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

Most Popular

White House

Another Warning Sign

The Mueller report is of course about Russian interference in the 2016 election and about the White House's interference in the resulting investigation. But I couldn’t help also reading the report as a window into the manner of administration that characterizes the Trump era, and therefore as another warning ... Read More
U.S.

Supreme Court Mulls Citizenship Question for Census

Washington -- The oral arguments the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday will be more decorous than the gusts of judicial testiness that blew the case up to the nation’s highest tribunal. The case, which raises arcane questions of administrative law but could have widely radiating political and policy ... Read More
Film & TV

Jesus Is Not the Joker

Actors love to think they can play anything, but the job of any half-decent filmmaker is to tell them when they’re not right for a part. If the Rock wants to play Kurt Cobain, try to talk him out of it. Adam Sandler as King Lear is not a great match. And then there’s Joaquin Phoenix. He’s playing Jesus ... Read More