The Virtues of Capitalism, the first volume in Liberty Fund’s The Collected Works of Arthur Seldon, lays the foundation of his views and theories of capitalism and its alternatives. The first part, Corrigible Capitalism; Incorrigible Socialism, was first published in 1980. It explains why, Seldon believes, “private enterprise is imperfect but redeemable,” but the “state economy promises the earth, and ends in coercion to conceal its incurable failure.”
The second part, Capitalism, is widely considered to be Seldon’s finest work. Originally published in 1990 by Basil Blackwell of Oxford, it is the winner of the 1991 Antony Fisher Award from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. This book covers a wide range of the classical liberal thought that inspired the movement toward free-market reforms in Great Britain and intellectually opposed the collectivist tide of socialism. In an understandable and eloquent manner, Seldon offers Capitalism as a celebration rather than a defense of classical liberalism. Through his analytical commentaries, Seldon chronicles the economic and social history of the western world throughout the 20th century, noting the intoxicating yet detrimental effects of collectivism. Along the way, he builds a powerfully compelling case why government should economically confine itself to the delivery of essential public goods. Throughout the book, he proposes free-market alternatives to socialist models of government, many of which still plague the economies of the world.
„Capitalism requires not defence but celebration. Its achievement in creating high and rising living standards for the masses without sacriﬁcing personal liberty speaks for itself. Only the deaf will not hear and the blind will not see. Its achievement prevails over its defects. Yet its critics continue decade after decade to be preoccupied if not obsessed with its defects. Even those who acknowledge its achievement continue to urge the alternative of socialism without reason or demonstration from world experience to suppose it could equal and surpass capitalism.
Until recently the critics of capitalism, predominantly the socialistminded, both academics and politicians, were united. Academics characteristically discover defects in order to propose solutions. Politicians deploy the defects to present themselves as leaders in implementing the solutions.”
Dr Arthur Seldon CBE (1916-2005) was joint founder president, with Ralph Harris, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, where he directed academic affairs for 30 years.
He studied at the London School of Economics where Arnold Plant and Lionel Robbins deepened his interest in classical liberalism and Friedrich Hayek introduced him to Austrian Economics. He received an honorary degree in 1999 from the University of Buckingham.
Seldon was Vice president of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), whose past presidents include von Hayek and Milton Friedman.
For over thirty years from the late 1950s Arthur Seldon was the Editorial Director of the London-based Institute for Economic Affairs, where his publishing program was one of the principal influences on governments all around the world, persuading them to liberalize their economies.
Arthur Seldon was a prophet of what came to be called Thatcherism. The Thatcherite revolution of the 1970s and 1980s had many roots, but one was certainly a sea change in the intellectual climate of the times, and Seldon played a huge role in that sea change.