March 4th, 2001.
"Monopoly and Competition."
Think, now, of such expressions as monopoly and competition; most people would be surprised to learn that these are not safely established facts; but, myths, spread by people, who while of good will, are politically mis-directed. The supreme myth, as Professor Hayek pointed out, is this: "The widespread emotional aversion to 'capitalism' is closely connected with this belief that the undeniable growth of wealth which the competitive order had produced was purchased at the price of depressing the standard of life of the weakest elements of society."1
The myth, that capitalism (one of those emotional words) is the culprit, can be dispelled; but, it takes time to consider the statistics. In this regard we are fortunate, as, the student of English economic history has at his disposal the reports of a long series of Royal Commissions and Committees of Inquiry beginning in the eighteenth century. The difficulty is that but a few would have the patience to go carefully through these massive volumes. "It was so much easier to pick out the more sensational evidences of distress and work them into a dramatic story of exploitation."
"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 excavations 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."2
1 Hayek's essay, "History and Politics," as found in Capitalism and the Historians (University of Chicago Press, 1963) at p. 10.
2 L. M. Hacker's essay, "The Anticapitalist Bias of American Historians," as found in Capitalism and the Historians, op. cit., at p. 73.