A Politically Incorrect Defense of Capitalism
by Bob Murphy
by Bob Murphy
Regnery's Politically Incorrect Guide series is turning out to be surprisingly good. Of course I knew I would enjoy Tom Woods' PIG to American History, but I was also fascinated by Tom Bethell's PIG to Science. What makes these books so good is that they make simply shocking assertions — e.g. that the so-called Civil War wasn't just about slavery, or that it is an open question whether HIV causes AIDS — and then back them up with careful scholarship.
In this respect, the cartoonish illustrations and bullet-point summaries may have misled the sympathetic reader. Yes, part of the point of the PIG series is to annoy the heck out of the left-liberal media establishment. But far from relying on an anti-intellectual, hick "You gonna trust them-there college perfessors with all that book learnin'?"-type argument, on the contrary the PIG books make careful, well-reasoned cases and quote experts in the fields under discussion.
The latest addition to the series is my own Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. I know I've lived up to the "shocking" assertions of my predecessors; in this book I question the need for child labor laws, Civil Rights legislation, and medical licensing, and I defend golden parachutes for canned CEOs as well as outsourcing and trade deficits. And if I may be so immodest, I'd like to think that my arguments on all of these points do not betray a simpleton apologist for corporate America, or a closet racist. (If the experience of Tom Woods is any guide, though, I'm sure hostile reviewers will draw such conclusions.)
The Style and Structure
The basic structure of my book is to take on a wide range of topics — including oil profits, unequal wages, the environment, discrimination, safety regulation, globalization, and more — and first summarize the typical anti-capitalist condemnation relevant for that topic. This reminds the reader of the "politically correct" version that he's heard growing up and every time he turns on the news.
After reviewing the basic case against the free market for the topic in question, I then go through and pick apart every component of the criticism. By the end of the chapter, I've (hopefully) convinced the reader that it is the government that causes (or at least exacerbates) the problem under discussion, and that the best antidote is not more regulations or federal dollars, but rather more freedom.
Just to clarify, the PIG to Capitalism is not a textbook in economics. If you want that, Gene Callahan's Economics for Real People is a better choice. Having said that, the PIG to Capitalism does provide a very good introduction to "thinking like an economist" on a wide range of topics. If you'll forgive my quotation from the back cover:
Dr. Murphy has the gift of making clear and simple what appears to be confusing. While many economists attempt to complicate issues in order to "prove by intimidation," Dr. Murphy makes the argument with such clarity that the average reader will wonder why she didn't figure this out in the first place. ~ Gary Wolfram, Chair of Hillsdale College's Economics Dept.
Oldies But Goodies…
Much of what I do in this book is simply codify the best arguments for the free market that I've encountered over the years. For those of you who (like me) have been in the movement for a while now, you won't learn anything new here, but even so the book will serve as a great reference when your socially conscious egalitarian buddy starts arguing with you.
For example, remember that great Thomas Sowell quote about affirmative action causing blacks to fail in disproportionate numbers in higher education, because the brightest black students get artificially bumped up into schools that are a bit too hard for them? Yeah, I loved that argument (and his data to back them up) too — and that's why they're in my book. Ditto for Jane Jacobs' critique of city zoning, and Milton Friedman's condemnation of medical licensure.
…but Plenty of New Material Too
Beyond the synthesis of classic responses to the "tough questions," I've dug up some new research and provided some original arguments in the book too. Besides my defense of outsourcing, capital export, corporate raiders, and financial derivatives (developed in the last year or so in articles at Mises.org), I discuss shocking new research on airbags that I haven't seen other libertarians discuss. Hint: Airbags are dangerous not just for frail women and children. Want to know more? I guess you'll just have to buy my book. (What did you expect from a capitalist pig?)
"Yeah but you must have sold out!"
The last plug I'd like to make for the fairly radical readers of LRC is that the people at Regnery were very pleasant to work with. When I first opened the Word document containing their initial edits to my manuscript, I half dreaded what I'd find. Surely they would take out the chapter blaming slavery on the government, or at the very least the Hans Hoppe quote where he said being a privately owned slave wasn't as bad as being a government slave.
Nope, they left that heated material in, and I was never pressured to tone things down or put in weasly "Sometimes federal safety regulations are a good idea, but often they go awry"-type disclaimers.
The final result? The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism is probably the most radical defense of the free market that you can get at Barnes & Noble. Fans of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard can pass it along to their more mainstream colleagues without feeling like sell-outs. So go buy yourself a copy, and ten more for your intellectual (but oh so confused) friends. And remember, every copy you buy puts more money in circulation and hence boosts GDP.*
*Oh wait, I debunked that silly logic in Chapter 10.
April 9, 2007
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