Most economists believe capitalism is a compromise with selfish human nature. As Adam Smith put it, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." Capitalism works better than socialism, according to this thinking, only because we are not kind and generous enough to make socialism work. If we were saints, we would be socialists.
In Why Not Capitalism?, Jason Brennan attacks this widely held belief, arguing that capitalism would remain the best system even if we were morally perfect. Even in an ideal world, private property and free markets would be the best way to promote mutual cooperation, social justice, harmony, and prosperity. Socialists seek to capture the moral high ground by showing that ideal socialism is morally superior to realistic capitalism. But, Brennan responds, ideal capitalism is superior to ideal socialism, and so capitalism beats socialism at every level.
Clearly, engagingly, and at times provocatively written, Why Not Capitalism? will cause readers of all political persuasions to re-evaluate where they stand vis-à-vis economic priorities and systems—as they exist now and as they might be improved in the future.
Jason Brennan is Assistant Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is the author of Compulsory Voting: For and Against, with Lisa Hill, Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know, The Ethics of Voting, and A Brief History of Liberty, with David Schmidtz.
"Are you interested in capitalism as a path to your personal utopia? This stirring moral defense of a free society is the place to start."
—Tyler Cowen, George Mason University
"In forceful strokes, Jason Brennan attacks the work of the late G.A. Cohen's defense of socialism and neatly shows why and how it is not the best of all systems even in the best of all possible worlds, let alone the highly imperfect world in which we live. His combination of accessible prose with technical precision is a model of good writing on political theory that should enable this book to reach the wider audience it deserves."
—Richard Epstein, New York University School of Law
"Gone is the false triumphalism of the 1990s. The question of how to organize society, and the ideological conflict between market systems and socialist systems, is live. Brennan offers in this brief volume a fully realized and compelling answer to Jerry Cohen's rightly celebrated book Why Not Socialism? Many of the responses to socialist advocacy dismiss command economies as impractical or impossible. But Brennan grants Cohen his premises, and carries out the argument in a way that faithfully mirrors the logic that Cohen tried to marshall in his defense of socialism. Brennan offers an unflinching defense of capitalism, and does it with style and humor. His writing is at once accessible to the first-time philosopher and yet persuasive to the denizens of the ivory towers. This book will be on the reading list for every class I teach."
—Michael Munger, Director of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, Duke University