Capitalism’s dead, but a straw man remains

Capitalisms dead, but a straw man remains

DeForest Dalbec

There is an overt anti-capitalist sentiment growing in the political left. This sentiment is strongest in universities particularly, where the left-wing undeniably constitutes a majority.

Mainstream Democratic politicians have found great success explicitly putting themselves at opposition with capitalism; the socialists are on the rise. Their popularity isn’t undue either, as their objections have merit: under our economic system the top one percent is rocketing out of reach, class mobility is obstructed, corporate cronies conduct political hacks, education decays and health care is inaccessible to too many. There’s much more to grieve over than what’s included in this list. It doesn’t even skim the surface of my dismay, and any defender of the fiscal status-quo is a sure opponent of mine.

These criticisms have fostered a growing movement of anti-capitalists. These Bernie-wing grievances have grown into an impulsive mistrust in the features of capitalism: free-exchange of goods, competitive markets, private industry and the production of personal wealth. This, however, is a conflation—we are living not in a climate of capitalism, but consumerism. I cannot find features of the former in the current state of affairs, and to lobby one’s critiques at this stranded type of capitalism is swinging at a phantom.

Capitalism is long dead. It was half a century ago when the likes of F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises—proponents of actual free markets— warned against the dangers inherent in government economic intervention. The corporatists and crony politicians rode right past them hand-in-hand, leading us into a future of protected corporate markets, special interest authority and neo-mercantilist classism.

I urge everyone to read these libertarian thinkers—if not for discovering that one is compelled by the arguments that free market capitalism is the most altruistic and liberating system, then at least for the sake of seeing an actual principled defense of capitalist philosophy and discovering how one would counter it. A socialist can easily defeat “capitalism” as we see it today. It’s beating a dead horse. A real victory for an anti-capitalist would be to come up against the very best arguments from those with which one disagrees and overcome them.

The mixed economy that the United States operates is precisely antithetical to the capitalism outlined in Friedman’s, “Capitalism and Freedom,” or Hayek’s, “The Road to Serfdom,” or Mises’, “Human Action,” to name a few. In a wild irony, capitalists and the anti-capitalists share a common enemy! The conflation should now be obvious, and in response we may have to retire the label of “capitalists” for anyone who believes in an actual free market, forfeiting the term to our current corporate-corrupted mixed economic system which has appropriated that title.

I have come to the same conclusion as many leftists have about the status-quo—that revolution may be the only way to end the neo-mercantilist oligarchy. The success of historical non-violent secessionist movements brings me only a shard of encouragement. Where I cannot stand beside the left-wing anti-capitalists is in this conflated rejection of free-market, liberal and libertarian principles.

Milton Friedman defines his ideal state as, “the smallest, least intrusive government consistent with the maximum freedom for each individual to follow his values as long as he doesn’t interfere with anyone doing the same.”

I have socialist tendencies, and indeed as an owner of a small business, I paid my employees an exact split of my hourly profit. This is not inconsistent with a free market or capitalist philosophy, nor libertarianism. Aspects of socialism, even communism, are compatible wholly within a free market society.

I wish my socialist countrymen could pursue their interests without coercion from our authoritarian and paternalistic state. I may even join them in their communes, co-ops and worker managed firms. The state should have no role in arbitrating how consenting adults arrange themselves, interact or exchange goods and services. If it is voluntaristic, and does not inhibit others’ right to do the same, then so be it.

Let’s join together in our shared animosity of this corporate-doctored capitalist state. We must remove the state’s power to licence monopolies, to coerce non-voluntary exchange and to act as arbiter of right and wrong. These rights we have offered as sacrifice to our state in the name of misguided empathy. We forfeited power, and corporate villains easily abused this fattened government as an agent of coercive paternalism, which may be bought and sold.

We may hope for a benevolent dictator, or even less likely, a benevolent oligarchy to protect us from evil, but how this delusion could survive this administration is inconceivable to me.
Take back your sovereignty and restore free markets, freedom of thought and freedom of conscience. At the very least, don’t buy the straw man that what exists in this country is anything like free-market capitalism.