23 March 2008


I sent the following LTE to the Wall Street Journal on March 18th.

Dear Editor:

The first line of the column just below the fold in Tuesday's issue states, "The past six days have shaken American capitalism."  (The Week that Shook Wall Street: Inside the Bailout of Bear Stearns, WSJ, March 18, 2008)

Capitalism?  Why should capitalism be shaken, unless it is for fear of the next wave of disease that will be administered as a cure?  This is the story of decades of government meddling and tinkering, pushing here and pulling there with an increasingly heavy hand; of the Fed "throwing its rule book out the window," as the article says, in haphazard, desperate, and contradictory fashion.  It is Washington that should be shaken by the failures of its intrusion, not capitalism, which is scarcely recognizable any more.

They didn’t publish it, of course, but I felt better after having sent it.

1 comment:

Burgess Laughlin said...

"The past six days have shaken American capitalism."

This raises an important question: What is capitalism?

Ask five people and get at least five answers. I note that Ayn Rand defines this term/idea as a certain kind of "social system," one in which the government is delimited to protecting individual rights, and one in which all property is privately owned.

I do not understand why capitalism should be defined as a social system rather than (more narrowly) as a political system as the essential (causal) characteristic of that society.

What is clear, however, is that in Objectivism "capitialism" does not refer to any particular economic arrangement (everyone is free to join a commune if they want to) and certainly not to a concrete-bound defintion such as "an economic community of big businesses." The latter seems to be the definition assumed by the article writer quoted above.