Saturday, June 09, 2012

That Word 'Capitalism'

James Grant, editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, reviews A Capitalism for the People by Luigi Zingales, Basic Book, HERE“A Cure for What Ails Us
“It is not enough to encourage enterprise and limit regulation—we need a fixed system of value.”
"Capitalism" is the epithet that 19th-century collectivists foisted on the economic system of private property and the invisible hand. It's a name that wins no friends for the cause of enterprise. A socialist, supposedly, cares for society. A capitalist ostensibly loves only his stocks and steel mills and strikebreakers. The PR battle was almost lost at the naming.”
Thackeray was the first to use “capitalism” in English in 1854 in his novel, “The Newcomes”, in relation to a stock-market manipulator and suspect raiser of capital.  Later, Karl Marx picked it up for the English translation of the German version, Das Kapital.  Adam Smith never used the word at all; he referred to “commercial society”.
The alleged discriminatory name, ‘capitalism’, would still appear to ‘win no friends’ whatever its name as against alleged ‘social care’ minded socialists, though the quality of caring (and multiple mass murders) was witnessed in socialist societies from 1917-90 is a matter record.
Given the paucity of references to “the invisible hand’ throughout the 19th century (a mere half dozen from 1875-1900), it is difficult to see on what basis James Grant sees the words ‘invisible hand’ as ‘foisted’ on anything connected with society.  The ubiquity of the ‘invisible hand’ metaphor is a wholly late 20th-century invented phenomenon that had nothing whatsoever to with “19th-century collectivists”.  It was a home-grown own goal, of mint quality US academe, surely beyond suspicion of collectivist leanings.


Post a Comment

<< Home