Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Better Fit

For the life of me, I can't see why "capitalism" fits the hitherto-unrealized free market better than it fits the actual American system of business privilege favored by Hamilton, Clay, Lincoln, and their successors up to the present.


martin said...

Wikipedia has the following definition for capitalism:

Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit, usually in competitive markets.

I think that's the way the term is commonly defined - not just by libertarians. (I know that's roughly how I understood the term before I ever even heard of libertarianism - or wikipedia for that matter.) Libertarians just take the "privately owned" part very strictly, and thus equate capitalism to a free market. (The term "free market" also taken very strictly.)

Sheldon Richman said...

For most people there is nothing uncapitalist about the myriad regulations, privileges, and taxes that exist. Hamilton's and Clay's system is regarded as capitalist, in opposition to Jefferson's alleged agrarianism. As I've said, how useful is the word if both "free-market" and "state" can serve as qualifiers?

martin said...

For most people there is nothing uncapitalist about the myriad regulations, privileges, and taxes that exist.

So you say, but what do you base that on? And do you think people who see it that way think differently about the term "free market"?

As I've said, how useful is the word if both "free-market" and "state" can serve as qualifiers?

Well, you *can* use the qualifier "state", but what it means depends on who you talk to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_capitalism

Sheldon Richman said...

I base it on what a wide variety of people have said and written over many years. My point is proved by the fact that libertarians constantly have to say: "No, that's not capitalism. Capitalism really means ... etc."

But what does it mean to say "capitalism really means...." Is it a Platonic thing?

"Free market" lends itself to less misunderstanding because of that word "free," something we can understandably point out.

At least "free market" doesn't suggest a privileging of capital.

Anonymous said...

The definition from wikipedia does not stop there :

[1] Income in a capitalist system takes at least two forms, profit on the one hand and wages on the other. There is also a tradition that treats rent, income from the control of natural resources, as a third phenomenon distinct from either of those. In any case, profit is what is received, by virtue of control of the tools of production, by those who provide the capital and utilize it so successfully that revenue from resulting products exceeds the costs of production. Often profits are used to expand an enterprise, thus creating more jobs and wealth. Wages are received by those who provide a service to the enterprise, also known as workers, but do not have an ownership stake in it, and are therefore compensated irrespective of whether the enterprise makes a profit or a loss. In the case of profitable enterprise, profits are therefore not translated to workers except at the discretion of the owners, who may or may not receive increased compensation, whereas losses are not translated to workers except at similar discretion manifested by decreased compensation.

So it's not a free market per se, but a certain type of market that is characterized by wage labor.