Wednesday 8 August 2018

Is Capitalism Rigged in Favour of Elites?

To answer that question The Economist is hosting a debate between Jason Furman (formerly a top adviser in the socialist [sic] Obama administration, currently at Harvard Kennedy School) and Deirdre McCloskey (University of Illinois at Chicago). Furman has been making the Yes case; McCloskey the Nope.

Personally, I think the contest is unfair. Furman’s job is like shooting fish in a barrel. McCloskey, on the other hand, is fighting an uphill battle if there ever was one.

I will abstain from commenting on Furman’s opening intervention. I’ll put it this way: meh. As I have a soft spot for the underdogs (in this case I think I better keep the old patriarchal conventions, you know, just to be on the safe side) I’ll comment on McCloskey’s.

You have to give her this: she tries. Always the consummate theoretician of economic rhetoric, she uses rhetoric to dodge Furman’s punches. She bends over backwards, does all sorts of verbal gymnastics. The problem is that it ain’t working. She may be a theoretician of rhetoric, but she ain’t no practitioner. Much to learn she still has, as Keynes and/or Friedman could have said.

In the process, after all those contortions, she becomes unwittingly hilarious. One example? Her closing remark:
“Be of good cheer, then. The poor shall inherit the earth.”
We’ll inherit the earth, after it’s gotten scorched and dry.

You know capitalism is in trouble when even a guy like Furman has to concede it has serious problems. You know things are worse than you imagined when apologists like McCloskey make you laugh.

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