So much of the rejection of capitalism for 200 years now has turned on a perception that it is only an oppressive system of rent extraction, whereby labor is exploited; governments are corrupted; wealthy elites marinate in social injustice; greed is promoted over altruism; middle class lifestyles and aspirations are tawdry and self-absorbed; and most people are unhappy with their lot.
While this perception was shared by many, including Charles Dickens and utopian socialists, the font of anti-capitalism was the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Both, in The Communist Manifesto of 1848 and Marx’s later treatise on the essence of “capital” – Das Kapital, capitalism – was described and analyzed as pretty much a despicable and irredeemable system for humans.
But what if Marx was wrong about capitalism? What if it was not essentially systemic rent-seeking and rent extraction?
Socialism and communism would then have to be debunked and rejected as not supported by truth.
Capitalism would then have to be seen anew with a view towards keeping its advantages and minimizing its disadvantages.
In this special issue of Pegasus, I take more than a few pages to deconstruct Das Kapital, quoting extensively from the text in order to give Marx his due and then to provide an assessment of capitalism, warts and all, from the perspective of wealth creation and enhancement of individual agency.
This is a long read, but the analysis is new and, I hope, powerful in changing one’s opinion of Marxism.