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One Book for Capitalism

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John James Posted: Thu, Apr 19 2012 2:22 AM

A few months ago there was a thread asking "How Would You Teach Capitalism?".  Later, another asked "To Any Who Were Once Apathetic: What Brought You In?"

Coincidently enough, around that same time Tom Woods requested some feedback from his readers on the same topic of a good go-to resource for introducing a newbie to the the morality of capitalism with some pro-capitalist history.

The comments were quite enlightening.  One in particular offered some interesting insight...as well as a recommendation I would not have thought of...

Hi Tom and Young Reader.  As a person in his twenties and also a very recently reformed liberal (I'm still growing, but process began about a year ago- I've come a long way), I have a unique answer and then a suggestion. 

When I was liberal I fervently believed, because the Main Street Media always told me this was true, two things:

1.  We live in a capitalist society
2. Capitalism has failed us and is the reason we have such awful inequity
Which leads to 
3. Deregulating capitalism will make everything worse.

These were the hardest fallacies to correct within myself, and my friend was likely banging his head against the wall after every discussion in which he would respond, "but evil corporations cannot do that if they didn't have the power of government to do so." and I would respond, "but if government doesn't regulate the corporations, then corporations win!" 

First one must be willing to be wrong, only then can one learn new things.  But to accept being wrong about something so seemingly fundamental and taught throughout 17 years of school and media is transformative and naturally one goes on the defensive when confronted with the very core of one's beliefs as being untrue.  

So, to break through that defensive layer first we need to address the fallacies before we get to the "capitalism is good" part.  

The lessons:
1. We do not live in a capitalist society- government intervention through bailouts and subsidies among other things are regulations and forms of socialism.  Too big to fail (the recent TARP is a good example) is the opposite of capitalism and brings the whole system down.  This is reality.  We are not living in a pure capitalist economy like the media portrays us to be in.

2.  When we talk about getting rid of government regulation we are talking about bailouts and subsidies, letting banks fail, and not creating the housing bubble.  The housing bubble is a good example of how our Not-Free-Market is controlled and ruined by government intervention. 

3.  When we are talking about getting rid of government regulation we are not talking about allowing big bad evil corporations to exploit their workers and rape the environment.  In fact, regulations allow those things to happen more than if those regulations didn't exist.  If a neighboring corporation pollutes your water and there are no regulations, you can sue him!  But if the government comes in and says "this amount of pollution is okay, and if the company violates that it has to pay this amount of a fine," then corporations will often do a cost-benefit analysis and see that they can make more money by disregarding the regulation and paying the fine.  If they pay the fine, then it will be harder for you to get money by suing them because they have already been punished as deemed by the state!  

4.  Not only that, but corporations write the legislation to often smother competition, further diminishing the free market.  If we deregulate we will make it easier for smaller companies to come in and compete with the big guys, making the products more efficient and cost effective.  

5. None of this happens in what we have now.  The government intervention built the housing bubble, everyone lost their houses, and the big corporations got checks from the government.  Our problem isn't free markets which allow companies to fail and doesn't build bubbles, it is the government and the government power intervening in the markets!

So, the book that changed my life by illustrating all of this was The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin.  My friend let me borrow his copy while we were in the stalemate of "government is good" vs "government is bad".  What better way to illustrate the fallacy that we live in a capitalist society than by exposing the Federal Reserve system!  The most anti-capitalist system there is!  It is an entertaining, but informative read. It is long, but reads like a detective story, and just reading one chapter can change your life.  It changed mine!

 

Other good recs were:

How Capitalism Saved America

The Law

Morality of Capitalism (1992) [PDF]

Morality of Capitalism (2011) [PDF]

The Case for Legalizing Capitalism

In Defense of Global Capitalism

How Economy Grows And Why It Crashes

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism

Healing Our World

 

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal   (One commentor made an astute observation about offering Rand to progressives.  I tend to agree.  There are much better choices, as can be seen on this list.)

 

Here's a couple of good ones that would go well even for really young readers.

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?

The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A free-market odyssey

 

And then of course, for those who have gotten the bug, and are looking for more, be sure to share some of the Guides and Knowledge for your Intellectual Journey.

 

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Apr 19 2012 8:56 AM

I've been eyeing that big big about capitalism. I forgot the name, but it is the black one with the yellow map of the world on the front. I've read references and excerpts from it, and it looks pretty neat. I have it saved at home, but JJ might be able to find it faster :P

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Yeah it's Reisman's opus CapitalismNOT something I'd recommend to anyone basically.  It's useful to offer up on a piece by piece basis, but if anyone is actually going to read something like that entire treatise, they're going to do it on their own.  You can't hand someone a book like that and expect them to read it...at least not unless they're really into it or are just a ridiculous bookworm.  (Which is why something like this campaign is just a terrible, stupid idea.)

For the purposes described in the OP, you need something much lighter, and much more readable.  Reisman is useful, and believe it or not, pretty interesting at times, but incredibly dry.  While I do realize The Creature from Jekyll Island is a pretty big book in itself, it's muuuch more readable (as the former progressive admits).  And How Capitalism Saved America is still at the top of the list too.

 

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Capitalism by George Reisman?

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Apr 19 2012 6:04 PM

Exactly

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Clayton replied on Fri, Apr 20 2012 3:42 AM

This is kind of a random question only indirectly related to this thread - I'm bouncing around the idea of writing a book-length treatment of morality from a human action standpoint (basically, Epicurean ethics) along the lines of what I've posted in my threads on law, ethics and other related topics. Do you think it's possible I could at least break even if I self-published it (I'm thinking like $1.99 e-book, $6.99 paperback, 150-200 pages)? Do you think I could get LRC or Mises.org to add it to their store even though I'm not an economist?

It wouldn't exactly be an "introduction to capitalism" but it would be basically what I believe is the moral theory that underpins capitalism. It would be aimed at the "educated layman" audience - people who know the difference between a priori and a posteriori but might not be able to explain the production-possibility frontier. The working title is "The Philosophy of Good and Evil". Here's a sample ToC:

1. Conscious Awareness: Final Knowledge
2. Action, Means, Ends
3. Good and Evil Defined
4. Uncertainty, Scarcity and Discovery
5. The Self-Discovery Process: The Philosophy of Good and Evil
6. Social Action as it Relates to Good and Evil
7. Law Defined
8. Economics: Principles of Material Flourishing
9. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
10. Principles of Self-Actualization
11. Stasis and Self-Treachery

Something along those lines.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
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Clayton:
Do you think it's possible I could at least break even if I self-published it (I'm thinking like $1.99 e-book, $6.99 paperback, 150-200 pages)?

What sort of monetary costs would you incur with producing an e-book?

I'm not sure about how a paperback would go, but I don't doubt there are binding services that allow for independent publishing like that.  I would just be concerned about publicity.  I'm not sure how much revenue you'd be able to generate without some kind of distribution channel.  Lee Doren wrote a book and put it out exclusively in electronic form on Amazon for $.99 and it did quite well.  It ended up being #1 in the Education Section for a while, and I'm pretty sure it all went straight to his pocket (well, all 35% of it anyway...I believe the Amazon rates are 35% royalty on anything between $.99 – $1.99, and a 70% royalty on anything more than $1.99).  (Here's Amazon's page about it, and here's a video.)

However, Lee Doren had over 30k subscribers on YouTube at the time, so he was able to publicize it pretty well (not only on his own channel, but he ended up doing interviews on Reason.tv, and radio shows and the like).

It would be interesting to see if you could get it in the Mises Store.  It would take some doing, but I would definitely look into it if you're serious about getting it written.  It could definitely be worth it if you could get the store to carry it, and then get them to publish a Mises Daily and/or LRC article (which you would write, I guess) giving a good overview (kinda like this and this).

If you're serious about the project I would get a draft written and then get in touch with Brandon Hill in the Mises Store.

 

Do you think I could get LRC or Mises.org to add it to their store even though I'm not an economist?

If it's good enough, they'll carry it.

 

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Wheylous replied on Fri, Apr 20 2012 8:32 AM

While I am assuming that you wouldn't object to free distribution (ie, you wouldn't sue us), I think I would gladly pay for the book if it were only $2. Especially if you sell if out of your own website. That way you can get 100% of the profits (minus taxes, of course crying). Heck, I think even $4 might work.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Apr 20 2012 2:04 PM

@JJ: Wow, thanks for all those resources, I'll look into them.

@Whelyous: No, I'm happy to have it spread far and wide - actually, personally, I have reservations about any kind of "e-book" other than a simple PDF document that would not be copyright restricted so it wouldn't even make sense for me to charge for the PDF download. I believe there will always be hardcopy books (though fewer) and people will always be willing to pay a little money for a nice, bound hardcopy book. The point of charging is simply to try to recoup the costs of printing. If I distribute it solely in PDF form, there won't really be any printing cost so it's just a matter of finding someone willing to host it, such as mises.org.

This is more of a mid-length project, say, two or three years. I can probably have a rought draft within 18 months if I can find some spare time.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
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Wheylous replied on Sun, Apr 22 2012 10:00 AM

The point I wanted to make is that I don't want to pay you $2 and the shipping company $4. It really turns me off. 

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There's a really good three volume work on capitalism called simply Capital. I can't remember the name of the author, unfortunately, but you can probably find it if you Google the title.

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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IIRC it started for me without any book but the "strong" feeling about wrongness of subsedies.  I simply found it unfair an could and still an not see, why one company should get them and others should pay for it. I always though something is wrong about it, it took me quite a long time to find the books which just "expressed" my feeling of wrongness.

For me the most influential books were/are

- Human Action

- Way into  serfom

- man, state and

All of this books should be known to well yes more or less anybody. But especially to the "regulators".

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