The Industrial Revolution resulted from a repudiation of the ancients—but not just the ancients. The “Great Enrichment” of the late 18th and 19th centuries was a fully “modern” rejection of the cultural inheritance of the Renaissance, to say nothing of the medieval synthesis. The product of cultural innovations in Western Europe, and particularly England and Scotland, a new and paradigmatic culture took form that would produce a global revolution. Human history had witnessed nothing like this cultural rupture that, in an epochal blink of an eye, rendered so much of the past irrelevant. This is the story told by Joel Mokyr…
Trust a Jesuit to split hairs. In This Economy Kills: Pope Francis and Social Justice, the Rev. Fr. Professor Diego Alonso-Lasheras SJ of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome is quoted as saying that Evangelii Gaudium, Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, is not as anti-market as people think. Note its use of indefinite articles, he urges, for instance in “an economy of exclusion” (“una economía de la exclusión” in the original Spanish) and “a financial system which rules rather than serves” (“un dinero que gobierna en lugar de server”). According to Fr. Alonso-Lasheras, if Francis had really meant to sock it to the capitalists, he “would have used the definite article la or el, thus conveying the idea of a more general, categorical, and absolute condemnation.”
Be that as it may, the expression “Such an economy kills” (“Esa economía mata”) packs quite a rhetorical punch even without a definite article. No doubt this is why Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi, two Italian journalists, have chosen it for the title of their new book.
When Charles G. Koch, the chief executive officer of his family business, recently wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post saying he agreed with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that our economic system is “often rigged to help the privileged few,” it raised eyebrows even among the company-town’s power structure.
The online version was absolutely swamped with comments. Almost all of the commenters agreed about the evils of crony capitalism but most of them unfairly attacked Koch as hypocritical for being a capitalist himself. The examples he presented of Koch Industries’ opposing government subsidies that could have advantaged its business counted for exactly nothing. Pretty tough to crack the capitalist stereotype even when the capitalist supports one of the Left’s core precepts.
Future students of our age may well treat Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and James R. Otteson’s The End of Socialism as bookends on an era. Hayek raises the specter of state collectivism in his classic work from 1944. In this new book, Otteson charts socialism’s end, in both senses of that word: the goals it fails to realize as well as its inevitable collapse.
Walter Isaacson is one of our greatest biographers. He has written three superb portraits of men who in large measure defined their age—Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. Isaacson has both the empathy and knowledge to make subjects as varied as a universal sage, a scientific genius, and an entrepreneurial visionary come to life. He has now written The Innovators, a group sketch of people who have created our world of ubiquitous computation.
It is a finely etched and exciting picture. We learn that Ada Lovelace, Byron’s daughter, was the first to understand that computational machines could do any logical operation with the right instructions: she is the grandmother of software. And William Shockley was so paranoid that, even after winning the Nobel prize, he obsessed over who on the Nobel committee might have tried to prevent him from getting it. Isaacson also skillfully weaves important themes through the book, such as the ability of many innovators to do, in the words of the Countess Lovelace, “poetic science,” combining aesthetic sensibility with analytic acumen to create new products.
Unfortunately, in his explanations of what drives progress in technology and innovation, Isaacson slights the role of markets and of America.
There’s something deliciously impertinent about Dinesh D’Souza. Watch D’Souza here, facing off against Bill Ayers in front of a full auditorium. He opens with a joke about metal detectors, a sly reference to the bombs Ayres set off in the 1960s. A few minutes later, he skewers Ayres for his cushy trust fund background. Attaboy Dinesh, you’ll be saying, in admiration of his guts and his articulate defense of America.
Debating the A-list celebrities of the Left is one thing; offering a conservative message to mainstream America in a movie is another. The filmmaker had better 1) understand America; and 2) be not just pro-American but an artist—or else he turns into a Rightwing version of other entertaining but tendentious filmmakers like, say, Michael Moore.
D’Souza’s new documentary America: Imagine a World Without Her has apparently out-earned Moore’s Capitalism at the box office.
When I was a student, my friends and I would stay up all night to discuss such questions as the truth or otherwise of determinism. Was the entire future of the universe immanent in its past, indeed had everything been determined from the very foundation of the universe (if it had one)? If so, what of our supposed freedom?
Can the current model of humanitarian aid generated by networks of large philanthropic foundations, NGOs, and Western governments actually alleviate the poverty of the world's Bottom Billion, to quote the title of Paul Collier's book? This podcast with the Acton Institute's Michael Miller, director of the new Poverty Cure Initiative, puts forward a persuasive case rooted in particular communities in Africa and South America that the conditions for prosperity emerge from our free and relational nature as human beings. Accordingly, authentic help to the world's poor must not be driven by the notion that the global poor are the objects…
What would you think of capitalism if you were born in a country that had developed a market economy by the dawn of the 20th Century and was ranked among the ten wealthiest nations per capita in the world—but one hundred years later had dropped to seventieth with little of that wealth having trickled down to the poorest in society? Such was Pope Francis’ experience with capitalism in Argentina and his pastoral letter Evangelii Gaudium cannot be understood without it. We all begin with our culture and his would discourage anyone, especially someone so moved by concern for the poor.
It is impossible to exaggerate the enigma within the term “capitalism.” It is in fact one of those big concepts concocted by its enemies, indeed by its chief antagonist Karl Marx. To this very day its central concepts of market and “trickle down” are questioned from the American president to the pope. Even its supporters cannot agree on what it is or even when it began.