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May 20, 2020

“Free markets drive innovation!” It’s a narrative imparted to us ad nauseam. The ultimate catalyst of creation and progress — we’re told by policymakers, business executives, think tanks, and the media outlets that bolster them — in which great strides in healthcare, electronics, media, and other areas are the domain of private enterprise motivated by competition and profit, and unencumbered by state intervention.

As the prospect of socialism — or at least the word “socialism” — regains currency in the West, these claims have resurged. Capitalism’s supporters insist that a profit-first system is the reason the world is always improving, lifting people out of poverty while equipping them with iPhones, WiFi, and central air conditioning. Socialism, they contend, hinders innovation because public ownership of the means of production removes the competition and profit that ostensibly incentivize creativity.

But why are we expected to believe that concentrating ownership of the means of production in the hands of a few is the key to progress and prosperity for all? How is it that the most important metrics of “innovation” are consumer goods available to some, rather than socialized, need-based programs available to all? And above all, who does this narrative that “innovation” is driven by Anglo-American style Randian capitalism really serve?

On this episode, we delve into these questions, looking at how the United States — the world’s foremost champion of capitalism — packages propaganda about its alleged innovation; the reasons capitalism not only fails to drive innovation, but also actively destroys it; and the U.S.’s brutal actions to thwart socialist efforts toward a more equitably and sustainable version of “innovation” at home and aboard.

Our guest is Current Affairs associate editor Vanessa A. Bee.