Globe's Carroll: Capitalism 'Certain' to Self-Destruct in this Century

James Carroll, whose Boston Globe columns might be viewed less as reasoned discourse and more as auto-therapy for his famous rift with his father, predictably turns his MLK, Jr. Day piece into a condemnation of all things American.

Vietnam was at the root of his split with his father, as Carroll documented in God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us. So Carroll naturally drags a Vietnam/Iraq analogy into his piece: "like Bush, Johnson was presiding over a lost war." Of course, if there was a lesson of Vietnam it's that we lost it because we lost the political will to win it.

But Carroll was just clearing his throat with his obligatory Vietnam riff. The heart of his column is a condemnation of capitalism. According to Carroll, since the days of King: "economic justice . . . if anything, is even further from fulfillment."

Really? In the America of 4.5% unemployment? Where colleges fight for the privilege of awarding scholarships to minority high school students with decent grades? Where the biggest food-related problem for our poor is not hunger but obesity?

Carroll goes so far as to predict the end of capitalism:

"If the 20th century seemed a time of capitalism's ascendancy, the new century seems an era of its certain self-destruction."

Can I get another "really" on that? Capitalism certain to self-destruct? That same capitalism that is exploding in India and China, literally lifting billions out of poverty? What does Carroll posit as an alternative to capitalism? You guessed it: "socialism, compared with the possible anarchy, is benign."

But why the false choice between socialism and anarchy? Why not the real choice: between the grinding hopelessness of socialism and the freedom and opportunity of free markets?

Contact Mark at

Foreign Policy Economy Unemployment Race Issues Wages & Prices Boston Globe