The Civilisation of Capitalism


In Joseph Schumpeter's (1942) Capitalism, Socialism & Democracy , Chapter 11 is entitled ‘the Civilisation of Capitalism’. There, he argues that the culture fostered by Capitalism has been responsible for the ‘rationalisation’ of society, as we know it. Rather than quoting Schumpeter word-for-word, I’d encourage people to read that short chapter. We can derive inspiration from Schumpeter’s thoughts in making the case for free markets and a free society. Intuitively, one would expect the individual living in a free society to be more intelligent and rational than his counterpart in a hypothetical, centrally planned Utopia (like Plato’s Republic). In a predominantly centrally planned economy, where there is deprivation of civil liberties, choices have already been made on our behalf whereas in a free society, people have more choices. The typical individual in the former will, most likely, be more naïve than his counterpart in a freer society and in the latter more rational. The freer society is, the greater the sphere in which people can develop the appropriate mental faculties for optimising outcomes.

Therefore, total freedom of thought is only really attainable in a free society with free markets. Restricting individuals’ freedoms prevents them from being the best people they can be and therefore prevents the best possible outcome for society as a whole.

It is a fundamental premise in Economics that all economic problems are rooted in the scarcity of resources. In Physics, understanding how to manipulate matter is considered somewhat of a holy grail. A certain depth of understanding with respect to matter would solve the problem of scarcity completely. However, if we indirectly restrict individuals’ thoughts by preventing them from living in a freer society that is conducive to such scientific discovery, we are shooting ourselves in the foot twice since Economics necessarily deals with this problem of scarcity that the other sciences might be able to relieve us of.

In a free society, the enhancement of mental faculties that accompanies increased freedom of thought enables individuals to deal with the problem of scarcity more intelligently, creatively, innovatively and rationally.