Why end of communism didn’t make capitalism popular

The Left has successfully blamed market economics for policy failings of their own. The longer it is unfashionable to be a laissez-faire capitalist, the more people will suffer

The Wall came down, but capitalism wasn't built up
Elliot Burns
On 23 January 2014 11:55

It is now accepted that the deadliest ideology of all time is communism. It is impossible to rack up quite how many were killed in the 20th century by this evil doctrine, but it is sure to be around 100 million.

One would assume, based on the obvious evil perpetrated by Communists in the last 100 years, that there would have been a movement as far away from it as possible. Of course, the opposite of communism is small, accountable government and free market economics.

Yet despite the evils proven to have been caused by communism, the free market still lacks fans in most sectors. Why did the free market go out of fashion?

The simple answer is that it has been blamed for a multitude of things that it did not cause: from the 2008 financial crash to the cost of living crisis and everything in between. In Britain, overzealous government regulation means we have corporatism, not capitalism, and so the vilification of the free market is clearly irrational.

Of course, one of the biggest causes of hatred of the free market is a lack of understanding of it. Simplistically blaming deregulation as a cause of economic crises, and equating some deregulation with a free market, means the free market gets the blame for issues it didn't cause.

Take the example of banking. As was seen time and time again in 2008 and 2009, executives at banks making huge losses were awarded substantial performance-related bonuses. As the losses piled up, the amount of money distributed in bonuses increased, and when the whole system came crashing down, the government intervened to prevent the banks from going bust.

It is clear that this is a deeply flawed system, and it is. Yet it is not an indictment of capitalism, because the events I have just described did not take place in a capitalist economic system. They occurred in a corporatist one. Nonetheless, the reaction of most people to stories like this is to blame capitalism and, by association, the free market, rather than the real cause.

It doesn't help that the BBC, the main source of news for tens of millions of people in Britain and around the world, constantly pushes a Guardian-esque agenda stigmatising free market economics and promoting statist solutions.

The anti-free market agenda is equally strong in the United States, where the mainstream media, especially MSNBC, call for redistribution of wealth and higher taxes. The propaganda machine against the free market is in full swing all over the world.

There is certainly an ingrained bias in society now in that many people are unwilling to credit the free market with development. It is no coincidence that rapid economic growth in China has occurred at the same time as increasing embrace of the free market: it is this deregulation that has caused the growth.

However this undisputable fact barely gets a mention; left-wingers round the world are quick to praise the effectiveness of the 'socialist market economy' in China, conveniently ignoring the fact that if an even freer market approach was taken growth would be even more substantial.

When increasing economic freedom causes negative effects, leftists come out in force to blame the free market. When it causes progress, the left always looks to credit something else.

The effects of this have been disastrous on the political landscape -- there are no parties embracing laissez-faire capitalism anymore. Who should  a genuine free marketeer vote for?

Certainly not Labour or the Lib Dems. The Tories have been too little inclined to challenge the consensus on the role and even the size of the state, and UKIP seem protectionist.

The situation is barely better in the United States, where only the Tea Party genuinely express traditional Republican values, though they are held back by their extremists who scare off moderates, meaning their long term electoral impact is unlikely to be significant. As such, the great gravy train of the state rolls on.

The longer it is unfashionable to be a laissez-faire capitalist, the more people will suffer. The free market makes everybody better off, and we must not let the shameful agendas of the media prevent that. For the sake of the western world, it's time to make the free market fashionable again.

Elliot Burns is a freelance writer for The Commentator and others. He is also the Director of Political Policy at The Institute for Policy Design

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