Seemingly at least once a week, I read in the Guardian an article about how capitalism is in its death throes. What’s conspicuous by its absence in every single one of these pieces is what exactly is going to replace it as an economic system.
In the middle of the 20th century, the Left had an answer to what should replace neoliberal economics: socialism. But then even the Left figured out that it had more than a few flaws in it around the time of the Berlin Wall coming down. They abandoned socialism for the sort of Keynesian social democracy that the Labour Party and most other European democratic socialist parties always carried through whenever they got into office anyhow. Socialism was still mentioned, but in hollow, meaningless terms; a sort of catch all of left thinking that didn’t really mean what it used to.
This is why these articles in the left of centre news outlets heralding the impending demise of capitalism are slim on the details of what exactly replaces it. Because if socialism in the real sense of the word has been discredited, what are you talking about in terms of alternative models?
To paraphrase Churchill, capitalism is the worst economic system, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. It can create huge divides between rich and poor. It can leave those at the bottom of the socio-economic pile ruthlessly exploited. It can also lift millions of people out of poverty as well. It’s a mixed bag. Which, as I say, is a lot better than communism, which resulted in totalitarianism 100% of the times it was ever attempted.
I say all of this because I would be genuinely interested in hearing about realistic alternatives to capitalism, should they be out there. As I said, it’s the least bad system in many respects, very far from perfect. But the 20th century taught us a lot about the dangers of utopian ideas that lead to totalitarianism.
I would argue in closing that before you start talking about an economic system being on the verge of obsolescence, you’d better have whatever is supposedly going to take its place fully thought out and ready to go.