The philosophical demise of socialism has caused many on the economic left to change their complaint about free-market capitalism. While it may be effective, they now say, it comes at the cost of human goods like community and social solidarity. Such claims are now commonplace in policy debates. But are they true?

James R. Otteson explains why such criticism are not as strong as some people might think:

Take community. Capitalism gives us incentives to trade and associate with people outside our local community, even complete strangers, not on the basis of our love or care for them but out of our own—and their—self-interest. So capitalism enables people to escape the strictures of their local communities. But is that bad? Capitalism creates opportunities for people to trade, exchange, partner, associate, collaborate, cooperate, and share with—as well as learn from—people not only from next door but from around the world—even people who speak different languages, wear different clothing, eat different foods, and worship different gods. The social characteristics that in other times and under different institutions would lead to conflict—even violent, bloody conflict—become, under capitalism, irrelevant—and thus no longer cause for discord. Capitalism encourages people to see those outside their communities not as threats but as opportunities. It gives us an incentive to look beyond our narrow parochialisms and form associations that would otherwise not be possible.

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