On May 1, a new upscale edition of "The Communist Manifesto" will hit bookstores.
You cant miss it. Barnes & Nobel and Borders will be featuring it in special promotions near their cash registers. All this hoopla will mark the 100th anniversary of the first edition of the work.
Is this just another publishing fad? Or is it a sign of something else?
Perhaps the fall of the Soviet empire didnt discredit leftist economics after all. At the very least, it seems the battle of ideas between those who favor free markets and those who back state control of the economy hasnt ended.
That isnt to say that the war isnt going in favor of free markets. After all, the Berlin Wall fell. The growth of government in the U.S. seems to have slowed. Even China, still officially Communist, has made big market-oriented reforms.
Still, even some of capitalisms defenders say its too soon to declare victory. Central planning may be dead. But free markets face new and formidable foes.
"Laissez-faire capitalism isnt yet close to winning the war of ideas," said Robert Higgs, editor of the Independent Review.
Just look at the U.S., he says. Its been almost 18 years since Ronald Reagan was elected president. And its been more than three years since bill Clinton pronounced the era of big government over.
But federal spending still takes up about a fifth of gross domestic product. Add in the effects of regulation, and the impact of spending by state and local governments, and its clear that government still plays a huge part in the U.S. economy.
Americans for Tax Reform, a group that fights for lower taxes, says the total cost of government in the U.S. is more than $3.5 trillion, or roughly 43% of last years gross domestic product. America doesnt have an unfettered capitalist economy, and no other nation in the world does either.
In the 20s, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises argued that central planning couldnt work. Planners wouldnt have the right information to efficiently allocate resources. In a market economy, the consumers and producers generate that information by buying and selling, and it is reflected in prices. But planning would kill that competition and wipe out market prices.
In seven decades of debate with socialists, Mises and his followers honed their arguments to a brilliant point.
And the abject failure of planning in the Soviet bloc proved Mises right once and for all.
"No competent economist now believes in central planning," said David Friedman, and economist and free-market theorist at Santa Clara University in California. Thats quite a change from even 20 years ago, he says.
Outside the economics profession, planning has some advocates, but not many.
Even if central planning doesnt command an allegiance, other forms of state control do.
On both the left and the right come calls to restrain the excesses of the free market. The regulatory welfare state has become the ideal that free-marketeers oppose.
And the battle against this enemy may be tough as the one against central planning.
"Economists have done a very good job attacking particular forms of intervention, and these arguments have paid off in the policy realm. Just look at the successful deregulation of airlines and trucking and oil prices, and the process of deregulating electricity thats now underway," said Donald J. Boudreaux, president of the market-oriented Foundation for Economic Education.
"What we havent been successful at is articulating a theory of why intervention is always bad. We havent got people to accept that proposition," said Boudreaux. "Until we can do that, well have to argue each new piece of intervention separately."
And those arguments could occur with some frequency. From TV violence to Microsofts allegedly monopoly power in computer software, theres plenty of people asking government to step in and clear things up.
"For any problem or alleged problem that comes up, many people still instinctively turn to government for the solution," said David R. Henderson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Many believe socialisms critique of capitalism still has weight.
"Large numbers of working people and their intellectual surrogates still feel in their bones that an unfettered free market is a jungle, that workers do not get their fair share of what they produce," wrote political theorist Richard Cornuelle, a former libertarian.
He lists other alleged problems of capitalism that many feel must be solved by government: Capitalism despoils the environment. Its prone to disruptions and depressions, which especially hurt working people. And it leaves undone the things a good society needs most.
Economists have tried to answer such charges, and their efforts will no doubt continue.
But economics may not be enough to establish the case for capitalism.
"An individuals actions reflect his deepest philosophical views," said John Ridpath, an economist and intellectual historian at York University. "And the direction a nation takes in its economic policies is shaped by the deeper philosophical currents in its culture."
Some defenders of free markets, such as philosopher Ayn Rand, have argued that the case for capitalism cant be made on purely practical grounds. Instead, people have to be convinced that freedom is good and that self-responsibility must be embraced, not feared.
"Among economists, at least, the number of areas where the market is alleged not to work is shrinking, and should continue to shrink," said Ridpath.
"But the arguments of economists wont be enough for capitalism to triumph," he added. "its defenders must be willing and able to defend it on moral grounds, or they should give up the battlefield."