Liberty Matters

Where Is the Intellectual Progress?


I want to draw attention to Arthur Seldon’ unfairly neglected book, Capitalism (Blackwell, 1990).[14]   It is a masterful and wide-ranging defense of capitalism. He presents the virtues of capitalism, rebuts the case for socialism,  directly challenges a large number of capitalism’s critics by name, and illustrates his passion for capitalism with episodes from his own personal history.  I speculate that it was neglected because his critique was directed at socialism, which, due partly to his own efforts, was no longer the chief alternative of capitalism, having already largely been discredited. Opposition has since taken a number of different forms, such as Rawlsianism, postmaterialism, and environmentalism .
I want to focus on chapters 7 and 8, which identify 10 intellectual developments that explain the revival of capitalism as an ideal.[15] My challenge is: how successful have these arguments been since he presented them in 1990?  To what extent have classic liberals built on those insights, given them greater strength, or added new powerful arguments to our ammunition. Or are classical liberals still living off of an intellectual legacy of over 20 years ago?  
The 10 developments (p. 146, or p. 206 in the LF ed.) were:  
  1. A new interpretation  of capitalist history
  2. The new analysis of property rights
  3. The new emphasis on the market as a process
  4. The economics of politics (Public Choice)
  5. The critical examination of government regulation
  6. The skeptical view of public goods
  7. The nature and effect of externalities
  8. The monetary control of fluctuations
  9. The economics of self-investment in human capital
  10. The limited and minimal state
My inclination is to say that classical liberals have made very little progress in building on these foundations or in creating new ones.  I also note that these were all developments in economics. Have we seen any progress in the intellectual arguments in favor of capitalism in other disciplines (for example, in political science, philosophy or history)?  
[14] Capitalism appears in vol. 1 of The Collected Works of Arthur Seldon: The Virtues of Capitalism (Indiana;olis: Liberty Fund, 2004), pp. 51-465. </titles/1449>. Unfortuantely it is only available here in PDF format at the moment. An HTML version of Chapters 7 and 8 can be found here </pages/intellectual-reinforcement-for-capitalism>.
[15] Chap. 7 "Intellectual Reinforcement for Capitalism," pp. 205-26; Chap. 8 "More "Intellectual Reinforcement for Capitalism," pp. 227-46.