Capitalism: Unfortunately Alive and Well

Article by David D’Amato.
In an article for Business Insider entitled Is Capitalism Dead?, Larry Doyle bemoans “the incestuous nature of the Wall Street-Washington relationship.” Observing that a “few gigantic banks dominate our markets,” Doyle reflects that “Wall Street as it currently exists is an oligopoly,” and is not an accurate reflection of “the principles of capitalism.”

He cites Investopedia for a definition of capitalism that describes it as “[a]n economic system based on a free market [and] open competition,” and he contrasts that with the high barriers to entry that typify, for instance, the banking economy. Against his “true form of capitalism,” Doyle sets oligopoly, “[a] situation in which a particular market is controlled by a small group of firms.”

It may seem to many to be all too precious a quibble, but market anarchists take exception to Doyle’s use of the word “capitalism” to mean “free markets.” Our umbrage at the C-word, instead of an idiosyncratic dislike of the word itself, is based largely on precedent, on the historic use of the word to describe something very different from “open competition.” Indeed, capitalism has, throughout its history, depended on significant and enduring state intervention in economic activity in direct contradiction to genuine free markets.

Notwithstanding his affinity for the word, capitalism has in actual fact denoted something closer to Doyle’s oligopoly than to anything bearing semblance to a free market. Contrary to the claim that “right now it isn’t capitalism,” then, market anarchists maintain firmly that the economic system right now is properly designated “capitalism.” We counsel free markets as a liberating and enfranchising alternative that would duly reward productive behavior.

When, as market anarchists, we urge the replacement of the relationships of authority with those of mutually beneficial exchange, or commerce, we are not offering an apology for the commercial entities of the present moment. It is not business in and of itself, as an object apart from its modes of action, that we plead for, but rather the “economic means” of reciprocal value.

As explained by the American individualist anarchist Francis Dashwood Tandy, “[S]olve the economic problem and you trim the claws of private enterprise, rendering it incapable of great evil, while retaining its good qualities.” Those good qualities, including the impulsion of price toward cost, obtain in completely free competition, a condition absent of the coercively instituted privileges of statism.

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