With unemployment at 15 percent and rising and the hashtag #RIPcapitalism trending on Twitter, libertarian ideals of free minds and free markets need champions now more than ever.
Rory Sutherland, the vice chairman of the legendary global advertising agency Ogilivy UK, may seem like an unlikely defender of capitalism, but he is one of its most persuasive and engaging.
Sutherland calls the stentorian Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises his hero and celebrates not capitalism’s ruthless efficiency and capacity to outproduce a command economy but its ability to create seemingly trivial products such as Red Bull and to transform the disgusting-sounding Patagonian toothfish into the delicious delicacy known as Chilean sea bass.
Fittingly enough, Sutherland’s latest book is called Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life. It explains why the real genius of capitalism isn’t maximizing output but the ways in which creative destruction fulfills desires we never knew we had, allowing us to become whatever we want to be. He’s a critic of economistic thinking on the right and the left that reduces all human activity to mere utility and material considerations.
I spoke with Sutherland, who is equally likely to quote Friedrich Hayek, Andy Warhol, or the left-wing social critic Pierre Bourdieu, just a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Ironically the subsequent lockdown that has cratered the economy makes his views more relevant than ever.
Edited by John Osterhoudt, intro by Lex Villena. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Kevin Alexander.
Photo credit: Ludwig von Mises Institute / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/); “Redbull” Photo 153155282 © Ilkin Guliyev – Dreamstime.com; “Chilean Sea Bass: ID 12955855 © Boris Ryzhkov | Dreamstime.com; “Pierre Bourdieu” SELDERS ANNE/SIPA/Newscom