feel happy was a problem because their professed happiness blinds them to the bondage of living under totalitarian liberal democracies He thought that capitalism made people slaves to their desires Centralized control of the economy should replace capitalism but Marcuse was uninterested in the specifics of how this would be doneChapter 12 HayekFriedrich August von Hayek died in 1992 thought that government should step back because where it held great power it would often cater to vested interests Hayek thought that the long term widespread benefits of capitalism came at the expense of some established social groups who would try to regain power through force and politics All in all Hayek loved capitalismHayek argued that a planned economy cannot work because the gove. Capitalism has never been a subject for economists alone Philosophers politicians poets and social scientists have debated the cultural moral and political effects of capitalism for centuries and their claims have been many and diverse The Mind and the Ma. Rnment cannot coordinate the decentralized information of a market conveyed by prices and government should not tell people what to value In other words socialism would be both inefficient and totalitarian Hayek thought that the fact that the market lacked a higher moral purpose was a good thing because it allowed for people with differing values to cooperate Contrary to what today s ideologues assert Hayek saw a role for the welfare state and figured that it would grow as affluence increased The government could play a role in social insurance education regulation of working conditions buildings etc Hayek criticized Keynesianism arguing that it led to high inflation And he didn t like egalitarianism arguing that it would reuire intrusive measures and would destroy incentives Hayek had an interesting bit to say about democracy its greatest benefit comes not because it gives the people a voice but because it allows for peaceful transitions of power If democracy had too much power economic interest groups would dominate the playing field Therefore liberal democracy should put limits on the range of uestions that could be decided through the political process As he asked Is there really no other way for people to maintain a democratic government than by handing over unlimited power to a group of elected representatives whose decisions must be guided by the exigencies of a bargaining process in which they bribe a sufficient number of voters to support an organized group of themselves numerous enough to outvote the rest Well said FA Hayek A decent but not great book The recycling of uotes in different parts of the book was annoying The descriptions of different intellectuals ideas was usually good though I think he foundered on Hegel and was not clear with some of the others The plethora of footnotes made me think he was trying to find cover for his own opinions rather than give me facts about the various intellectuals profiled DoneIn 2010 I read this New York Times review of another of Jerry Muller s books Capitalism and the Jews Intrigued I looked up the author and his books including The Mind and the Market but at first I thought they were books about I don t know capitalism and finance so I gave them to my nephew because he is a Republican and I thought these would be books that were compatible with his views I had offended him by something I wrote on Facebook something he took to mean I thought Republicans or maybe conservatives were prone to being spun that is that they belonged to a class of manipulable people anyway something that had come across as derogatory for which I was sorry So I thought these were books that might lend support to his political and economic views and yes reflect broadmindedness on my partThen a year or so later I came across the first book in a library and picked it up And it wasn t at all what I had thought It s history not finance or whatever and it knocked my socks off I reviewed it here That first book was a lot shorter thoughNot everybody is as excited about Muller as I am One of my friends with a background in finance said Capitalism and the Jews was boring Another friend a retired economist took a look at my behest and abruptly told me to stop reading it and get The Worldly Philosophers instead He took umbrage at all the philosophy which he thought had no place in learning about economics and would only be confusing And then there s my Goodreads friend who acts like I ve stepped in something dirty by reading this particular book which to him is unremitting promotion of the capitalist agenda Yet I found a professional review a read from the Left that lauded this book More on reviews at the endI read this book because of what I was hearing people say about capitalism Now in the past that may not have been something I would have even noticed but now I did and I wondered why they said the things they did These weren t poor people but generally upper middle class educated people who had done okay often than okay That made them sound hypocritical as though applying their morals to others but not to themselves and it occurred to me they didn t know what they were talking about And neither did I This Facebook note is the first thing I ever wrote on this subjectIn what follows I will lay out some of what I ve learned and what so impressed me I found this book to be an objective exploration of modern thinking about capitalism set in history so I could tie it in with other learning and telling it like
*it is always *is always A Publishers Weekly review said he wrote clear but uninspiring prose But for me the clarity and transparency are inspiringHow to begin learning What to read to learn about capitalism Books about money and the economy about who ruined what and who did what to whom come out all the time They are often tendentious and the beginning learner would have try and ferret out where they re coming from and why they re saying what they re saying a seemingly endless and unrewarding task So I welcomed the author s introductory assurances that ideas about capitalism had been the subject of discussion for three hundred years already and that many new commentators are hitting familiar themes and not starting from scratch even when they think they areThe book then Muller starts by sketching historical ideas about commerce For both the early church and in classical Greek thinking commerce was bad According to such thinking there was only so much wealth in the world and people who bought something somewhere and sold it for a higher amount elsewhere were stealing being leeches on the system For early Christianity only what one made or grew with one s hands was acceptable But there the similarity between the church and Greek antiuity breaks down For the church money itself not only commerce was evil and thus it s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get God s kingdom But for the Greeks it was poverty that corrupts one needed wealth derived from war and pillage and also from slave labor that sounds like a permanent holocaust to avoid corruption The other major tradition of European antiuity Rome with its system of laws and its protection of private property nearly points forward The historical overview gets us up THROUGH HOBBES LEVIATHAN AND HIS PRECURSORS Hobbes Leviathan and his precursors 17th century vintage who used argument and ridicule against religious claims to political power They also saw the Greek civic tradition as pitting
PERSONS AND NATIONS AGAINST EACH OTHER INSTEAD OF WHICHand nations against each other instead of which their opinions nations should establish secular sanctuaries for peaceful coexistence intellectual advancement and the development of prosperityHobbes aim was no less than to turn the prior value system upside down Think the seven deadly sins From the new perspective that was a view that had served to keep people in their place The new paradigm was advancement via self interest Now greed and envy might be transmuted into motivation and desire and seeking pride into self esteem and so on It all worked something like thisThus Vice nursed IngenuityWhich oin d with Time and IndustryHad carry d Life s ConvenienciesIt s real Pleasures Comforts EaseTo such a Height the very PoorLived better than the Rich before From Mandeville s 1714 satirical poem The Grumbling Hive also uoted in the bookHobbes et al were springboards to the 18th 20th century figures who are the book s main focus First comes Voltaire whom the author sees as a transmitter than an originator of the new ideas Voltaire was an early intellectual philosophe who operated in the marketplace of ideas and sought to influence that new entity public opinion People still largely men met in reading clubs and in lodges and gained understanding of government activities intellectuals tried to influence them as well as monarchs For Voltaire peace not wealth was the goal of the marketplace with self interest a lesser danger than religious zealotry that had fueled the devastating European civil wars of recent centuries I ve used my review of Candide as opportunity to talk about Voltaire so won t say here except that Voltaire was not the last to pursue his self interest improperly using new knowledge to which governments hadn t yet caught up to manipulate and defraud othersAnd that leads to the proper role of governments according to Adam Smith His reputation notwithstanding the invisible hand was ust one part of his vision The visible hand of government in one of its roles was to keep individuals from manipulating the market to their own advantage Naturally workers would try to raise wages higher than the market could bear and manufacturers would try to keep wages artificially low Governments should keep either from happening and keep the marketplace humming along But since employers had power effort was needed to make them behave See my uote from p 64 below to the effect that wage earners are the majority of any country and their welfare was the prime concern of economic policy according to SmithAdam Smith was from Scotland a crucible of intellectual advance in the 18th century Before centralized government reached the Gaelic speaking Highlands the default system there consisted of clans each with a chieftain who wielded absolute political and military power at the top which sounds pretty much like warlords and in Smith s day the clans were pacified along with the suppression of the Jacobite rebellion The Scotland of his day also was comprised of cosmopolitan lowlands areas as well as rural areas where the feudal system still held sway and where landlords still held dominion over their tenants Smith could compare and contrast the lives of relatively free people in the economically advanced areas with those who were still subjugatedAdam Smith was a liberal in both modern senses of the word He wanted the market to work its transformation on people and society and his goals were progressive maybe radical to free people from subjugation and abject poverty But his rhetoric which sought to overturn much conventional thought of his day was such that he still holds iconic sway for many as a Milton Friedman type conservative That s changing though Here s a great 2010 New Yorker piece by Adam Gopnik that s in the same vein as Muller s expositionJustus M ser a contemporary of Adam Smith lived and wrote in a little country called Osnabr ck east of Holland and surrounded on its other three sides by Prussia The author includes M ser who is little known as a prototypical conservative one who was rooted in his country and loved it and so didn t seek radical solutions to its plight Although M ser could see that exports would increase local wealth products coming in from abroad were in his eyes spreading the virus of the encroaching new economy whether through mom and pop shops in town or peddlers in the countryside He wanted to forestall his society s dissolution power and wealth becoming divorced from land ownership honor and pride of place from guild membership For example there was pressure to allow men of illegitimate birth into guilds but for M ser letting bastards in would collapse the rungs on which honor and status rested and destroy the caste like levels supporting society feudal society being mostly static with no rung climbing allowed and strictures on holding onto one s current rung Another change was that the locals began migrating across the Dutch border in the summer to pick crops for the advanced and wealthier economy next door Having money as a result they married earlier instead of having to wait until they inherited cottage and subsistence farm from their fathers So now the population shot up and a new class of poor people arose who existed outside the institutions of the old society So change was scary as hell as were the intellectuals merchants of change who were plying reform minded monarchs with ustification for it This chapter and the next one on Edmund Burke made sense for me of the way modern conservatives like Thomas Sowell for instance rail at intellectuals when after all so it seemed that s what they themselves are But change was comingBurke initially seems to cut across current conceptions of conservative and progressiveTheir historical circumstances can impact what it is conservatives want to conserve Progressives in America liberals in contrast want change Radicals left or right from the point of view of capitalism of course seek to upset the applecartBurke was brilliant as was Adam Smith but the circumstances of his birth were different Instead of being from up and coming Scotland he was from Ireland which had been exploited by England and kept down so as not to compete To himself he was English but to everybody else he was an Irishman He believed in the market economy his words in fact often taking on a uasi religious tone but in his thinking he also relied on the existing institutions of society including the aristocracy to maintain order amidst the expanding freedom bestowed by the new economy So he deplored the East India Company s ravaging of India which today might sound leftist For Burke the issue was money men operating outside institutional control eviscerating an ancient society for their own enrichment Here I learned the origin of the term nabob remember that These nouveau riche returned only to buy seats in parliament and spread corruption to the home nest Burke also was the first to predict the Terror that was to follow the French Revolution on the basis that the intellectuals of the National Assembly had destroyed the societal institutions he thought were reuired to maintain order Burke was less likely than Smith to approve of government intervention He believed in getting his hands dirty by participation in government and when taking on his political opponents he tended to employ drama and hyperbole that has stylistic echoes still audible today in conservative speech And to balance Gopnik on Smith here he is on BurkeDespite their great faith in the benefits of ongoing economic change the innovators from Adam Smith on realized education and guidance would be needed for the emerging industrial working class But almost from the get go there arose other intellectuals with Rousseau in the lead who saw the new system as making happiness impossible Modern man was fragmented reduced to a cog in the assembly lineAlienation cartoon of a man applying for a ob He s saying to the prospective employer I m looking for a position where I can slowly lose sight of what I originally set out to do with my life with benefits The New Yorker s economic cartoons in On the MoneyEnter Hegel the great reconciler At fifty by which time he had read digested and to some extent synthesized the great writers of the day on political economy he published The Philosophy of Right which the author says has subseuently been expanded by his students lecture notes For him the market economy was the way to modernity For Smith commercial society to use his terminology had been the progenitor of positive character traits such as kindness self control thrift and working hard Hegel anticipated later thinkers in seeing what he called civil society as a reflection of the Protestant ethic He emphasized the role of institutions such as the family and law and thought people could rationally understand and embrace their beneficial effects Freedom wasn t doing whatever you felt like doing the good reuired guidance and unlike for Kant but perhaps foreshadowing today s cognitive psychology must become habitual He did not think duties were limitations imposed on the true selfIn his day the German speaking peoples lived in 300 separate polities His Lutheran family fleeing religious persecution had arrived in Stuttgart capital of the duchy of W rttenberg in the 16th century He was a member of the bureaucratic class incorporating clergymen and professors who were laboring to help the central monarch modernize For him it was a calling Their role was to care for the good of the state as a whole at a time when only 5% of the populace was fully literate In his work he stood up against the reactionary landed nobility Junkers in whose interest it was to maintain the feudal system and those Romantic philosophers who were providing them with rhetorical cover and under the pressure of Napoleonic victories progress toward a constitutional monarch was madeMarx s father too was a bureaucrat and a respected member of the bourgeoisie If not a religiously tinged calling his ob may have been a life raft as he availed himself of society s new openness to leave traditional Jewish confines for civil society But after Waterloo their city came under Prussian control with its laws excluding Jews from the civil service The father appealed his case and was denied so that s when he converted eventually followed by the baptism of wife and children including Karl But like Burke and his Irishness the perception that Karl Marx was a Jew persisted Reconciliation was not in the cards for Marx After struggling with dilettantism always wanting to write about the last thing he d read he found his calling in the suffering of the working class He Rket is a remarkable history of how the idea of capitalism has developed in Western thoughtRanging across an ideological spectrum that includes Hobbes Voltaire Adam Smith Edmund Burke Hegel Marx and Matthew Arnold as well as twentieth century communist fa.