The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism
Leef, George C., Freeman
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism by Robert P. Murphy Regnery * 2007 * 194 pages * $19.95
Reviewed by George C. Leef
Once Regnery had begun its "Politically Incorrect Guide" series, it was inevitable that the publisher would eventually get around to a book on capitalism. The books in the series have been broadside attacks on the mistaken views that Americans have on such topics as American history and the Constitution-views that reflect the prevalent hostility to individual liberty and strictly limited government. Robert Murphy's contribution is a superlative effort, debunking a large number of common myths about capitalism and explaining to the reader why market processes always work better than government coercion.
Murphy's 16 chapters cover the waterfront. He begins by providing the reader with a straightforward definition of his subject. "Capitalism," he writes, "is the system in which people are free to use their private property without outside interference." That freedom allows individuals to choose what to do (and not do) with their lives: what jobs they want, what goods and services they prefer, how much to save, where to invest, and so on. All alternative systems, he points out, depend on coercion, with people in authority dictating some or most aspects of other people's lives to them.That's the way to get people's thinking on the right track!
Murphy makes clear that capitalism isn't just one of many competing economic systems, but is unique in that it's the only one that works without coercion. This is a key point, and I wish that Murphy had developed it more fully. But in a short book some sacrifices must be made.
Page after page debunks erroneous ideas that are commonly held about capitalism. For example, it is widely believed that child labor was a black mark against capitalism, showing its cruelty. Surely government intervention, even though coercive, was a good thing, since it ended the terrible exploitation of children-right? Murphy shows that this idea is mistaken, writing that capitalism's "vast expansion in production allowed more and more families the luxury of keeping their children out of the labor force." He then points out that during the Industrial Revolution, infant mortality fell dramatically and life expectancy for everyone rose.
Murphy never concedes an inch to capitalism's opponents.You'll look in vain for even a single sentence beginning like this: "Although capitalism is generally beneficial, we have to keep in mind that. . . ." The book never apologizes or "leaks."
Here are just a few controversies in which many writers would backpedal. …