Thursday, February 12, 2009

On Reconstructing The Idea of Capitalism

"I think...that the term 'capitalism' is an important one and that it should not only be retained but defended. We must clear away the rubble that has accumulated on this ancient citadel since Marx and Engels and Sombart wrote. As in the case of the excavation of Troy, only patience and devotion will permit us to triumph in the end. And the rubble is so heavy: dialectical revolution, rationalistic spirit, human exploitation, personal greed--all the cant, fury and misguided sentiment of one hundred years! The digging is worth our efforts, for at the bottom we shall find a system and a set of attitudes which have made possible material progress and the alleviation of human suffering. This system and attitudes we may as well call 'capitalism' and if we define it, for historical analysis, as the risk-taking function of private individuals (who, by the process--if they are successful--create capital) and the development and maintenance of sound fiscal policy by the state, I think we will able to save the term from the opprobrium from which it suffers."

L.M. Hacker, "The Anticapitalist Bias of American Historians" in F.A. Hayek, Capitalism and the Historians. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954, p. 74.

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