Two young men are dead after three horrific shootings in the past two weeks outside the antifa/anarchist Capitol Hill
Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) Occupied Protest (CHOP) in Seattle, Washington. Yet according to a member of the Seattle City Council, capitalism is to blame when the rebels who tried to set up a post-capitalistic society opened fire on outsiders early Monday morning.
City Council Member Kshama Sawant tweeted, “Deepest condolences from Socialist Alternative and my Council office to the family and friends and fellow activists of the community member who was tragically killed in the drive-by shooting at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP).” So-called “CHOP security” opened fire at two black teenage boys who drove by the area, killing a 16-year-old boy and seriously injuring a 14-year-old boy on Monday.
Yet Sawant argued that the proper response to deadly violence perpetrated by defenders of CHOP would be to immediately cave to all the rioters’ demands.
“This tragic killing underscores the urgency to Defund police by at least 50 percent, win the strongest possible Amazon Tax this week to fund housing & jobs, release protesters without charges, and winning the other demands put forward by the movement,” the city council member added.
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Then she decided to blame capitalism for the shooting, even while admitting that an investigation is ongoing and the details have not been fleshed out.
“While we await details of this tragic killing, it highlights capitalism’s brutality & endemic violence. Our movement rejects insinuations & falsehoods perpetuated by corporate & conservative media that this violence is outcome of CHOP or of our movement,” Sawant declared. “We need to continue building a powerful movement to end gentrification, to fully fund public schools & decent jobs. Capitalism *is* a police state. While we’ll have to fight to win reforms, we have to dismantle capitalism to win a violence-free society.”
“We have to dismantle capitalism to win a violence-free society,” the Seattle City Council member insisted.
If only it weren’t for that darned Adam Smith, who popularized the free market system that vaunted America and the world to a level of prosperity previously unimaginable! If we didn’t have the marvels of modern technology like air conditioning, airplanes, running water, the internet, automobiles, heating, refrigeration, and microwaves, violence would be a thing of the past, right?
Sawant has it exactly backward. Violence and oppression are endemic to human society — and they predate capitalism by thousands of years. The free market system grew up slowly in the West, but in the past two hundred years, it has unleashed an era of innovation and prosperity that have remade life as we know it. It may seem silly to focus on conveniences like air conditioning, microwaves, refrigerators, and the like, but these innovations have made life concretely better for billions of people.
Free markets also serve the interests of social peace. In a 2014 paper from the Fraser Institute, Indra de Soysa and Krishna Chaitanya Vadlamannati concluded that “the empirical results show that economic freedom has a statistically significant negative effect on the onset of conflict, the violation by states of rights of people to physical integrity, and greater calm between distinct ethno-linguistic and religious groups within countries, net of good institutions and per-capita income, proxies often used to measure state capacity for deterring costly violence.”
Capitalism is also good for personal freedom, as the government limits that help free markets flourish also limit potential abuses of “unfettered democracy.” The safeguards of America’s Constitution seem stifling for many advocates of government control, but they help foster a pluralistic society that benefits a broad range of interests.
In short, capitalism is a key component of the Western system that helped curb the grinding poverty and oppression that generations of humans experienced for thousands of years. The free-market system is far from perfect, but modern Americans — and people across the globe — owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to capitalism.
It is absurd to blame capitalism for the horrific shootings outside CHOP, a pseudo-rebel pseudo-protester encampment that has dedicated itself to a post-capitalistic society.
Yet, in the rage of the George Floyd riots, many appear to have embraced the spirit of The New York Times‘s “1619 Project,” redefining American society as fundamentally oppressive and defined by slavery. According to that narrative, capitalism is part of an oppressive racist system that must be hacked away, root and branch. It appears Sawant is advancing a similar narrative, blissfully unaware that the very system she opposes has curbed back human poverty and tyranny.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.