Capitalism takes a lot of knocks in an economic downturn because detractors credit the resulting pain to the system. They ignore that well meaning government decrees are usually the root cause of many problems. When people feel disadvantaged, they easily ignore the system’s tremendous upside.
George Gilder is not one to ignore the distinct and rare advantage of capitalism. He’s one of America’s clearest thinkers and shows it in a recent article from the National Review: Unleash the mind, August 13, 2012, tinyurl.com/unleashthemind. In it, Gilder shines a light on modern capitalism revealing the secrets of why it works so well when other economic systems do not.
The essay is unusual because every sentence holds a clear and striking idea. Every thought is a gem. Take the first two sentences for example: “America’s wealth is not an inventory of goods; it is an organic entity, a fragile pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions. To vivisect it for redistribution is to kill it.”
Like stones in a monument, each idea builds on the previous to create a stunning display. During the construction, he reveals a secret that opponents must be afraid to acknowledge: You can only create riches by fulfilling other people. Actually, he says, “Most of America’s leading entrepreneurs are allowed to keep their wealth only as long as they invest it in others.”
And for people who build a business around an idea, he has good words. “All progress comes from the creative minority. Under capitalism, wealth is less a stock of goods than a flow of ideas, the defining characteristic of which is surprise. If it were not surprising, we could plan it, and socialism would work.”
Although you know this already, he makes it clear that the economy is not a zero-sum game as some suggest. Someone winning does not mean someone must lose. The pie can grow larger. If you were awake in grade school history, you would know that.
These comments just scratch the surface of a superb essay. Read it, and then read it a second time and be surprised all over again.
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