David R. Henderson  

Friday Night Video: The Joy of Capitalism

Would a World Plebiscite Lead ... The Ethos of Arthur Brooks...

This is from a talk I gave in 2001.

Update: In response to Jonathan Bechtel below. For how strangers who are paid to be nice to you look awfully like a friendly community, see my post on New York.

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COMMENTS (9 to date)
Joe Cushing writes:

Great talk. This should be a TED Talk.

Diego Ochoa writes:

Great short video. It got me thinking about the incentives that capitalism gives individuals. Humans act to fulfill their needs and in doing so, positive externalities may arrive in which society benefits from. this might be a little bit of topic. But do you think that capitalism in itself has allowed income inequality to be regarded as a lesser problem in society? I ask this because the poor class from two centuries ago is much different from the poor class we have today. you mentioned, Adam Smith talked about the butcher acting in a way that benefited a third party, and it was not for the pure purpose of being nice but because that was a way to increase his personal gain. But who is to say that these companies are not trying to develope new drugs that will work better due to the purpose to stay in business longer?

Saturos writes:

Of course, the standard left-criticism would be that it's sad that all those people in Winnipeg who didn't know you needed to be offered money to care about you. It would be better if people did things out of love than greed. Sure, it's great when strangers are nice to you, but perhaps not so great when that's only because they're being paid to.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Joe Cushing,
Thanks, Joe.
@ Diego Ochoa,
Thanks, Diego. I don’t know enough history to know how income inequality was regarded a few hundred years ago. But--and this is another part of my book, The Joy of Freedom, that I was discussing in the video--I do know that that’s why I don’t regard it as a big issue. If everyone’s getting better off and poor people can have today what rich people could only dream of 100 years ago--think cell phones, Skype, cheap travel, and penicillin--then I don’t care much about income inequality. That is, of course, unless it comes about due to government oppression. But then what I really care about is government oppression.
You well could be right that that’s the standard left-criticism. But I’ve given variants of this talk in front of audiences that contained leftists, and I never heard them make this criticism. Some even found it eye-opening.

Jonathan Bechtel writes:

I enjoyed this talk David.

I've never heard it phrased this way, but I think the central question behind societal organization is:

How do you scale cooperation?

I think anti-market types always pine for the communitarian model, but due to informational asymmetries and incentive problems it's hard to scale the communitarian model beyond small groups.

But your talk did a nice job of demonstrating how markets do a nice job of enabling coordination among strangers.

Very nice.

David R. Henderson writes:

Thanks, Jonathan and Richard.

c141nav writes:

Loved the video. I also love your book. Yes!! I bought your book. It is one of my favorites!

ATF writes:

FYI, the entire talk is available online:


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