Bailouts and Capitalism

The G-20 protesters in Pittsburgh seem to have some interesting political views:

The marchers included small groups of self-described anarchists, some wearing dark clothes and bandanas and carrying black flags. Others wore helmets and safety goggles.

One banner read, “No borders, no banks,” another, “No hope in capitalism.” A few minutes into the march, protesters unfurled a large banner reading “NO BAILOUT NO CAPITALISM” with an encircled “A,” a recognized sign of anarchists.

The “NO BAILOUT NO CAPITALISM” sign raises some interesting questions about the word “capitalism.” Many self-described leftists (some of whom I come very close to agreeing with) see bailouts and other forms of corporate privilege as part and parcel of capitalism. Many non-left libertarians see bailouts as antithetical to capitalism. Both groups are wrong.

The only useful definition of capitalism in line with its historical and contemporary usage is a system which allows the private ownership and alienation of property. This definition can accommodate a wide variety of institutional arrangements, from a market-anarchism to fascism: there are both good and bad forms of capitalism (full book here!).

By that definition, I am completely and utterly pro-capitalist in the sense that I think any system without private property would be irredeemably awful. History hasn’t exhausted the design-space of propertyless social systems (and I, for one, hope it never does), but it teaches some valuable lessons.  At the same time, I’m completely and utterly opposed to some forms of capitalism. Government funds lining the pockets of well-connecting firms is neither essential to nor inconsistent with capitalism. It is essential to some kinds of capitalism and inconsistent with others.

6 Responses

  1. Those of you that say, “Government” is the problem and that our economic salvation is to get government off our backs and to let the private sector without government interference be free to do what it does best for the system of capitalism and America!
    You IDIOTS that believe this dogmatic Libertarian nonsense are truly blind to our recent American history!
    The democrats have replaced the republicans as the “party in power” because of the obvious reason that the democratic party represents the “end of the Republican Era,” of “unrestrained capitalism,” that is allowed to run wild, without government oversight, as they pursue the “all mighty dollar!”
    The economic collapse of the world market economy occurred during the Bush regime that cared little about the common good and only cared about investors making a quick profit, … and the “public be damned!”
    The present day “Republicans” have gone so far to the extreeme and are allied with the out of touch backward thinking Libertarians that think that they know everything about economics but know nothing, except how to be greedy and anti-social, This type of activity is represented to their greedy anti-social followers, as being for “individual freedom.”
    This “republican extremism,” will very quickly dump the republican party into the “trash can,” of the no longer relevant political parties that existed in our no longer relevant past!
    With the disappearance of the no longer relevant “republicans,” from our modern day reality, I believe that their will be a new “political realignment.”
    The democrats will morph into the modern day, relevant conservative party, and a socialist leaning party will become a mainstream party in a modern day two party system.

  2. May I ask how you manage to make the leap from “the state” to “benefiting community”? The state is but a violent gang out for the self interests of its actors and their friends. It has nothing to do with society.

  3. Secondly, how can you claim we live under unrestrained capitalism, when we operate under a central bank and fiat currency, a la Karl Marx’s “fifth plank”?

  4. In fact, all of Karl Marxs “planks” are in effect to some degree in the US…

  5. The insurrectionists in Texas and in the southern states of America are looking backward toward a freedom from our federal democratic government, and backward toward a liberated segregated provincial way of life that is bigoted and white supremacist and free from the ideas of the “Enlightenment.”
    States Rights and republican conservatism and mercantile capitalism is the unrealistic thinking and goals of the most backward elements in the USA.
    Wake up! The Twenty-First Century Capitalism is “Global” and all powerful! It is impossible to resurrect the past! The world of nationalism is being negated out of existence by the global economy. Capitalism and big business is all powerful and all global! For now it rules with an iron hand!
    You backward Libertarian conservatives should wake up to today’s reality!
    The “governments” of all “systems” are the hand maidens of the economic systems that they serve
    The “STATE APPARATUS” and political governments of capitalism and of socialism, are structured to serve their respective system of “economics.” This protection is guaranteed by law and by the constitution.
    When the Economic System becomes global, the political governing system will soon follow and also become global.
    I thought everyone knew that.

  6. So I assume that most of you think the one pure capitalism you speak of has not existed here for almost 100 years.

    I hate to break it to you but capitalism can work in a fiat currency if it is respected. It is the abuse of fiat that is the problem. In fact if any of you trade stocks and such you are actually basically buying a currency akin to fiat and with all of it’s problems. If you don’t believe in fiat you also shouldn’t support any type of investment where you receive a piece of paper in return.

    And of course you must also believe that for the last 100 years marxists from the US to all over the world have been fighting each other. Everyone was just confused and we “thought” we were capitalists.

    Can we own private property in the US? If yes we are basically capitalists. You might not like fiat but that doesn’t make us socialists, communists or marxists etc. You simply disagree with this capitalist system and want to replace it with anarchy.

    Of course you can still believe we are communists or whatever because of the central bank system. If that is the case then communism/socialism has been responsible for what our society has done over the last 100 years and you have no proof that capitalism is of any real value. In fact it is must be extinct and a total failure.

    You folks really need to grow up and realize that capitalism can exist without liberty and justice for all. In fact capitalism as we have that promotes survival of the fittest and spills over into human interaction will destroy liberty and justice for all. The reason we fail isn’t because of communism, socialism, capitalism, anarchism and so on. The reason we fail is we don’t respect liberty.

    And understand this. Liberty does not require property rights to exist. It exists above that as a philsophy and ideal concept that is almost impossible to maintain in human society. Stop worrying about capitalism and start focusing on respecting liberty and justice for all. You sure as hell are not going to get there if you promote survival of the fittest or anarchy.

    If anarchy would have worked, the founders of this country would have done so. It sure as hell didn’t work for South America. And if you want to whine that evil governments were the problem you need to get real. If you have no way of having the whole world disarm and stop making weapons, why do you even bother believing this nonsense that is simply not possible.

    Many of you are very intelligent, far more than I am, but unrealistic. Stop your mental masturbation of this nonsense and start helping society move to a place where we live in harmony and respect for each other. The best way to do this is through government and showing respect. Upon achieving a large amount of harmony through government you can end up dropping government as necessary. After all, if people respect each other and help each other government becomes obsolete. But when they are in conflict and competing with each other, government will always be present in the form of even the simplist gang that tries to carve out it’s economic territory.

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