A New Book from Ralph Benko

Transpartisan Note #116

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

The Capitalist Manifesto: The End of Class Warfare, Toward Universal Affluence is the latest work from TTR contributor and advisory board member Ralph Benko whose contributions to The Transpartisan Review include Why Conservatives Should Love AOC, Political Armageddon, and A Republic, If You Can Keep It.

Ralph, a former deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House, is the principal of the public affairs firm of RalphBenko.com. He serves as editor-in-chief of the Supply Side Blog, was short-listed as Nonprofit Blogger of the Year for his work for the Lehrman Institute, and is a political columnist and professional blogger for a variety of outlets including American Spectator and Townhall.com.

Below you will find a press release for the book and several excerpts.  If you have enjoyed Ralph’s past contributions, we encourage you to check it out at TheCapitalistLeague.com (now on sale at this link).

A Call to Truly Liberal Radicalism

Transpartisan Review adviser (and self-described cispartisan) Ralph Benko, together with Tea Party progenitor William Collier, Jr., recently published The Capitalist Manifesto: The End of Class Warfare, Toward Universal Affluence (The Websters’ Press, 2019).

It is now available in eBook and, soon, a trade paperback edition at TheCapitalistLeague.com where you can also subscribe, free, to the League’s newsletter Universal Opulence.  Rather than  merely criticizing Socialism (which it does) Benko and Collier celebrate Capitalism in no uncertain terms as beneficial to workers as well as the affluent.

They cite President John F. Kennedy’s axiom from his last public speech, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”  The Manifesto’s epigram and leitmotif is Adam Smith’s statement from Wealth of Nations:

It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.

A core point of The Capitalist Manifesto is that – from The Communist Manifesto to the present day – core socialist doctrine holds that capitalism is excellent at creating wealth and terrible at its equitably distributing wealth to workers. Factually untrue, according to the authors.

– Excerpts –

Marx and Engels, in inventing Communism, pitted the workers – the proletariat – against the middle class – the bourgeoisie. They claimed that the middle class was exploiting the workers.

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Marx and Engels, in The Communist Manifesto, pay homage to Capitalism’s ability to conjure abundance:

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam- navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground – what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

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As we write this yet another Communist Manifesto is in press, garnering favorable attention from prestige publications such as The New York Times. It is entitled Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto.  An excerpt:

Automation, robotics and machine learning will, as many august bodies, from the Bank of England to the White House, have predicted, substantially shrink the work force, creating widespread technological unemployment. But that’s only a problem driver or construction worker — is something to be cherished. For many, work is drudgery. And automation could set us free from it.

Gene editing and sequencing could revolutionize medical practice, moving it from reactive to predictive. Hereditary diseases could be eliminated, including Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia, and cancer cured before it reaches Stage 1. Those technologies could allow us to keep pace with the health challenges presented by societal aging — by 2020 there will be more people over the age of 60 than under the age of 5 — and even to surpass them.

What’s more, renewable energy, which has been experiencing steep annual falls in cost for half a century, could meet global energy needs and make possible the vital shift away from fossil fuels. More speculatively, asteroid mining — whose technical barriers are presently being surmounted — could provide us with not only more energy than we can ever imagine but also more iron, gold, platinum and nickel. Resource scarcity would be a thing of the past.

The consequences are far-reaching and potentially transformative. For the crises that confront our world today — technological unemployment, global poverty, societal aging, climate change, resource scarcity — we can already glimpse the remedy.

But there’s a catch. It’s called Capitalism. It has created the newly emerging abundance, but it is unable to share round the fruits of technological development.

There they go again. The new Communists, just like Marx and Engels, acknowledge Capitalism’s power to create abundance. Then they slyly indict Capitalism for its inability to  “share round the fruits.”

This overlooks the fact that all but the poorest of the poor in developed – Capitalist – countries tend to own cell phones, color TVs, and live in air-conditioned and centrally-heated homes with plentiful food.

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As The Spectator observed in an article titled Glad Tidings published in 2012:

It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.

In 1990, the UN announced Millennium Development Goals, the first of which was to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. It emerged this year that the target was met in 2008. Yet the achievement did not merit an official announcement, presumably because it was not achieved by any government scheme but by the pace of global Capitalism. (Emphasis added.)

As Tim Worstall writing in Forbes.com – that Capitalist Tool! – noted a few years back, “the average American today is 90 Times Richer than the Average Historical Human Being.”

I have regularly tried to get over the idea that there is just no such thing as real poverty in the United States today. Absent those entirely outside our society through addiction or mental health problems there is just no one at all who suffers from what has been the usual human description of poverty. Actually, there’s no one at all in the US who has anything even close to what the human experience has been of poverty. By any historical, and by standards of all too large a part of the world today, all Americans are simply hugely, gargantuanly, richer than any but the fewest, most privileged, of our forefathers.

Capitalism, and with it the “universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people,” strikes again!

“Unable to share round the fruits?” Simply untrue to the point of inanity. How inconvenient a truth for those who wish to restore the neo-Feudalism that is Communism or Socialism. So they ignore it.

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What is to be done? Let us again take inspiration from the wisdom of Hayek, that great prophet of liberalism. In his essay cited above Hayek commanded the advocacy of a liberal utopia, founded in truly liberal radicalism:

Does this mean that freedom is valued only when it is lost, that the world must everywhere go through a dark phase of socialist totalitarianism before the forces of freedom can gather strength anew? It may be so, but I hope it need not be. Yet, so long as the people who over longer periods determine public opinion continue to be attracted by the ideals of Socialism, the trend will continue. If we are to avoid such a development, we must be able to offer a new liberal program which appeals to the imagination. We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage.

What we lack is a liberal utopia, a program which seems neither a mere defense of things as they are nor a diluted kind of Socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical, and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible. We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote.

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The main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of the socialists is that it was their courage to be utopian which gained them the support of the intellectuals and therefore an influence on public opinion which is daily making possible what only recently seemed utterly remote. Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this had rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide — unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds. But if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.

The battle is not lost, and in fact the odds are strongly in our favor if we but decide to join arm-in-arm to make common cause in defense of, and to advance, the greatest economic system ever known to humanity. Capitalism is the only economic system which we can point to and say, “it has made substantive progress toward its seemingly utopian aims.”

(Feature Image: Fortune by Tadeusz Kuntze-Konicz, Fortune, 1754 from the Collection of the National Museum in Warsaw.)

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