Before we start – make sure to head on over to Glibertarians for my usual Monday contribution, this one on bulls.
This isn’t exactly new, in fact it’s from 2002, but it’s still well worth the read; this is Dr. Balint Vazsonyi on The Price of Capitalism. Excerpt:
It bothers me because capitalism – the word and the concept – was the brainchild of Karl Marx. As well as offering an “-ism” opposite his own -ism, it describes a rigid class society in which one class possesses the means of production, the other nothing except its labor. The latter class is called “The Proletariat” who, as Lenin declared, can lose nothing but its chains when it rises against the oppressor.
This is not the place to argue whether capitalism was the appropriate way to describe certain European societies. The point is that owning things has always been open to Americans. The moment you buy one share of stock, you part-own “means of production,” not to mention owning your home and arriving at your place of work in your own automobile – a very American image.
America never had a proletariat.
In that case, America could not have been a capitalist country.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has redefined capitalism after Marx, and it is inappropriate to use a word whose meaning is different from what the speaker has in mind.
Perhaps what we have in America is best described as a free-enterprise system.
Exactly so – Dr. Vazsonyi mirrors (more eloquently) what I’ve been saying here for years, and that is that there simply is no “-ism” in what we call capitalism. There is no underlying ideology; there is no dogma. There are only free people making free choices about how to manage their own resources, skills, talents and abilities. There are only free transactions freely agreed to by all parties, in which every participant realizes a perceived gain in value.
Notice the key word there? “Free.” It’s a pretty damned powerful word.
The best economic system is the freest economic system, one can be described as a free-enterprise system, or more succinctly, simply as liberty.
Dr. Vazsonyi concludes:
What we benignly call “politically correct” is never without political purpose. Those who invented “native American” to replace “Indian” sought a term that would, at least by implication, diminish the legitimacy of everyone else who came here later.
Similarly, “capitalism,” having been used for a century-and-a-half to denounce those who practice it, has all the connotations of greed and exploitation, and none of the uniquely American, fabulously successful, and gloriously liberating ring of “free enterprise.”
There is literally nothing I can add to that. Go read the whole thing. Send it to your friends. Send it to your kids. (Maybe especially to your kids.)