Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide To Capitalism

The Politically Incorrect Guide To Capitalism, by Robert P. Murphy

When I started reading this book it became increasingly obvious that the book was written by an anarcho-libertarian.  This is not necessarily a bad thing [1], as I certainly have some good things to say about libertarian economic theory despite my disdain for it as a social philosophy.  This book definitely fits the bill of being politically incorrect, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, even if some of the books the book recommends (including one by Thomas DiLorenzo) are not always the best to promote the author’s worldview or the massive claims that he makes for capitalism as a force for good, which is not the way it is generally viewed by contemporary commentators who trust in the bungling of bureaucrats far more than the invisible and subtle workings of free markets and people with a clear-eyed knowledge about their self-interest and what serves it best.  This is a book that says a lot of things that I think many people simply find hard to accept, although I find it greatly humorous that the author tends to assume that the reader is going to be in the capitalist class, which I am not sure is something that can be said for me.

This book of less than 200 pages is divided into sixteen short chapters that explore different facets of capitalism, beginning with a quiz that seeks to convince the reader that they are a capitalist pig in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek kind of way.  The contents o the book begin with a discussion of capitalism, profits, and entrepreneurs (1) and then move on to a discussion of the signaling value of prices in a market economy (2) and the problem with minimum wages and other misguided attempts to benefit labor (3).  After this the author moves on to discuss the free market case against anti-discrimination laws by pointing out the penalties the free market gives to racists (4) and a somewhat counterintuitive discussion about slavery and government (5) as well as about the relationship between capitalism and the environment (6) and safety (7).  After that the author talks about trade deficits and debts (8), money and banking (9), and the government role in depressions and economic cycles (10).  After that the author takes on some sacred cows of popular government programs (11) as well as public transportation and the post office (12), the self-serving nature of many antitrust lawsuits (13), the downside of trade wars (14), as well as making money through foreign trade (15) and the value of the investor class (16).

By and large, even if I do not agree with everything the author says, there is a lot of value in what he says.  In particular, I appreciate the way that the author gives a great deal of legitimacy to those who engage in the often politically unpopular role of being middlemen between suppliers and consumers whose behavior communicates signals to everyone else about issues of supply and demand that allows others to respond with a minimum of disruption.  Ultimately, a lot of the concerns in this book boil down to a question of trust.  Do we trust that people who are free to communicate their preferences and their feelings and their understanding through the market are going to do better than people attempting to direct the economic destiny of political communities that will inevitably bungle things?  Do we see only what we intend to do with our policies, or do we have an eye to the implications and repercussions that we do, that which is unseen rather than only that which is seen?  If the book prompts its readers to think more seriously about the distortions and problems that result from misguided attempts to control the economic behavior of others, then it will likely have done good work.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide To Capitalism

  1. Pingback: A Modest Proposal For The Development Of Economic Infrastructure For Unpopular Businesses | Edge Induced Cohesion

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