These are the opening remarks that I gave for my presentation at the
Free Market Anti-Capitalism? panel at the Association of Private Enterprise Education on 13 April 2010. More instalments are coming over the next several days. See the introduction/apology for details.
- By way of introduction or apology
- With apologies to Shulamith Firestone
- Two meanings of
- Rigged markets, captive markets, and capitalistic business as usual
- The Many Monopolies
- What about them poor ol’ bosses? What about gains from trade and economies of scale?
- Is this all just a semantic debate?
In my allotted time, I hope to drill down a bit, and to say something about the structural features, and some of the mechanisms of what we might call
state capitalism — of how, in this actually existing economy, the political structure of capitalism2 (to use Gary Chartier’s threefold distinction) tend to produce and sustain the material conditions of capitalism3 — how state corporatism promotes the bosses’ economy. Most of my remarks will be broadly historical and economic in character — although necessarily of a sketchy or programmatic sort, given the constraints of time and format. So consider this an outline of directions for inquiry and discussion; an attempt to show you briefly where key landmarks of the free market anti-capitalist analysis are at, rather than an attempt at a full guided tour. I think it important to at least sketch out the map because the chief obstacle that free market anti-capitalists confront in explaining our position is not so much a matter of correcting particular mistakes in political principles, or economic analysis (although there are particular mistakes we hope to address and correct). It is more a matter of convincing our conversation partners to make a sort of aspect-shift, to adopt a new point of view from which to see the political-economic gestalt.
The need for this shift is pressing because (with apologies to the feminist theorist Shulamith Firestone) the political economy of state capitalism is so deep as to be invisible. Or it may appear to be a superficial set of interventions, a problem that can be solved by a few legal reforms, or perhaps the elimination of bail-outs and the occasional export subsidy, while preserving more or less intact the basic recognizable patterns of capitalistic business as usual. The free market anti-capitalist holds there is something deeper, and more pervasive, at stake than the sort of surface level policy debates to which pro-capitalist libertarians too often limit their discussions. A fully freed market means the liberation of vital command posts in the economy, reclaiming them from points of state control to nexuses of market and social entrepreneurship — transformations from which a market would emerge that would look profoundly different from anything we have now. That so profound a change cannot easily fit into traditional categories of thought, e.g.
anti-capitalist, is not because these categories do not apply but because they are not big enough: radically free markets burst through them. If there were another word more all-embracing than revolutionary, we would use it.
Next up: Two meanings of