When I see an op-ed article titled “Capitalism” I click on it. This is almost an uncontrollable reflexive response that my body does.
So, when I clicked on NYT columnist Thomas Friedman’s op-ed entitled Capitalism it should come as no real surprise that I was mad. I was lied to by the headline. The article is not about capitalism. The article is about (implicitly) all the ways that the concept of capitalism has been destroyed and is being destroyed by people implicitly or explicitly seeking to destroy it. Friedman is amongst the destroyers and this article is a good example of how that destruction happens.
Just to be clear, here is the definition of capitalism from Dictionary.com which is based on the Random House Dictionary:
“an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.”
Some key points: capitalism is an economic system; and resource organization and utilization are made by non-state entities.
So, when TF pukes up this paragraph it just kills me:
“Will it be Beijing’s capitalism with Chinese characteristics?” asks Rothkopf. “Will it be the democratic development capitalism of India and Brazil? Will it be entrepreneurial small-state capitalism of Singapore and Israel? Will it be European safety-net capitalism? Or will it be American capitalism?” It is an intriguing question, which raises another: What is American capitalism today, and what will enable it to thrive in the 21st century?”
(Now, granted, those are Rothkopf’s words but in the very next sentence Friedman says, “Rothkopf’s view, which I share…” So to ascribe the words to Friedman is justified.)
Chinese capitalism? Whatever the Chinese have is not capitalism – it’s all state controlled or directed. Democratic development capitalism? I have no clear idea what this nebulous phrase means but probably it means something like state-directed resource allocation based on majority rule. Again, not capitalism at all. Small-state capitalism – an oxymoron. European safety-net capitalism? Hard to call something capitalism when a significant amount of the resources that could and would otherwise be allocated by private entities are taken from them by the state and then allocated by the state. Or American capitalism? Again, whatever it is we have in America today is NOT CAPITALISM!
(Never mind the absurdity of granting to “capitalism” various “flavors” based on the country. Capitalism is X. It’s not X’ or X” or X*y or X+z. It is X. A is A, which means it is not B or C or D. A chocolate cake with frosting is not a chocolate cake. A german chocolate cake is not a chocolate cake. More concept destruction!!!)
People: protesting the US economy by protesting capitalism is a joke. The US economy isn’t capitalism! It’s fully of cronyism, favoritism shown toward various industries at the expense of other industries and taxpayers; it’s a huge state-directed welfare state and getting bigger; eminent domain…; and the regulatory environment ensures that non-human entities do a fair amount of “resource allocation” with their “interests” looked out for by Capitol Hill.
Look, capitalism may or may not be a good way to allocate and organize resources. But the fact is we don’t know! Real capitalism hasn’t been practiced anywhere in a long time. The war on the concept needs to end. It’s funny in a tragic sort of way: all the recent wars on capitalism are, by way of fact, really wars on socialism and democratic allocation of resources (the India-Brazil of the above) since that’s what basically every western economy is. Capitalism isn’t under fire (words notwithstanding). Socialism is under fire. The war (as raged by, say, OWS) is for more or less socialism.