Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalsim

Harrison Scott Key:

Capitalism makes lots of people angry.  Why is this?  In “Why Capitalism is Good for the Soul,” Peter Saunders says that capitalism’s biggest weakness is really an image problem: it lacks the emotional appeal of socialism or communism, and it offers no visible “dragons to slay.”

It is quite the opposite with socialism. Where capitalism delivers but cannot inspire, socialism inspires despite never having delivered. Socialism’s history is littered with repeated failures and with human misery on a massive scale, yet it still attracts smiles rather than curses from people who never had to live under it […] Chic westerners are still sporting Che Guevara t-shirts, forty years after the man’s death, and flocking to the cinema to see him on a motor bike, apparently oblivious to their handsome hero’s legacy of firing squads and labour camps.

But why do intellectual elites still hate capitalism so much? 

Saunders’s answer to that question is my favorite answer thus far in the debate: because capitalism doesn’t need them.

Nobody planned the global capitalist system, nobody runs it, and nobody really comprehends it. This particularly offends intellectuals, for capitalism renders them redundant. It gets on perfectly well without them. It does not need them to make it run, to coordinate it, or to redesign it. The intellectual critics of capitalism believe they know what is good for us, but millions of people interacting in the marketplace keep rebuffing them. This, ultimately, is why they believe capitalism is ‘bad for the soul’: it fulfils human needs without first seeking their moral approval.

Sounds about right to me.

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