Capitalism's Most Overlooked Benefit: Peace

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In discussing capitalism's attributes, argues J.T. Young at The American Spectator, we too often forget about peace:

Virtually all conflicts of the last century have been initiated by fettered market, authoritarian states. Often the world's armed conflicts have been between two such regimes. Contrastingly, military conflicts have almost never pitted two capitalist, democratic nations against one another.

Socialist, communist, fascist, or simply non-ideological dictator-governed nations have almost always been the world's aggressors. When capitalist democracies are drawn into armed conflict, it is almost always against such economically-fettered nations.

To prove his point, Young, who's worked in the federal government and on Capitol Hill, points to the Korean Peninsula: "In South Korea, a capitalist market, open society, and democracy exist. In North Korea, a closed market, closed society, and totalitarian regime exist. You also have a stark distinction between peace and war."

For capitalist countries, Young says, war is a terrible economic investment, since resources are deployed for unproductive rather than productive ends. War only becomes an option when the long-term costs of an enemy's continued aggression outweigh the short-term costs of resisting it.

The economic calculation for non-capitalist nations is reversed, he continues. Since, by definition, their economies are not allocating resources optimally, conflict is actually the best economic investment.

Young adds that free markets are also likely to create free political systems whose checks and balances make it difficult for the government to go to war or remain at war for a protracted period of time, whereas the opposite is true in societies with "fettered markets."

After citing the economists Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek to support his claims, Young concludes: "capitalism is frequently credited with only the most prosaic of goals and ends in society. In fact, it is really the protector of society's most sublime goals."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.