Anti-capitalism: a booming industry
I have long been toying with a business idea, but never had the time, patience, know-how and, above all, the resolve to do anything with it: the Virtue-Signalling Investment Fund. This fund would invest exclusively in virtue-signalling products – that is, products which people use to signal a right-on, trendy-leftie view of the world.
It would hold shares in companies making products related to fashionable causes, such as feminism (think of the “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt), environmentalism, identity politics and above all, anti-capitalism.
Anti-capitalism provides the basis for a permanent bull market, which is massive in size and scope. It’s not just the obligatory Che Guevara shirt. There is more anti-capitalist literature on the market than anyone could read in a lifetime, and there are literally thousands of movies and songs with subtle or not-so-subtle anti-market messages. And, of course, there’s anti-capitalist merchandise.
Take the ‘Anonymous’ masks used on Guy Fawkes Night: You probably knew that Time Warner collects a royalty per mask sold – but they are not the only ones profiting handsomely from the anti-capitalist gravy train. At least one businessman buys those masks directly from China at a price of £0.22 a piece, and sells them here for £4.20. He says that he makes a profit of £2.60 per mask, which would amount to a staggering margin of 62 per cent.
For comparison: The profit (boo!) margin of a McDonald’s (boo!) branch is in the region of 6 per cent, and so was Tesco’s – in the good years.
There is nothing ironic about the fact that anti-capitalism opens up a myriad of profit opportunities, and that the resentment of markets creates a massive growth market. Capitalism is neither an ideology nor a value system. Capitalism is simply the voluntary and peaceful exchange of goods and services, under a legal system which recognises property rights and freedom of contract. In a capitalist economy, entrepreneurs make a living by trying to find out what consumers want, and providing them with precisely that. And if consumers want anti-capitalism, then anti-capitalism it is.
When charged with hypocrisy, anti-capitalists often claim that as long as they are forced to live in a market economy, they have no alternative but to buy products from the corporations they despise. This is nonsense. There are plenty of alternatives to the existing structures of production and distribution – and no, I don’t mean emigrating to North Korea.
What I mean is that nothing would stop anti-capitalists from setting up their own, alternatives models of economic activity. Think there should be more non-hierarchical, democratically organised, worker-owned and worker-run cooperatives? Set one up today – what stops you? Less globalised mass production, and more small-scale, local, hand-made products? Go for it. Given how in vogue those views are, finding like-minded people should be easy as pie.
The reason why this doesn’t fly is that most anti-market critiques are about status-signalling and virtue-signalling rather than genuine grievances. Much easier to stick an “I voted Corbyn” twibbon on your avatar, retweet the latest Owen Jones article, and buy the latest Naomi Klein book, placing it on the coffee table or wherever it is as visible as possible.
And since signalling anti-market credentials is so easy and effortless, selling the relevant signalling products will always be a boom market.
Dr Kristian Niemietz is the IEA’s Head of Health and Welfare.