Saturday, January 02, 2010

Capitalism and Culture

Jeffrey Tucker has a nice article at on improving culture. Critics of capitalism claim that free markets lead to McDonalds and trashy novels, and that we need government funding of art and National Public Radio to balance the culture-corrupting influence of capitalism. Tucker gives a couple of anecdotes about entrepreneurs who enhance culture.

Tucker notes that

Capitalism makes more of everything available to the consumer. That means more trashy novels and rotten music, but it also means more great literature and high-level music, all of which is accessible as never before.

If consumers want it, they can get culture on CD's, DVD's and HD, and get it far cheaper than their ancestors, thanks not to government, but to capitalism.

But today, cultural entrepreneurs are seriously inhibited in their innovations by high taxes, regulations, and mandated benefits. This produces fewer attempts to improve our world than there would otherwise be. Some markets are hobbled to the point of near inaction, such as the education market, and others are less vibrant than they would otherwise be.

Education is critical. Homeschoolers are statistically more interested in culture than public school students. Why don't government schools create consumers who crave culture and drive capitalist markets upward? Do we really want the culture of government's public schools reproduced society-wide?

So what we need is not the overthrow of private property but more freedom for cultural entrepreneurship, and more individual initiative to do more than complain that the world is not conforming to your own values. The next time someone complains about what the market is doing to the culture, ask that person what he or she has done to enter the market and make a difference. And ask what that person has done to make the world freer for those who seek to make the world a more beautiful place.

Tucker is being pleasant and politically correct when he says

So what we need is not the overthrow of private property but more freedom for cultural entrepreneurship....

"More freedom" simply means "less government." The logical and literary parallel to "What we need is not the overthrow of private property," is "but the overthrow of the government." Not just on cultural grounds, but on economic and moral grounds. But Tucker is undoubtedly trying to avoid sounding like an extremist.

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