If this is what people think of capitalism, no wonder they want something else

Michael Tomasky, editor of the journal Democracy, has advice for those who would like fewer socialists. “Stop creating them.” Tomasky outlines a number of ways that cronies in government and business have helped one another without doing much good for the rest of society. Free market supporters from Tim Carney to Jon Sanders have their own lists of cronyism in action. The problem, as always, is that capitalism is the shorthand most people adopt for our mixed economy, whether in support or opposition.

Peter Drucker stated, “Free enterprise cannot be justified as being good for business. It can be justified only as being good for society.” Nobody would argue that much of what passes for capitalism and free enterprise today—occupational licensing guilds, targeted  tax incentives, or many business practices—is good for society. Market advocates have been slow to criticize businesses for their abuses, blaming instead governments for making it possible, despite generally maintaining that what is legal is not always right and that government rules usually are a response to genuinely wrong behavior.

What if you are poor and have never really seen markets work? You may have seen black markets arise, but aspiring entrepreneurs Eric Garner in New York City and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., were killed by police for trying to get ahead (yes their activity was illegal, but Airbnb is illegal in Raleigh and New York City).

Tomasky seems willing to support the socialist moment if it means more votes for Democrats, just as some Republicans have been willing to accept tariffs and other restrictions on free markets, but it is hard not to agree with his conclusion

I have mixed feelings about this socialism boomlet. … But I understand completely why it’s happening. Given what’s been going on in this country, it couldn’t not have happened. And if you’re a capitalist, you’d better try to understand it, too — and do something to address the very legitimate grievances that propelled it.

Joseph Coletti / Senior Fellow

Joe Coletti is a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation focused on fiscal policy issues. He previously headed the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiativ...

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