A must-read essay by Harper’s Magazine editor Roger D. Hodge examines the state of politics in America through the lens of political economist Joseph Schumpeter, author of Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.
Like Marx, with whom he had little else in common, Schumpeter
understood that capitalism is a permanent revolution of the means of
production, and he placed this insight at the center of his economic
thinking with his account of capitalism’s “creative destruction.” He
was also acutely aware of capitalism’s weaknesses, its tendency toward
monopoly and bureaucracy, and the complacent neglect of its own
conditions of success. In fact, Schumpeter was convinced that
capitalism would probably not survive, that its upheavals would prove
intolerable, and that government control of the economic
sphere—socialism, in other words, though not the workers’ paradise of
Marx’s fond imagining—would inevitably succeed it.
Modern democracy, Schumpeter argued, is a method of political decision
in which individuals acquire the power to rule by means of a
competitive struggle for the people’s vote. Far from being a system in
which the people rule, it is best characterized as “the rule of the
The article requires a subscription or (probably) access through a University database (Lexis Nexus maybe?). Its themes are timely, and not just because of the election next week.