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Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery - John E. Mueller

Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery

Paperback Published: 19th August 2001
ISBN: 9780691090825
Number Of Pages: 352

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Democracy is overrated. Capitalism, on the other hand, doesn't get enough credit. In this provocative and engaging book, John Mueller argues that these mismatches between image and reality create significant political and economic problems--inspiring instability, inefficiency, and widespread cynicism. We would be far better off, he writes, if we recognized that neither system is ideal or disastrous and accepted instead the humdrum truth that both are "pretty good." And, to Mueller, that means good enough. He declares that what is true of Garrison Keillor's fictional store "Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery" is also true of democracy and capitalism: if you can't get what you want there, "you can probably get along without it."

Mueller begins by noting that capitalism is commonly thought to celebrate greed and to require discourtesy, deceit, and callousness. However, with examples that range from car dealerships and corporate boardrooms to the shop of an eighteenth-century silk merchant, Mueller shows that capitalism in fact tends to reward behavior that is honest, fair, civil, and compassionate. He argues that this gap between image and reality hampers economic development by encouraging people to behave dishonestly, unfairly, and discourteously to try to get ahead and to neglect the virtuous behavior that is an important source of efficiency and gain.

The problem with democracy's image, by contrast, is that our expectations are too high. We are too often led by theorists, reformers, and romantics to believe that democracy should consist of egalitarianism and avid civic participation. In fact, democracy will always be chaotic, unequal, and marked by apathy. It offers reasonable freedom and security, but not political paradise. To idealize democracy, Mueller writes, is to undermine it, since the inevitable contrast with reality creates public cynicism and can hamper democracy's growth and development.

Mueller presents these arguments with sophistication, wit, and erudition. He combines mastery of current political and economic literature with references to figures ranging from Plato to P. T. Barnum, from Immanuel Kant to Ronald Reagan, from Shakespeare to Frank Capra. Broad in scope and rich in detail, the book will provoke debate among economists, political scientists, and anyone interested in the problems (or non-problems) of modern democracy and capitalism.

Industry Reviews

"Many thought-provoking ideas are packed into this nuanced work, and Mueller's case is strong and well-documented."--Library Journal "Mueller is an entertaining guide through economic and political history, using references to Shakespeare, Adam Smith, Hume, Mencken and many more writers to produce deft explanations of complex ideas."--Publisher's Weekly "Mueller's provocative book deserves a wide audience... Mueller writes sharp, brisk, and witty prose that is unfailingly lucid."--Daniel J. Silver, The Weekly Standard

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Capitalism and Democracy: Images and Image Mismatchesp. 5
Capitalismp. 6
Democracyp. 7
Ralph's Groceryp. 10
The Plan of the Bookp. 12
Capitalism's Imagep. 21
The Capitalist Virtuesp. 22
The Capitalist Virtues and the Monopolistp. 38
The Essential Insincerity of Capitalist Moralityp. 38
Why Nice Guys Finish Firstp. 42
Extrapolating the Capitalist Virtuesp. 43
Capitalist Culture, Capitalist Inequality and Unfairness, Capitalist Competitionp. 45
The Profound Irrationality of Capitalism: Investors as Unintended Altruistsp. 54
Sources of Capitalism's Negative Imagep. 57
Socialists and Communistsp. 57
Storytellersp. 58
Intellectualsp. 61
Religionp. 65
Aristocrats and the Honorablep. 66
Ineffective Capitalist Propagandap. 68
Capitalistsp. 70
The Consequences of Capitalism's Image for Economic Developmentp. 72
The Unequal Rate of Economic Developmentp. 73
Superimposing the Capitalist Virtuesp. 75
Virtue as a Business Innovationp. 77
The Rise of Business Virtuep. 83
The Relative Importance of Business Virtue in Economic Developmentp. 93
The Relevance of an Effective Legal System to Economic Developmentp. 95
Development, Happiness, and the Rise of the Politically Incorrect One-Handed Economistp. 99
One-Handednessp. 100
Political Incorrectnessp. 104
Four Economic Propositions That Have Become Increasingly Acceptedp. 106
The Prospects for Massive Economic Growthp. 122
Economic Development, Professed Happiness, and the Catastrophe Quotap. 123
Development and the Quest for Happinessp. 132
Images and Definitionsp. 137
Defining Democracy: Responsive Governmentp. 138
Elections: Useful, but Not Essentialp. 140
Political Inequalityp. 145
Democracy in Practice: Coopting the Wealthyp. 147
Minority Rule and Majority Acquiescencep. 152
Democracy in Comparisonp. 153
Democracy and Real Peoplep. 161
Consequences of the Democratic Imagep. 164
Cynicism about the Democratic Processp. 166
Hyperdemocracyp. 185
The Rebellion of Minoritiesp. 187
The Trouble with Transitologyp. 189
The Rise of Democracyp. 192
A Democratic Dialoguep. 193
The Historical Movement of Ideasp. 195
The Correlates of Democracyp. 197
The Marketing of Democracyp. 202
Examining the Third Wavep. 212
The Future of Democracyp. 222
Democracy and Capitalism: Connections and Disconnectionsp. 231
Capitalism without Democracy, Democracy without Capitalismp. 231
Democracy's Connection with Capitalist Prosperityp. 234
Democracy's Connection to Capitalist Growthp. 235
The Connection of Democracy and Capitalism with Crimep. 238
Conceptional Connections between Democracy and Capitalismp. 240
An Inventory of Propositionsp. 243
Notesp. 255
Referencesp. 289
Indexp. 317
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691090825
ISBN-10: 0691090823
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 19th August 2001
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.13 x 14.61  x 1.91
Weight (kg): 0.49