You’ve seen pictures of the signs and banners at the globe-spanning Occupy protests: Capitalism is crisis. Capitalism isn’t working. Abolish capitalism. Perhaps you’ve even held a placard with a similar message at a local Occupy event.
As we struggle to undo the lingering damage of the 2008 financial crisis, it isn’t difficult to understand why hundreds of thousands of people have taken their grievances to the streets. Something is clearly wrong with a system that rewards individual recklessness with bailouts while sticking those least able to pay with the bill.
But the problem is not capitalism itself. Rather, it is capitalism’s bastardized form — often called cronyism, state capitalism or corporatism — that is responsible for so many ills attributed to the free market. Left to their own devices, individuals acting in the free market work together to provide the goods and services that improve the lives of all, whether rich or poor. Yet the market mechanism, when corrupted, quickly and inevitably becomes a facilitator of unbridled greed.
Of course, many do not find these claims convincing. The dispute over the merit of free markets has lasted centuries. And it is not difficult to understand why the debate endures today, for the question of capitalism is not merely one of economics. It is a question of how to structure our society.
Even many of capitalism’s nominal supporters are reluctant to view capitalism as ideal or moral; it is often treated as a “necessary evil,” a messy system that is nevertheless better than its alternatives. As the Occupy movement brings the flaws of our supposedly laissez-faire system into sharp focus, these weak justifications are looking ever more inadequate. Clearly, supporters of capitalism need a deep, robust argument if the free-market system is to survive the current economic crisis.
Tom Palmer is one man who can help make the much-needed moral case for capitalism. Palmer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C. He is also the vice president for international programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. For the past three decades, Palmer has traveled the globe, bringing the message of individual liberty to some of the world’s most oppressed peoples. His journeys have taken him to the satellite states of the former Soviet Union, across the Middle East and throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Palmer brings a unique, global perspective to the economic and social problems we are facing here at home. The University’s chapter of College Libertarians is pleased to host Palmer as he visits campus today, and we would like to extend an invitation to attend the talk to all members of the campus community. Whether you consider yourself a capitalist, a socialist or something in between, we’re sure you will find Palmer’s presentation both enjoyable and educational.
Tom Palmer will be presenting a free talk entitled “The Morality of Capitalism: Where Occupy Wall Street Went Wrong” today, from 7:30p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The location is Forum Hall, Palmer Commons. A question-and-answer session will follow.
LSA senior Graham Kozak is the president of the University’s chapter of College Libertarians.