Fifty years without a gold-based monetary system is not only unprecedented in human history but unfriendly to economic prosperity, too. When President Nixon jettisoned the Bretton Woods gold-exchange standard on August 15, 1971, many thought it was temporary; but the balkanized, nationalistic non-system that followed has persisted, endorsed by Marxists, Keynesians, and Monetarists alike.
Most economists who examine the gold standard — a dwindling lot of us — focus on its history or mechanics, regardless of the different forms the standard might take and apart from whether they identify as fans or foes of gold-based money. Most economists today are foes, a pattern that developed in the 1960s. Few would say knowledgeably that they oppose the gold standard because it “didn’t work.”
The fact is that it worked efficiently, elegantly, and nearly automatically, especially when least managed or manipulated by monetary authorities. I contend that gold-based monetary systems were known for facilitating price discovery, profit calculation, private planning, saving and investment, international trade, and — consequently — economic prosperity. Efficient, practical success was most evident in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Gold-based systems were less successful when government hoarded and debased gold under the gold-bullion standard, which obtained between 1914 and 1948, and even less so under the gold-exchange standard. That, of course, was Bretton Woods, between 1948 and 1971, when the dollar alone was directly redeemable in gold (for foreign central banks) and then further debased.
The history illuminates how these three distinct versions of the gold standard tracked closely to the prevailing size, scope, and power of the United States government. A more limited government prevailed under the classical gold-coin standard; it was four decades with free trade, no income tax, no central bank, no welfare state, and no major wars. Subsequent versions were accompanied by massive increases in the welfare-warfare state.
During those versions — between 1914 and 1948 and between 1948 and 1971 — gold money suffered amid wars, deep recessions and depressions, systemic bank failures, and mass unemployment. Disingenuous observers, and perpetrators, of these various catastrophes falsely blamed the gold standard and capitalism, even as each was being assaulted in accord with the wishes of socialists and fascists.
Successively weaker versions of the gold standard between 1870 and 1971 mirrored successively stronger (i.e., more statist, more invasive) versions of federal governance. The welfare state has grown enormously but for electoral reasons can’t be sustained by ever-higher taxes; it needs more deficit spending, hence more public debt, more debt monetization and more fiat money creation. None of that is consistent with a gold standard of any type.
This alone explains why gold-based money was jettisoned and why its restoration won’t be easy. It’s not the mechanics that bar the path to monetary sanity; it isn’t difficult to end central banks and reinstate the gold standard. The problem is that central banks exist precisely to accommodate public profligacy; they won’t vanish anytime soon, to the extent fiscal profligacy persists–and it not only persists but intensifies the longer we lack a gold money.
The best that can be done in the near term is to make central banks adopt a gold price rule, an approach I’ve explained and defended elsewhere (“Real and Pseudo Gold Price Rules,” Cato Journal, 2020). Even this requires rulers to follow a rule; in today’s world, where objectivity and the rule of law are in retreat, any rule is dismissed by monetary central planners as too rigid, even dangerous.
In truth, these planners want to evade accountability; they also tend to like more statist government. The philosophical basis of the gold standard includes an individualistic ethic, a widespread love of liberty, robust entrepreneurship, respect for property rights, a constitutionally limited government, free trade, and peace. When these features are diluted, disdained, or dismantled, gold-based money necessarily leaves the scene.
More than a quarter century ago, I wrote that:
"Free banking and the gold standard require a context of greater political freedom. All over the world, people have been protesting big government and voting for freer political systems. If the growing resentment of the failures of central planning and the growing respect for free markets grow further, free market money may be possible one day. The factual evidence of its past performance is a matter of public record — it must be taken seriously by monetary reformers. What is needed above anything else is a clear and unequivocal endorsement of the classical liberal philosophy held by America’s Founding Fathers."
Prospects for a gold-based monetary system in our future are as bleak as are prospects for liberty.
This article was originally published by The New York Sun and was reprinted with the author's permission.
Dr. Richard M. Salsman is an assistant research professor of political economy at Duke University, founder and president of InterMarket Forecasting, Inc., a senior fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, and senior scholar at The Atlas Society. In the 1980s and 1990s he was a banker at the Bank of New York and Citibank and an economist at Wainwright Economics, Inc. Dr. Salsman has authored five books: Breaking the Banks: Central Banking Problems and Free Banking Solutions (1990), The Collapse of Deposit Insurance and the Case for Abolition (1993), Gold and Liberty (1995), The Political Economy of Public Debt: Three Centuries of Theory and Evidence (2017), and Where Have all the Capitalists Gone?: Essays in Moral Political Economy (2021). He is also author of a dozen chapters and scores of articles. His work has appeared in the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, Reason Papers, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Sun, Forbes, the Economist, the Financial Post, the Intellectual Activist, and The Objective Standard. He speaks frequently before pro-liberty student groups, including Students for Liberty (SFL), Young Americans for Liberty(YAL), Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), and the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).
Dr. Salsman earned his B.A. in law and economics from Bowdoin College (1981), his M.A. in economics from New York University (1988), and his Ph.D. in political economy from Duke University (2012). His personal website can be found at https://richardsalsman.com/.
For The Atlas Society, Dr. Salsman hosts a monthly Morals & Markets webinar, exploring the intersections between ethics, politics, economics, and markets. You can also find excerpts from Salsman's Instagram Takeovers HERE that can be found on our Instagram each month!
Rent Selling Countries are More Corrupt and Less Wealthy -- AIER, May 13, 2022
In the field of political economy in recent decades an important and valuable emphasis has been placed on “rent seeking,” defined as pressure groups lobbying for (and getting) special favors (bestowed on themselves) and disfavors (imposed on their rivals or enemies). But rent seeking is only the demand side of political favoritism; the less-emphasized supply side – call it rent selling– is the real instigator. Only states have the power to create zero-sum political favors, disfavors, and cronies. Cronyism isn’t a brand of capitalism, but a symptom of hybrid systems; interventionist states that heavily influence socioeconomic results actively invite lobbying by those who are most affected and can most afford it (the rich and powerful). But the root problem of favoritism isn’t one of demanders who bribe, but of suppliers who extort. ‘Crony capitalism’ is a blatant contradiction, a ruse to blame capitalism for the results of anti-capitalist policies.
NATO Expansion as an Instigator of the Russia-Ukraine War -- Clubhouse, March 16, 2022
In this 90-minute audio interview, with audience Q&A, Dr. Salsman discusses 1) why national self-interest should guide US foreign policy (but doesn’t), 2) why NATO’s decades-long expansion eastward toward Russia’s border (and hints it might add Ukraine) has fueled Russia-Ukraine conflicts, and the current war, 3) how Reagan-Bush heroically (and peacefully) won the Cold War, 4) how/why Democrat presidents in this century (Clinton, Obama, Biden) have refused to cultivate post-Cold War peace, have been pushers of NATO, have been unjustifiably belligerent towards Russia, and have undermined U.S. national strength and security, 5) why Ukraine is unfree and corrupt, is not a genuine U.S. ally (or NATO member), is not relevant to U.S. national security, and is undeserving of official U.S. support of any kind, and 6) why today’s bipartisan, near-ubiquitous support for a wider war, promoted heavily by the MMIC (military-media-industrial-complex), is both reckless and ominous.
Ukraine: The Facts Don’t Excuse Putin, But They Do Condemn NATO -- The Capitalist Standard, March 14, 2022
You needn’t excuse or endorse Putin’s brutish pugilism to recognize plain facts and reasonable strategic concerns: to acknowledge that NATO, the American warmongers, and Russo-phobes made much of this conflict possible. They’ve also instigated a Russia-China alliance, first economic, now potentially military. “Make the world democratic” is their battle cry, regardless of whether locals want it, or whether it brings liberty (rarely); or whether it topples authoritarians and stages a fair vote. What mostly happens, post-toppling, is chaos, carnage, and cruelty (see Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, etc.). It never seems to end because the nation-breakers never learn. NATO has been using Ukraine as a puppet, effectively a client state of NATO (i.e., the U.S.) since 2008. That’s why the Biden crime family is well known for “pulling strings” there. In 2014, NATO even helped foment the coup d’etat of Ukraine’s duly elected pro-Russia president. Putin reasonably prefers Ukraine be a neutral buffer zone; if, as NATO-Biden insists, that’s not possible, Putin would rather simply wreck the place — as he’s doing — than own it, run it, or use it as a westward stage for invasions of other nations.
The Costly but Deliberate U.S. Labor Shortage -- AIER, September 28, 2021
For more than a year, due to Covid-phobia and lockdowns, the U.S. has suffered various types and magnitudes of labor shortages, the case in which the quantity of labor demanded by would-be employers exceeds quantities supplied by would-be employees. This isn’t accidental or temporary. Joblessness has been both mandated (by shutdowns of “nonessential” businesses) and subsidized (with lucrative and extended “jobless benefits”). That makes it difficult for many businesses to attract and hire labor of sufficient quantity, quality, reliability, and affordability. Material or chronic surpluses and shortages reflect not “market failure” but the failure of governments to let markets clear. Why is so much of this unclear even to those who should know better? It’s not because they don’t know basic economics; many are ideologically anti-capitalist, which biases them against employers; channeling Marx, they falsely believe capitalists profit by underpaying workers and over-charging customers.
From Fast Growth to No Growth to De-Growth -- AIER, August 4, 2021
Increasing prosperity over the long term is made possible by sustained economic growth over the short-term; prosperity is the broader concept, entailing not merely more output but a quality of output valued by buyers. Prosperity brings a higher standard of living, in which we enjoy better health, longer lifespans, and greater happiness. Unfortunately, empirical measures in America show that its economic growth rate is decelerating, and it’s not a transitory problem; it’s been happening for decades; Sadly, few leaders recognize the grim trend; few can explain it; some even prefer it. The next step could be a push for “de-growth, ”or successive contractions in economic output. The slow-growth preference was normalized over many years and this can happen also with the de-growth preference. Today’s de-growth acolytes are a minority, but decades ago the slow-growth fans also were a minority.
When Reason is Out, Violence is In -- Capitalism Magazine, January 13, 2021
In the aftermath of the Trump-inspired right-wing assault on the U.S. Capitol last week, each “side” rightly accused the other of hypocrisy, of not “practicing what they preach,” of not “walking the talk.” Last summer left-wingers tried to justify (as “peaceful protest”) their own violence at Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and elsewhere, but now denounce right-wing violence at the Capitol. Why is hypocrisy, a vice, now so ubiquitous? Its opposite is the virtue of integrity, which is rare these days because for decades universities have inculcated philosophical pragmatism, a doctrine which does not counsel “practicality” but instead undermines it by insisting that fixed and valid principles are impossible (hence dispensable), that opinion is manipulable. For the pragmatists, “perception is reality” and “reality is negotiable.” In place of reality, they prefer “virtual reality,” instead of justice, “social justice.” They embody all that is fake and phony. All that remains as a guide to action is rank opportunism, expediency, “rules for radicals,” whatever “works” – to win an argument, advance a cause, or enact a law – for now at least (until . . . it fails to work). What explains today’s bi-partisan violence? The absence of reason (and objectivity). There is (literally) no reason for it, but there’s an explanation: when reason is out, persuasion and peaceful assembly-protest also are out. What remains is emotionalism – and violence.
Biden’s Disdain for Shareholders is Fascistic -- The Capitalist Standard, December 16, 2020
What does president-elect Biden think of capitalism? In a speech last July he said, “It’s way past time we put an end to the era of shareholder capitalism – the idea that the only responsibility a corporation has is with shareholders. That’s simply not true. It’s an absolute farce. They have a responsibility to their workers, their community, to their country. That isn’t a new or radical notion.” Yes, it’s not a new notion – that corporations must serve non-owners(including the government). Everyone these days – from the business professor to the journalist to the Wall Streeter to the “man on the street” – seems to favor “stakeholder capitalism.” But it’s also not a radical notion? It’s fascism, plain and simple. Is fascism no longer radical? Is it the “new” norm –albeit borrowed from the 1930s (FDR, Mussolini, Hitler)? In fact, “shareholder capitalism” is redundant, and “stakeholder capitalism” is oxymoronic. The former is genuine capitalism: private ownership (and control) of the means of production (and its output, too). The latter is fascism: private ownership but public control, imposed by non-owners. Socialism, of course, is public (state)ownership and public control of the means of production. Capitalism entails and promotes mutually beneficial contractual responsibility; fascism destroys that, by brutally severing ownership and control.
The Basic Truths of Saysian Economics and Their Contemporary Relevance –- Foundation for Economic Education, July 1, 2020
Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832) was a principled defender of the constitutionally limited state, even more consistently so than many of his classically liberal contemporaries. Most known for “Say’s Law,” the first principle of economics, he should be considered one of the most consistent and powerful exponents of capitalism, decades before the word was coined (by its opponents, in the 1850s). I’ve studied quite a lot of political economy over the decades and consider Say’s Treatise on Political Economy (1803) the best work ever published in the field, not only surpassing contemporary works but also those like Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) and Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (1949).
Fiscal-Monetary 'Stimulus' is Depressive -- The Hill, May 26, 2020
Many economists believe public spending and money issuance create wealth or purchasing power. Not so. Our only means of obtaining real goods and services is from wealth creation —production. What we spend must come from income, which itself must come from producing. Say’s Law teaches that only supply constitutes demand; we must produce before we demand, spend or consume. Economists typically blame recessions on “market failure” or “deficient aggregate demand,” but recessions are due mainly to government failure; when policies punish profits or production, aggregate supply contracts.
Freedom Is Indivisible, Which Is Why All Types Are Now Eroding -- Capitalism Magazine, April 18, 2020
The point of the principle of indivisibility is to remind us that the various freedoms rise or fall together, even if with various lags, even if some freedom, for a time, seems to be rising as others fall; in whatever direction the freedoms move, eventually they tend to dovetail. The principle that freedom is indivisible reflects the fact that humans are an integration of mind and body, spirit and matter, consciousness and existence; the principle implies that humans must choose to exercise their reason – the faculty unique to them – to grasp reality, live ethically, and flourish as best they can. The principle is embodied in the better-known one that we have individual rights – to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness – and that the sole and proper purpose of government is to be an agent of our right of self-defense, to constitutionally preserve, protect, and defend our rights, not to abridge or nullify them. If a people wants to preserve freedom, they must fight for its preservation in all realms, not just those in which they most live, or most favor – not in one, or some, but not others, and not in one or some at the expense of others.
Tripartite Governance: A Guidepost for Proper Policymaking -- AIER, April 14, 2020
When we hear the term “government” most of us think of politics – of states, regimes, capitols, agencies, bureaucracies, administrations, and politicians. We call them “officials,” presuming they possess a unique, elevated, and authoritative status. But that’s only one type of governance in our lives; the three types are public governance, private governance, and personal governance. Each I best conceived as a sphere of control, but the three must be balanced properly, to optimize the preservation of rights and liberties. The ominous trend of late has been a sustained invasion of personal and private governance spheres by public (political) governance.
Free Things and Unfree People -- AIER, June 30, 2019
Politicians today assert loudly and sanctimoniously that many things – food, housing, health care, jobs, childcare, a cleaner-safer environment, transportation, schooling, utilities, and even college – should be “free,” or publicly subsidized. No one asks why such claims are valid. Are they to be accepted blindly on faith or affirmed by mere intuition (feeling)? It doesn’t sound scientific. Shouldn’t all crucial claims pass tests of logic and evidence? Why do freebie claims “sound good” to so many people? In fact, they’re mean, even heartless, because illiberal, hence fundamentally inhumane. In a free, capitalist system of constitutional government there is to be equal justice under law, not discriminatory legal treatment; there’s no justification for privileging one group over another, including consumers over producers (or vice versa). Every individual (or association) must be free to choose and act, without resorting to mooching or looting. The freebies approach to political campaigning and policymaking brazenly panders to mooching and, by expanding the size, scope, and power of government, also institutionalizes looting.
We Should Celebrate Diversity in Wealth Too -- AIER, December 26, 2018
In most realms of life today, diversity and variety are justifiably celebrated and respected. Differences in athletic and artistic talent, for example, entail not only robust, entertaining competitions, but fanatics (“fans”) who respect, applaud, award, and handsomely compensate the winners (“stars” and “champions”) while also depriving (at least relatively) the losers. Yet the realm of economics — of markets and commerce, business and finance, income and wealth — elicits a near-opposite response, even though it’s not, like sporting matches, a zero-sum game. In the economic realm, we observe differential talents and outcomes unequally compensated (as we should expect), but for many people, diversity and variety in this realm are disdained and envied, with predictable results: a perpetual redistribution of income and wealth by punitive taxation, stiff regulation, and periodic trust-busting. Here winners are more suspected than respected, while losers receive sympathies and subsidies. What accounts for this rather odd anomaly? For the sake of justice, liberty, and prosperity, people should abandon their anti-commercial prejudices and cease deriding unequal wealth and income. They should celebrate and respect diversity in the economic realm at least as muchas they do in the athletic and artistic realms. Human talent comes in a variety of wonderful forms. Let’s not deny or deride any of them.
To Deter Gun Slaughters, the Federal Government Must Cease Disarming the Innocents -- Forbes, August 12, 2012
Gun control-advocates want to blame mass shootings on “too many guns,” but the real problem is far too few guns and too little gun freedom. Restrictions on our Constitution’s 2ndAmendment right to bear arms invite slaughter and mayhem. Gun-controllers have convinced politicians and law enforcement officials that public areas are especially prone to gun violence and have pushed for onerous bans and restrictions on gun use in such areas “gun-free zones”). But they are accessories to such crimes, by encouraging government to ban or restrict our basic civil right to self-defense; they’ve goaded stray crazies into publicly slaughtering people with impunity. Self-defense is a crucial right; it requires gun-toting and full use not only in our homes and on our property but also (and especially) in public. How often do gun-wielding policemen actually prevent or stop violent crime? Almost never. They are not “crime-stoppers” but note-takers who arrive at a scene. Gun sales have jumped in the past month, after the movie theater slaughter, but that didn’t mean those guns could be used in movie theaters – or in many other public venues. The legal prohibition is the real problem – and the injustice must be terminated immediately. The evidence is overwhelming now: no one any longer can claim, in candor, that gun-controllers are “pacific,” “peace-loving,” or “well-meaning,” if they are avowed enemies of a key civil right and abject abettors of evil.
Protectionism as Mutual Masochism -- The Capitalist Standard, July 24, 2018
The logical and moral case for free trade, whether it’s inter-personal, international, or intra-national, is that it’s mutually beneficial. Unless one opposes gain per se or assumes exchange is win-lose (a “zero-sum” game), one should herald trade. Apart from self-sacrificing altruists, no one trades voluntarily unless it benefits oneself. Mr. Trump pledges to “make America great again,” a noble sentiment, but protectionism only hurts rather than helps do that job. Roughly half the parts in Ford’s best-selling trucks are now imported; if Trump has his way, we couldn’t even make Ford trucks, let alone make America great again. To “buy American,” as the nationalists and nativists demand, is to eschew today’s beneficial products while underrating the benefits of yesterday’s globalization of trade and fearing tomorrow’s. Just as America at her best is a “melting pot” of personal backgrounds, identities, and origins, so also products at their best embody a melting pot of globally-sourced labor and resources. Mr. Trump claims to be pro-American but is unrealistically pessimistic about her productive power and competitiveness. Given the benefits of free trade, the best policy any government can adopt is unilateral free trade (with other non-enemy governments), which means: free trade regardless of whether other governments also adopt freer trade.
Best Case for Capitalism -- The Capitalist Standard, October 10, 2017
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged (1957) by Ayn Rand (1905-1982), a best-selling novelist-philosopher who extolled reason, rational self-interest, individualism, capitalism, and Americanism. Few books this old continue to sell as well, even in hardcover, and many investors and CEOs have long praised its theme and insight. In a 1990s survey conducted for the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club, respondents named Atlas Shrugged as second only to the Bible as the book that made a big difference in their lives. Socialists understandably reject Rand because she rejects their claim that capitalism is exploitative or prone to collapse; yet conservatives are wary of her because she denies that capitalism counts on religion. Her major contribution is to show that capitalism isn’t only the system that’s economically productive but also the one that’s morally just. It rewards people of honesty, integrity, independence, and productiveness; yet it marginalizes those who choose instead to be less-than-human, and it punishes the vicious and the inhumane. Whether one is pro-capitalist, pro-socialist, or indifferent between the two, this book is worth a read – as are her other works, including The Fountainhead (1943), The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism (1964),and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966).
Trump and GOP Condone Monopoly Medicine -- The Capitalist Standard, July 20, 2017
The GOP and President Trump, having brazenly broken their campaign promises by refusing to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare, now claim they’ll just repeal it and see what happens. Don’t count on that. At root, they don’t really mind ObamaCare and the “single payer” system (government medicine monopoly) to which it leads. Abominable as it is, they accept it philosophically, so they also accept politically. Trump and most Republicans condone the socialist principles latent in ObamaCare. Perhaps they even realize it’ll continue to erode the better aspects of the system and lead to a “single-payer system” (government monopoly on medicine) –which Obama [and Trump] have always said they wanted. Nor do most American voters today seem to object to this monopoly. They might object to it decades from now, when they realize that access to health insurance doesn’t guarantee access to health care (especially not under socialized medicine, which reduces quality, affordability, and access). But by then it’ll be too late to rehabilitate those freer elements that made America medicine so great in the first place.
The Inequality Debate: Senseless Without Consideration of What is Earned -- Forbes, February 1, 2012
Instead of debating the truly monumental questions of our troubled times – namely, What is the proper size and scope of government? (answer: smaller), and Should we have more capitalism or more corporatism? (answer: capitalism) – political media instead are debating the alleged evils of “inequality.” Their shameless envy has run rampant lately, but the focus on inequality is convenient for conservatives and leftists alike. Mr. Obama accepts a false theory of “fairness” that rejects the common-sense, merit-based concept of justice that older Americans might recognize as “desert,” where justice means we deserve (or earn) what we get in life, if by our free choice. Legitimately, there is “distributive justice,” with rewards for good or productive behavior, and “retributive justice,” with punishments for evil or destructive behavior.
Capitalism Isn't Corporatism or Cronyism -- Forbes, December 7, 2011
Capitalism is the greatest socio-economic system in human history, because it’s so moral and so productive– the two features so essential to human survival and flourishing. It’s moral because it enshrines and fosters rationality and self-interest – “enlightened greed,” if you will – the two key virtues we all must consciously adopt and practice if we’re to pursue and attain life and love, health and wealth, adventure and inspiration. It produces not only material-economic abundance but the aesthetic values seen in the arts and entertainment. But what is capitalism, exactly? How do we know it when we see it or have it – or when we haven’t, or don’t? Capitalism’s greatest intellectual champion, Ayn Rand (1905-1982), once defined it as “a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.” This recognition of genuine rights (not “rights” to force others to get us what we wish) is all-crucial and it has a distinctive moral foundation. In fact, capitalism is the system of rights, liberty, civility, peace and non-sacrificial prosperity; it’s not the system of government that unjustly favors capitalists at others’ expense. It provides a level legal playing field plus officials who serve us as low-profile referees (not arbitrary rule-makers or score-changers). To be sure, capitalism also entails inequality – of ambition, talent, income, or wealth – because that’s how individuals (and firms) really are; they’re unique, not clones or inter-changeable parts, as the egalitarians claim.
Holy Scripture and the Welfare State -- Forbes, April 28, 2011
Many people wonder why Washington seems forever mired in a stalemate about what policies might cure excessive spending, budget deficits and debt. We're told that the root of the problem is "polarized politics," that "extremists" control the debate and preclude solutions that only bipartisan unity can deliver. In fact, on many issues both "sides" wholly agree – on the solid basis of a shared religious faith. In short, not much changes because both sides agree on so much, especially about what it means to "do the right thing" morally. It's not widely reported, but most Democrats and Republicans, whether from the left or right politically, are quite religious, and thus tend to endorse the modern welfare state. Even if not all politicians feel so strongly about this, they suspect (rightly) that voters do so. Thus even minor proposals to restrain government spending elicit accusations that the proponent is callous, heartless, uncharitable, and un-Christian – and the charges ring true to most people because Scripture has long-conditioned them to embrace the welfare state.
Where Have All the Capitalists Gone? -- Forbes, December 5, 2010
After the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and dissolution of the USSR (1991), almost everyone conceded that capitalism was the historic "victor" over socialism. Yet interventionist policies reflecting largely socialist premises have returned with a vengeance in recent years, while capitalism has been blamed for causing the 2007-2009 financial crisis and global economic recession. What explains this seemingly abrupt shift in the world's estimate of capitalism? After all, apolitical-economic system, whether capitalist or socialist, is a broad and persistent phenomenon that cannot logically be construed as beneficial one decade yet destructive the next. So where have all the capitalists gone? Curiously, a "socialist" today means an advocate for the political-economic system of socialism as a moral ideal, yet a "capitalist" means a Wall Street financier, venture capitalist or entrepreneur – not an advocate of the political-economic system of capitalism as a moral ideal. In truth, capitalism embodies the life-enhancing, wealth-creating ethic of rational self-interest –of egoism, of "greed," if you will – which is perhaps most blatantly manifested in the profit motive. So long as this humane ethic is distrusted or despised, capitalism will suffer unearned blame for any social-economic ill. The collapse of socialist regimes two decades ago didn't mean capitalism was finally being hailed for its many virtues; the historic event only merely reminded people of capitalism's productive ability – an ability already long-proven and long-acknowledged even by its worst enemies. Persistent animosity toward capitalism today rests on moral, not practical grounds. Unless rational self-interest is understood as the one moral code consistent with genuine humanity, and the moral estimate of capitalism thus improves, socialism will keep making comebacks, despite its deep and dark record of human misery.