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Why Not Capitalism?

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  263 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Most economists believe capitalism is a compromise with selfish human nature. As Adam Smith put it, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." Capitalism works better than socialism, according to this thinking, only because we are not kind and generous enough to make soc ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published June 13th 2014 by Routledge (first published 2014)
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Rebecca McNutt
Whether you love or loathe capitalism, this book is certainly worth checking out anyway, not only because of its good points regarding finance, industry and economics, but also for its historical value as it brings up many interesting moments in time.
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy, economics
Brennan's writing is characterized by a fairly non-confrontational tone and a semi-empirical approach. He accepts the importance of Cohen's political thought and does his best to portray Cohen's views as best as possible. This is an honest work, and some of the arguments offered here are not half-bad. Unfortunately, I think Brennan commits two serious errors that end up undermining everything.

First, Brennan misinterprets Cohen's original argument. The ideal does not consist in the imaginary trip
Janet Bufton
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This short book presents the clearest moral argument for capitalism that I've read or heard. While I don't expect it to convince everyone (to some people, much of Brennan's argument will just feel wrong) it's well worth reading if you're concerned with the question and is a fantastic companion to Cohen's Why Not Socialism?. Seldom will you learn so much in under 200 pages of text. Brennan's treatment of Cohen with charity and respect strengthens the book and its argument.

Brennan's writing is exc
Aug 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
After reading *The Ethics of Voting*, I already started with a bad impression. The writing style is dry. The purpose of the previous book was just climbing the academic rungs to hit the jackpot of governmental pension plans.

This books opens with:

> My mentor David Schmidtz once said, in conversation, “Don’t concede the moral high ground.”

And this is all what this book is about. Brennan on a high horse.
Dec 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've had the pleasure of meeting Professor Brennan. He's creative, smart, and incredibly knowledgeable on philosophy and economics (his Alma Mater is #1 in political philosophy, after all). This book is an appropriate example of the prior features I mentioned above.

Brennan goes head-to-head with G.A. Cohen, the expert imitator (view his YouTube videos), the political philosopher, and arguably the most effective critic of capitalism philosophy has ever seen. He uses the same style of thought expe
Orgio Orgil
Feb 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This short book is definitely worth checking out (I mean it's a pretty easy read). Although I do not necessarily agree with everything the author's points in the book I admit the book consists of many great inputs, ideas, and opinions. I jot down some notes that kept me thinking below;

"As Adam Smith puts, 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.' "

- I clearly remember reading this very senten
Christopher Hudson Jr.
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
In his short book Why Not Capitalism? Jason Brennan makes a moral case for capitalism while also responding to G.A. Cohen’s Why Not Socialism? Most people, including defenders of capitalism, believe capitalism may hold instrumental value, but that it rests on human shortcomings, compared to socialism which may be unfeasible but desirable absent human shortcomings. Brennan uniquely argues that the features we associate capitalism (e.g. private property, market exchange, etc.) are ethically desira ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
I didn't finish the book. If reading other reviews or comments on my review lead me to believe I missed something or that further along the book redeems itself I'll happily finish it. That said, Brennan sets up his Mickey Mouse Club argument as the central point of the book, all the while underlining how this argument aims to sweep the moral high ground out from under socialism, to argue from a normative and not factual standpoint. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when the bulk of said arg ...more
Sharad Pandian
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: political-phil
This book is meant to be a response to G. A. Cohen's book titled "Why Not Socialism?", and so I would recommend reading it or my summary of it before reading this review.

As a book for a general audience defending capitalism, this book isn't terrible. Unfortunately, it is meant to be a response to Cohen's, and its success in that endeavor is trickier to judge. On the one hand, it really does reveal that Cohen's defense of Socialism isn't as straightforward as Cohen makes it out to be. He points o
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a clear and readable book about the moral superiority of capitalism to socialism, modeled on and in opposition to GA Cohen's book of similar title ("Why Not Socialism?"). In this book Brennan says Cohen's argument for the moral superiority of socialism fails for two reasons:

1. He says Cohen fails to compare like with like (what others have called the "fallacy of asymmetric idealization" -- comparing the ideal version of X to a realistic version of Y, and inferring that X is preferable).

Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
A slim volume in which Brennan successfully argues that some form of capitalism would remain the preferred system even in a moral utopia, as evinced by the bright and wonderful world of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

The heart of the book is a brief section on the empirical research showing capitalism encourages moral behavior, while socialism corrodes it.

Logical, concise, and often funny.

Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional book that takes on a difficult topic and explains it in way that is accessible to people who are being exposed to these ideas for the first time, as well as old hands who would like a refresher on the positives of capitalism. And it does all of this in under 100 pages.

I read this after finishing GA Cohen's Why Not Socialism. Brennan does a great job of responding to each and every argument that Cohen makes, even going as far as to use his own examples and imagery to show
Mar 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: e-book, philosophy-1
This book is written as a response to G.A. Cohen’s “Why not Socialism”. Cohen argued that any single move towards socialist goal of removing market relations among people should be evaluated as improvement.

I confess: Reading Brennan’s so-called “parody” of Cohen’s book made me very angry and feel disgust for him. I contemplated and prepared very strong curses for him. But the Mickey Mouse village “prestidigitation” part may have a point. At the end, it all comes up into distinction between ideal
David Conforti
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Didn't agree with everything Brennan was saying, and I definitely don't think socialism can be completely separated from the ideals which motivate it, but this book is a pretty decisive knockdown of Cohen's "Why not Socialism?". But then, I don't think this establishes capitalism as a morally superior system, just that Cohen is a pretty mediocre advocate for socialism.

Very engaging and humorous writing though, I liked this book a lot.
Antonio Alegría Fuentes
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Es un gran libro para empezar a leer sobre el capitalismo o simplemente queremos leer sobre éste y que no sea denso.
De una forma muy inteligente, Brennan asimila el Club del ratón Mickey con un sistema capitalista derrotando al socialismo ideal y aún más importante, el real.
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Livro espectacular, acessível a qualquer pessoa, muitíssimo bem elaborado e absolutamente irrefutável. Bravo! 🙌🙌🙌👌
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't think it will convince many people but the book contains some new arguments for capitalism. Worth it.
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful response to Why not Socialism. A great explainer as to why Capitalism is a better system and should hold the moral high ground.
Jun 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Brennan seems like he’s talking past Cohen in this book.
Erica Guzzo
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Never have I read a book that I both agree with and can't stand. Good thing it was short because my blood pressure can't take anymore.
Shane Wagoner
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
An impressive attempt by an accomplished philosopher at demolishing G.A. Cohen's posthumous essay "Why Not Socialism?" Jason Brennan lays out the case for an idealist capitalism that is freed from the moral flaws of reality. In his utopia (expounded upon through the example of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Village), he sees individuals living in a community that mixes privately owned property with communally owned property. The communal property allows the villagers to live with a sense of solidari ...more
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Also read Why Not Socialism?
Miguel Noronha
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Uma curta mas bem estruturada e convincente defesa da sociedade capitalista. Um livro que todos devia ler.
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book's declared purpose is to address a widespread idea that "OK, Capitalism might work in the real world, but only because people aren't good enough (yet?) for real Socialism". In order to do so, Brennan starts from Cohen's moving argument from "Why Not Socialism?" to argue that Capitalism not only has practical advantages but can also -- from Cohen's own ideal perspective -- furnish an utopia of its own, one that allows humans to pursue their wishes and be authors of their own lives; even ...more
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
This dry little 99 page book is primarily a response to Cohen's Why Not Socialism. Brennan argues against Cohen's idea that socialism is the morally better option if humans were not driven by greed. Brennan makes the case that even if humans were not driven by greed and in some way corrupt, capitalism would still be the better choice as capitalism allows for freedom, it allows people to choose their own utopia. Although, I generally agree with Brennan's arguments, his writing style has a lot to ...more
Michael Kruse
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
A lucid and well thought out response to the philosophical presumption that socialism is morally preferable to capitalism. Brenan compares ideal socialism to ideal capitalism, in a world with thoroughly upright moral actors, and shows why capitalism is preferable (and necessary) even in utopia.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Brennan presents a logical and well-reasoned, if not exactly compelling refutation of George A. Cohen's "Why Not Socialism."
Jul 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
It is a odd little rhetorical essay, though critical did not convince but rather highlighted the youth and inexperience of political economy. I may be wrong, but at least I am open to suggestion.
Nikola Todorić
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This short book is the most amusing critique of socialist arguments I have ever read. Great stuff!
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
A reasonable objection
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Jason Brennan is Assistant Professor of Ethics, Economics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Ethics of Voting and co-author of A Brief History of Liberty. He also writes for the popular blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

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