RE: capitalist religion (was: NANO: _Forbes_ cover story)

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sun Jul 22 2001 - 03:07:30 MDT

Barbara Lamar asks

> What meaning do people on this list give to the term "capitalism"?

and she provides the handy dictionary definition

"an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital
goods, by investments that are determined by private decision rather than by
state control, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that
are determined mainly by competition in a free market."
I'll say that capitalism is the economic system that naturally
arises from the existence of free markets---and from liberty
itself, where also people are not prevented by their government
from accumulating capital goods (to almost any degree). But
I'll admit to being ignorant as to why corporations require the
freedom from legal liability (someone else posed this question
earlier). That such freedom may be necessary strikes me as
possible, given the historic economic boom in industrialized
countries following the creation of corporations.

> The [above] definition is not very useful without definitions for "private
> decision" and "state control." Clearly, this definition assumes that the
> practice of capitalism is consistent within the jurisdiction of a political
> state, since the definition includes ownership of capital goods by
> corporations, which are creations of the state.

The essential difference between private control and state
control consists in the use of force. The state may pass
laws (making it illegal, say, for you to offer mail service,
or to buy gasoline where it's cheap and sell it where it's
expensive, or to offer your embryos or children for sale).

Private control can also issue decrees, "no smoking", "cut
your hair just so", or "don't engage in scandalous behavior
even outside work", "believe in God or else"---but you *don't*
have to work there. But if I break a government rule, I will
be punished (and even killed if I resist), unless I manage
to flee the entire country (into a worse situation, as happens
to be the case---though Keith Henson wouldn't agree).


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