Dr Arthur Shenfield (1909-1990) was a distinguished scholar and a valued member of the ASI’s Academic Board. In 1981 he published “Myth & Reality in Economic Systems,” based on a lecture series. The essay “Morality and Capitalism” is very pertinent today, given the recent claim by Thomas Piketty that capitalism must lead to widening inequality. It is worth reading Shenfield, not least for his pithy turns of phrase:
Thus it ill becomes socialists to assail the inequality of capitalism for, once achieved, socialism produces inequality more gross and obnoxious than anything observable in a developed capitalist country. However, since there is some merit in a wide degree of a fairly equal condition insofar as it does not hinder desirable incentives of varieties of life styles, it is important to consider which kind of system is most likely to achieve it. The clear answer is capitalism.
Socialism ostensibly pursues equality but produces inequality. Capitalism pursues liberty but in the process also reduces inequality. We have already noted that in capitalism wealth comes to those who serve the masses. Thus in capitalism the inequality of condition is little more than the difference between the Cadillac and the Chevrolet, the Parisian couturier’s model and the excellent mass-produced copies of it, caviar and the equally nutritious cod’s roe. In pre-capitalist societies it was the difference between the mansion and the hovel, between silks and rags, between exquisite luxury and frequent famine.
In socialist societies it is between the luxurious country villa and the miserable worker’s flat, between the special shops carrying high-quality goods imported from capitalist countries reserved for the Party elite and the endless queueing for the shoddy products of socialist industry imposed on the masses.