Capitalism Loses Against Chimera

by Chidem Kurdas

Gripes about capitalism go back 150 years and more. In the Communist Manifesto of 1848 Marx and Engels thundered that the specter of revolution haunted Europe, that the periodic reappearance of commercial crises “put on its trial, each time more threateningly, the existence of the entire bourgeois society.” They were not the first to assail the system and were followed by numerous others spanning the political spectrum.

Thus the Financial Times recently started a series on  “The Crisis of Capitalism.”  Europe suffers from a sovereign debt crisis due to over-spending by governments—why is that the crisis of capitalism? But one should not quibble. It is an old tradition. In the 1998 turmoil brought on by Russia’s default on its bonds and the failure of a large hedge fund, commentaries appeared bearing titles such as The Crisis in Global Capitalism, Global Capitalism RIP, Collapse of Capitalism, Who Lost Capitalism? and The Free Market’s Crisis of Faith.

I’ve taken those titles from a response by Michael Boskin, “Capitalism and its Discontents,” a classic that rings true 14 years later and merits re-reading.  Continue reading

Two Takes on Class Conflict

by Chidem Kurdas

A presentation at this week’s NYU Colloquium by Ralph Raico, professor of history at the State University of New York Buffalo, generated a thought-provoking discussion.  His paper traces the early-to-mid 19th century development  of the classical liberal theory of class conflict—which long predated Marx and is different from class conflict in the Marxian sense.

Marx and his followers identified class conflict as something that happens in the market economy, where the owners of capital appropriate value produced by workers. This market-based notion of class still dominates public discussion, with the state regarded either as a capitalist tool or possibly a mediator between capital and labor.

By contrast, from the classical liberal perspective the state and the groups that control it are the central players. Using the power to tax and regulate, the governing class appropriates society’s wealth, spends it ways to benefit itself and doles it out to political supporters. It is this old concept that makes sense of today’s economic conflicts, from riots in Greece to the rise of Tea Partiers in America. Continue reading