Rory Sutherland on How Red Bull Explains Why Capitalism Is Great

The Ogilvy ad man and Alchemy author says Ludwig von Mises is his hero and that efficiency has nothing to do with free markets.


With unemployment around 13 percent and talk of recession—or even depression—in the air, 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 Ogilvy 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 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.