The Public Interest

Capitalism, socialism, and nihilism

Irving Kristol

Spring 1973

WHENEVER and wherever defenders of “free enterprise,” “individual liberty,” and “a free society” assemble, these days, one senses a peculiar kind of nostalgia in the air. It is a nostalgia for that time when they were busily engaged in confronting their old and familiar enemies, the avowed proponents of a full-blown “collectivist” economic and social order. In the debate with these traditional enemies, advocates of “a free society” have, indeed, done extraordinarily well. It is therefore a source of considerable puzzlement to them that, though the other side seems to have lost the argument, their side seems somehow not to have won it.

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