How much love do I have to declare for capitalism before it’s possible to point out that it isn’t the only active or worthy principle in human affairs, so that I won’t be pounced on by libertarians? I love capitalism this much! (He stretches his arms out wide.) As I’ve said in this discussion and elsewhere, I can’t imagine that I, for one, would survive, much less thrive in any other system. The free market is triumphant, although it faces interesting challenges in the coming years as many countries age, the energy cycle will be forced to shift, and the biggest capitalist economy might still be run by a communist party. Even so, capitalism has more than earned it’s stripes well enough to not need defending at every turn.
To respond in a little bit more detail, I agree with Reynolds that capitalism in the broadest sense is at the very least an enabler of community. Actually “community” is one of those words I try to avoid. Out here in the Bay Area everything is about community. The corner Pizza joint is a collective that serves the community. Does that phrase mean anything? Why do they keep on saying it? So as one member of the punditry community to another, I declare that the rise of the pre-business web I was talking about wasn’t an example of community, exactly. The people putting up web sites didn’t do much to build trust, make commitments, get to know one another, or do any of the other things that might distinguish a community from other groupings of people. That came later. My claim is that the initial big push was driven by the joy of volunteerism, a bit of braggadocio, the sense the web was a good idea, and by a kind of optimism that didn’t yet understand a profit motive.
Once again, that’s not a criticism of capitalism. Why can’t you libertarians revel in how well capitalism works? How much success do you need to feel assured? My own view is that capitalism’s future will be brighter if people learn to think of it as a great tool rather than as a universal life philosophy.