The Corner

Is ‘Capitalism’ Really Capitalism?

Deirdre McCloskey’s book Bourgeois Dignity on the economic miracle of the modern world and why it happened is truly dazzling. I wrote about it in my column today but couldn’t do justice to its sweep and erudition. Her basic argument is that the key to our world is the new respect that the bourgeoisie, the creators of wealth, began to get roughly 200 years ago, starting in Holland and Britain. Combine this new dignity with liberty and you get the amazing run-up in the world’s wealth over the last two centuries in contrast to what had been relative stasis throughout the rest of human history (put it in a graph and you get a real “hockey stick”–flat forever, then spiking upwards). One of McCloskey’s contentions is that capitalism is a bit of a misnomer. We don’t create wealth on the order of the last two centuries merely by accumulating capital. We create it through ceaseless change and entrepreneurialism. McCloskey suggests the neologism “innovism,” although she knows that’s awkward, so settles simply on the word “innovation.” (George Gilder e-mailed this morning to say he still prefers capitalism, derived from caput, for the head or mind.) Anyway, all of this is a long way of saying that in the contemporary debate over the economy and fiscal policy, we shouldn’t lose sight of the ultimate goal: preserving and fostering an innovation economy. Otherwise, we’re just shifting around what we already have and balancing the books of a stagnant enterprise.

(For more on Bourgeois Dignity, check out Matthew Shaffer’s interview with McCloskey.)

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

Most Popular

U.S.

The Inquisitor Has No Clothes

This is a column about impeachment, but first, a confession: I think I might be guilty of insider trading. At this point, I would like to assure my dear friends at the SEC that I do not mean this in any actionable legal sense, but only in principle. Some time ago, I was considering making an investment in a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Shaming Women Who Vote Right

Some progressives have decided that rather than convincing women that their candidates and policy proposals are better than those of conservatives, they will shame women who fail to vote for the Left by defining them all as racist and self-loathing tools of the patriarchy. Think I’m exaggerating? See this ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Way Forward from the Midterms

With the 2018 midterm elections now in the rearview mirror, Republicans have been awakened to a simple fact: The laws of political gravity apply to President Trump. Democrats won sweeping victories in the House, kept their Senate losses to a near-minimum despite a brutal map, and took down-ballot races with ... Read More