"If… you say catastrophe is imminent, you may expect a McArthur genius award or even the Nobel Peace Prize. The bookshops are groaning under ziggurats of pessimism. The airwaves are crammed with doom. In my own adult lifetime, I have listened to the implacable predictions of growing poverty, coming famines, expanding deserts, imminent plagues, impending water wars, inevitable oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, mad-cow epidemics, Y2K computer bugs, killer bees, sex-change fish, global warming, ocean acidification and even asteroid impacts that would presently bring this happy interlude to a terrible end. I cannot recall a time when one or other of these scares was not solemnly espoused by sober, distinguished and serious elites and hysterically echoed by the media. I cannot recall a time when I was not being urged by somebody that the world could only survive if it abandoned the foolish goal of economic growth. The fashionable reason for pessimism changed, but the pessimism was constant. In the 1960s the population explosion and global famine were top of the charts, in the 1970s the exhaustion of resources, in the 1980s acid rain, in the 1990s pandemics, in the 2000s global warming. One by one these scares came and (all but the last) went. Were we just lucky? Are we, in the memorable image of the old joke, like the man who falls past the first floor of the skyscraper and thinks ‘So far so good!’? Or was it the pessimism that was unrealistic?"
Where does the skepticism about free market come from? The late Harvard University philosopher Robert Nozick provides one plausible answer. The intellectual elite (i.e., the wordsmiths who occupy many positions within academia, the media, and government bureaucracies) tend to take a more negative view of free market than the one presented here. These individuals shape society’s language and access to information. As such, the anti-free-market sentiment of the intellectual elite carries great weight.
“From the beginnings of recorded thought,” Nozick writes, “intellectuals have told us their activity is most valuable. Plato valued the rational faculty above courage and the appetites and deemed that philosophers should rule; Aristotle held that intellectual contemplation was the highest activity.” Intellectuals have thus come to think of themselves as the “most valuable” members of society and “feel entitled to the highest rewards their society has to offer.” The markets, however, tend to reward “economic contribution.” Consequently, intellectuals tend not to be the most rewarded members of a free-market society. That runs counter to the intellectuals’ expectations. When they socialize with the most rewarded individuals in society, the intellectuals resent that they are not compensated to the same degree. To rectify this perceived injustice, intellectuals advocate for a society that distributes compensation in line with their expectations, rather than economic contribution."
And here are a few titles of books and articles (and one interview) by two widely-followed intellectuals/Nobel Prize recipients.
Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy
The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future
The Great Recession, Part II: The world could be headed for another economic disaster if we continue to listen to free-market ideologues Joseph Stiglitz
The Free Market Doesn't Work, an interview with Joseph Stiglitz
The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century Paul Krugman
The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 Paul Krugman
End This Depression Now! Paul Krugman
Markets can be very very wrong Paul Krugman
Free to be hungry Paul Krugman
Sadly, as Ridley and Nozick observed,