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

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Sat Jul 21 2001 - 18:22:00 MDT

Barbara said

>This definition ,of capitalism> is not very useful without definitions for
>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.

Exactly so, which is why I keep querying whether a pure libertarian
political philosophy can allow for *corporate* capitalism.

>Although the distinction between state and corporation is clear where the
>corporation is very small (in terms of resources controlled) relative to
>state, the distinction becomes much less clear when corporations are as
>large or larger than the state under whose laws they're registered.
>"Minarchism" might be a more useful term than "capitalism," but I believe
>that even minarchists would allow the existence of corporations.

Well, I'm not sure they all do. I can't verify this quickly, but I think
you'll find that Mike Lorrey is not the only libertarian thinker who reasons
that corporations can't be allowed coz there is no justification for the
state to have the power to bequeath corporate privileges on trading
associations (Mike: I *assume* that is what you were saying is essentially
your position; correct me if I've misread you).

>It would probably be useful to examine the various characteristics of
>corporations (perpetual existence, limited liability, management separate
>from ownership, etc.) to see which of these tend to undermine truly free

Well, I'm not sure what it means to say that they "undermine free markets".
They have the effect though, that the market becomes one involving these
legally fictionally entities as players, and this has various disadvantages.

However, it also has the advantage of facilitating large accumulations of
private wealth, which (admittedly) has disadvantages of its own but seems to
be good for economic growth and technological progress. I say "seems"
because I've not come across any literature that tries to analyse the likely
economic and technological effects of forcing trading associations to
operate essentially as partnerships, with individuals having liability for
debts etc - ie associations with none of the characteristics of corporations
that you mentioned. I'd be interested if anyone on the list knows something
about this.


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