Marx and Engels were right when they observed in The Communist Manifesto that free markets had in a short time created greater prosperity and more technological innovation than all previous generations combined. A century and a half later, all the evidence shows that capitalism has lifted millions and millions from hunger and poverty.
Today’s story about global capitalism, shared by right-wing and left-wing populists, but also by large sections of the political and economic establishment, does not deny that prosperity has been created, but it says it ended up in far too few hands. This in turn has made it popular to talk about the global economy as a geopolitical zero-sum game, where we have to fight to control new innovations, introduce trade barriers and renationalise value chains. While, more broadly, capitalism is accused of fuelling glaring inequality, populist revolts, climate change and China’s global conquest.
In this incisive and passionate investigation, Johan Norberg instead states the case for capitalism and the vital role played by the free market in today’s uncertain world. Ultimately, he argues that that a move away from global capitalism would not only squeeze the growth out of the economy but also deepen an already large social exclusion for the vulnerable – for the world’s poor, it would be a killing blow.