Thank you for your email.
You write that your sister, fresh off her sophomore year at Lehigh, informed you last night that “capitalism just doesn’t work.” And you ask me to recommend material to share with her in hopes of getting her to rethink her “flirtation with socialism.”
I can recommend Christian Nimitz’s 2019 book, Socialism: An Immortal Failed Idea. Or Art Carden and Deirdre McCloskey’s 2020 Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World.. Or Marian Tupi and Gale Pulley 2022 Super quantity. Or Jim O’Tson’s 2021 Seven Deadly Economic Sins. Or Russell Roberts The choice And Hearing the invisibleT. Or even This video. All necessary materials.
But if your sister resists reading assignments from her sibling, simply ask her to go to the supermarket. Safe way. Kroger, ShopRite, Wegman’s. Whole foods. Walmart has no problem. Ask her to wander the streets and see all the items for sale. Indeed, here it is. Ask her to count the different types of goods for sale. Ask her who can afford that abundance of food and other merchandise. Ask her to remember the packaging of each item. Ask her who designed those different packages. Who invented packaging materials? Ask her how she can make plastic containers that hold merlot or glass bottles. Ask her if she knows anyone who knows how to do things like this.
Ask her who picked the pumpkins? Who smeared them with vinegar and spices to season them? Who invented vinegar? Who discovered spices? Who grew bananas? The broccoli? What about bits? Who milked the cows? And from almonds? Who caught the tuna? Tilapia? And who developed the payment system so that customers can buy their groceries in seconds by swiping or tapping the plastic?
Ask your sister what guarantees the supermarket owners have for customers to buy the items on the shelves. Remind her that there are no guarantees, but despite these strangers, every day, they crowd their shelves full of goods from around the world and offer to sell them at reasonable prices – goods that no one should buy. And ask your sister if the supermarket you visited today is open tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and next month. Ask her how she knows.
Ask your sister for the name and address of her local grocery store or supermarket department website.
I know of no better and more accessible proof of capitalist success than the supermarket. An inquiring, open-minded visit to one of these modern empires reveals the wonderful (and in some cases literal) fruits of capitalist markets – division of labor, innovation, entrepreneurship, competition, finance, trade and commerce. and economic freedom.
Capitalist plants all over America are monuments to its achievements – monuments that seem so commonplace in the US today. But they are actually fantastic..
Tell this to your sister.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
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