Puritans started with socialism and price controls before they jumped to capitalism

There is a concept loose in the U.S. and emphasized in our educational system that the Puritans arrived in the U.S. believing in capitalism and went straight to economic prosperity.

Well, capitalism will definitely do that, but the Puritans made a few stops before getting to prosperity. Those included socialism, price controls, and severe caps on finance & trade under the guise of opposing usury. All of those policies will suppress economic development.

Jerry Bowyer explores this journey through false ideas is a series of articles, which summarize his interview with Mark Valeri, author of Heavenly Merchandize.

To encourage you to check out the full articles, I’ll try to summarize some key ideas.

7/30 – Forbes – Jerry Bowyer – Puritans vs. Capitalism: How A Theological Error Led To Financial Stagnation – In the 17th century, pastors and religious leaders were opposed to usury which included even discounting letters of credit more than a small amount. If you can’t use paper (bills of credit) to facilitate long-distance trading, there won’t be much trading.


Consider the radical transformation in the last 300 years. And capitalism’s role therein.

Here’s the formula: compare life for the typical person today to 30, 100, 300 years ago. The things we take for granted to today would have been an unimaginable blessing back then. I get a kick out of that story line every time I see it.

The latest in a long line of examples is from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:  Capitalism: The Greatest Engine of Equality. He ponders what a man from 1700 would think of a visit to Bill Gates. Just about every one of the astounding things observed by the visitor from 1700 is also available to almost every person living in the U.S.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

The driving force behind all of this?


And property rights.

And a functional legal system.

And a functional democracy.

Read the full article. A few things that would have been beyond the wildest dream 300 years ago: (more…)

What strange, mysterious, magical force is loose that increased US production of both oil and gas by one-third in six years?

Is it targeted federal subsidies?  Breakthrough law from the Congress?  Socialist industrial policy?  Keynesian monetary policy?  Blockbuster documentary from Hollywood that changed minds across the country?  More support for college loans? A landmark special on network TV? Quantitative Easing?

No. It’s none of those things.

Barron’s is pondering the question as well:  The Secret of U.S. Energy Success.

Federal subsidies have produced a substantial increase in some things. The editorial provides a partial list. Subsidies have given us…

..our national surpluses of grain, milk, unemployment, nonprofit companies, disabilities, and mortgage debt.

Those subsidies didn’t produce the massive increase in oil production in Bakken and Eagle Ford.

The best paragraph from the editorial: (more…)

Capitalism is awesome because it makes us think historical flukes are normal

Café Hayek explains why Capitalism is Awesome – the amazing performance of capitalism fools us into thinking that wonderful living standards we see today are the world-wide norm across history instead of an aberration compared to what happened during preceding thousands of generations.

Wish I could quote the full comment, but that isn’t right, so consider just this. The free market can

..fool us modern folk into thinking that the lives we lead are normal – fool us into thinking that poverty (rather than wealth) has causes; fool us into supposing that people my age (almost 55), because we still have all of our teeth and aren’t remotely yet decrepit, are “middle-aged” rather than old, ancient, nearly dead by historical standards; …

We also forget that (more…)

Capitalism is awesome because of incremental changes

It’s not just the huge leaps that make capitalism so incredible. It is also the constant, small, incremental changes that make products better, cheaper, tastier, stronger, and lighter. So explains Chris Berg in Why Capitalism is Awesome.

He explains that Ikea’s idea to pack and ship flat reduces shipping costs to about 1/6th of shipping full-sized stuff. They have staff who obsess over reducing weight while increasing strength, which in turn drives down prices further.


Q: Was the middle class created by federal law or large, profit-hungry corporations?

A: It wasn’t the generosity of Congress.

Instead, Large, Profit-hungry Corporations Helped Create the Middle Class, as explained by Voices for Reason.

Big companies looking to make a buck created large supermarkets containing refrigerated produce and a large selection of dry goods. The article quotes The Great A&P, which points out before the age of large supermarkets: (more…)