Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Moderate Libertarian Debates With Today's Delusion Thinking Left

Dr Madsen Pirie, President of the Adam Smith Institute (London) speaks on “Why Marx was wrong about capitalism. his speech against the motion "Karl Marx was right. Capitalism post-2008 is falling apart under Its own contradictions."  HERE 
Like many public figures who leave a legacy, either in their writings or their deeds, Karl Marx was sometimes right and sometimes wrong.  I concentrate on some of the things about which he was wrong.
He was wrong to predict that history would take us to the inevitable triumph of the proletariat and then stop.  … Marx was wrong about something else. He predicted that capitalism would drive down wages to survival level before its final denouement.  In fact as economies became more advanced, both wages and living standards rose to levels not even dreamt of in Marx's day. 
… But Marx was a contemporary of Darwin.  He had read Darwin's "Origin of Species" and admired Darwin's account of the origins of humankind.  He failed, however, to spot the significance of Darwin's theory of change and to incorporate it into his own programme.
Darwin advanced a gradual mechanism of change in which small differences gradually come to dominate over time.  It is evolutionary, not revolutionary, and is a much more accurate description of how change usually happens in human societies than was Hegel's account.  Indeed, Darwin was right and Hegel was wrong.  This means that Marx was also wrong, wrong about change, and wrong about how capitalism would develop.
The point is that capitalism changes and evolves. …
… Capitalism certainly faced a crisis in 2008, but it is still with us, as yet uncollapsed.  It is evolving and responding to the changes that are needed and, as before, when the dust of crisis has settled, it will be a new version of capitalism that goes on to generate more wealth and to expand the opportunities open to humankind. ….
…. That is why this motion, cumbersome and ambitious as it is, is also misconceived, and why I urge everyone to defeat it.
[After three speakers from each side , the motion was defeated; before the debate, the motion received a 50-50 vote, plus an undecided minority.]
Follow the link for Dr Madsen Pirie’s speech in full.
I think it is apposite given the number of people who believe in some version of the motion as it stood.  I sometimes comment on similar views expressed as plans for the reform of capitalism as it stands today, including from some who do not advocate some sort of socialism.  In fact, I received a detailed model for on such reform on capitalism this week - reading it out of politeness (and just in case ...) I have not had time to write for Lost Legacy since the weekend, plus my other tasks, some pressing.
These plans for reform of capitalism - and of market theories - all have one thing in common.  They conform to "designs" for a new society theory and expect support among the world's 6 billion people, a wholly common example of fantasy delusions.
Capitalism was not designed by any individual or group.   It grew through many forms, uniquely, out of commercial activities (markets) within other societies across the world and throughout history, sometimes emerging in one place or another before disappearing as those societies withered by invasions, social catastrophes, tyrannies, or natural events.   Eventually, markets within mainly agricultural societies in North-west Europe grew into self-sustained development paths leading to what we know today as capitalism, and whatever the pain, raised living standards for the vast majority of people, formerly living on $1 a day each on good days - elites have always had more per day in most human societies - to unprecedented rates of $100 a day each (see Deirdre McCloskey's Bourgeois Dignity for details). 


Blogger airth10 said...


Non of these great thinkers you mention thought about sustainability, about what economic system might sustain humankind into its future. They didn't see this about capitalism, that its means of production, distribution and private ownership would afford sustainability. Communist collapsed because its means of production and distribution could not keep up or were insufficient to continually feed, cloth and house people in a sustainable manner. Capitalism is the only system that understand 'entropy' and how to overcome it.

Many people thought that after the 2008 crisis capitalism was kaput. Marx would have felt the same. But the astonishing thing is that capitalism and it fluid mechanisms has the wherewithal to recover. It has recovered many times from its own excesses. And that is its key to success and its continuance, that it adapt and reinvents itself. That is why it triumphed over all the other economic systems, because, like communism, they could not change or reinvent themselves to reflect changing times.

Another reason capitalism ascended and continues above all others, which only Marx had some inkling of, is that it is continually revolutionary. Humankind and civilization needs a constant humming, revolutionary force to keep it 'alive and a wake', as Hegel would have put it. Darwin would see the revolutionary, agitating forces of capitalism as evolutionary.

11:58 am  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

We agree after all these years! All earlier human societies have come and gone since our ancestors left the forests after the last ice-age. The stone detritus across Europe and Asia testify to that.
Subsequent societies using new technologies were not designed. They happened because numerous anonymous individuals tried many new methods of subsistence. Those that worked continued for millennia, those that did not, passed away soonest.
There is much that can be criticised abut the different versions of capitalism, It re-invents itself without designs. Capitalism is evolutionary as you note.

4:17 pm  
Blogger airth10 said...


With all due respect, why don't historians and economists view capitalism for what it is, the ultimate sustainer and reformer of civilization. Is that so obvious as to not deserve a mention? Or does it sound too Marxist?

11:19 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home