Capitalism is not a "weapon" which can be deployed in totalitarian states

Taylor wrote this morning about the troop situation in Iraq and how we may be ramping up our forces. In his conclusion, he noted that he’s not in favor of beating ISIS in a military showdown, but would prefer to see free markets displace the terrorists.

I’ve written before how I do not believe the U.S. should be involved in the fight against ISIS because I don’t believe it’s “our fight.” I want U.S. troops back home, and not fighting an enemy I do not believe will ever truly be defeated in a military conflict. Businesses should be allowed to set up shop in the Middle East and let free trade (businesses trading with other businesses and customers) to be the “weapon” used to fight extremists. It helped defeat the Soviet Union and can be used to beat Islamic extremism (even if it will probably never be stamped out completely).

It’s a lovely thought and a positive sentiment, but it’s also something that will not work. I believe history has demonstrated this over and over again. It won’t work against ISIS, it won’t work in Cuba, and it won’t work in North Korea. It only looks like it’s working in China, but it’s actually not. (Think of their low prices and how they achieve them. Also, who really gets the profits.) Look at the list of the richest entrepreneurs (from the private sector) in the world. You don’t see people from totalitarian states in there.


Oh, you’ll find some extremely wealthy people in Russia, but the list is comprised of Vladimir Putin and his cronies. It works for Putin because the nation is essentially a kleptocracy. In fact, you can find wealthy individuals in almost all of the communist and socialist nations, but they are the party leaders who feed like leeches off the backs of the poor.

Even in Iraq – the nation Taylor was discussing – under Saddam Hussein there was actually something of an open market. Hussein didn’t seem to care all that much about what people did as long as nobody threatened his power and he got his cut of the spoils of corruption. That’s why there was actually more freedom for women under his regime, for example, provided they didn’t catch his attention and wind up in a rape dungeon. But underneath it all there was an overriding culture of corruption which was well known to journalists who covered Baghdad before the war. You could own and operate a business, but the various layers of government operatives all had their hands out with various schemes, making sure that nobody became too rich and the money kept flowing to the top. What little exercise in capitalism they managed never flourished and it most certainly didn’t threaten Hussein’s rule.

Free markets don’t thrive without fertile soil to grow in. This is one of those rare cases where more government is actually a good thing when properly deployed… not to direct and regulate the market, but to provide a safe environment for private enterprise to thrive. But thinking again of the situation in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, it’s even more than that. It has to be a system which free marketeers actually believe in and trust. When they see rampant corruption or know that the local government henchmen will be coming by for their “cut” every week, the profit motive is reduced or eliminated.

It’s the same thing as talking about “elections” held under the rule of tyrants where they consistently “win” with 99% of the vote. It looks like Democracy at a quick glance, but it’s not. If you want to defeat ISIS you’re going to have to kill them off, and even then you aren’t assured that capitalism will flourish unless they are replaced with a strong system of government with a motivation to protect the freedoms of its citizens.

Free markets and capitalism aren’t the cause of open, democratic society, they’re the result of it.