Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Capitalism and free markets

Yes, Michael Shermer is still an idiot. In his defense of Capitalism he goes off the rails in the second paragraph:
Capitalism may not need apologists and propagandists, but it does need a vigorous scientific and rational defense as evidenced by the fact that so many people still distrust free markets.
Capitalism is not about free markets, any more than Communism is about the dictatorship of the proletariat. Free markets are an anarchist notion. Capitalism is about vesting the power to restrict and control markets to the owners of capital.

You cannot establish abstract property, property established by social construction (I'll write more on this topic later), in a truly free market; a free market respects only physical property, property established by physical possession.

That Capitalism has anything to do with free markets is not simply wrong, it is a fantasy and lie as egregious as anything Christianity has produced.

(h/t to a dime a dozen blog, who seems to have fallen for the lie hook, line and sinker.)


  1. I always took 'free market' to simply mean a market free of governmental control, a market where prices were dictated purely by supply and demand.

  2. "Free markets" don't exist. They can't. "Free market" capitalism is impossible by simple dint of human presence.

    Is it time to plug Gordon Bigelow's "Let There Be Markets" from Harper's again?

  3. Shermer:

    "As well, there is well-documented liberal bias in the academy and the media against free markets."

    Jesus H. Christ on a stick, deep fried and with a side of pickles, this is blood-stoppingly inane. Capitalism is a fucking classical liberal idea! Without the liberalism of the Enlightenment, we wouldn't have it!

    Bias in the media? You mean the same media that makes fucktons of money by blowing with the market of public opinion?!

    Look, I'm a liberal, and I like capitalism. It lets me buy really cool stuff, like HDTVs, beer, and video games. My wife and I can watch football, porn, or episodes of The Closer whenever we want. And I wouldn't have a job and money to spend if it wasn't for the expenditure of public funds for the public welfare. We don't have free markets. We never have. Not in any stage of history, ever. This theory that "free markets" have led to great prosperity ignores the entirety of capitalist history.

  4. Oh sweet baby Jesus roasting over an open fire:

    "A 2005 study by the George Mason University economist Daniel Klein, for example, found that at two of America’s leading institutes of higher learning Democrats outnumbered Republicans among the faculty by a staggering ratio of 10 to 1 at the University of California, Berkeley and by 7.6 to 1 at Stanford University. Measuring political attitudes through voter registrations among faculty in twenty different departments, in the humanities and social sciences the ratio was 16 to 1 at both campuses (30 to 1 among assistant and associate professors), and in some departments, such as anthropology and journalism, there wasn’t a single Republican to be found."

    Sure this doesn't have anything to do with both of those universities being located in the Bay Area?! He then goes on to cite a study that rated media outlets' "liberalism" by which think tanks they cited? What. The. Fuck? Unless everyone's busy citing the Center for American Progress, I cannot imagine what think tanks garnered such a rating. The three most-cited think tanks are Brookings (moderate, explicitly non-political), American Enterprise Institute (conservative, expressly so), and Cato (libertarian).

    For fuck's sake! His entire article is premised on the axiom that liberals are biased against capitalism, without citing any such proof, and then proceeding from there. This asshole gets published in Scientific American?

  5. Shermer is living proof of my thesis that an atheist is often someone with only one fewer stupid idea than a theist.

  6. Such a definition fits in nicely with another definition of atheist versus your typical theist - an atheist is just someone who believes in one fewer god.

  7. "We don't have free markets. We never have."

    I know next-to-nothing about such things, but my understanding had always been the opposite. Can you either a) explain how the misunderstanding is so commonplace despite being wrong or b) point at somewhere I can learn it for myself.


  8. Ha! Nicely done. Shows what happens when you post a comment before getting to the end of the RSS feed...

    I shall read, and digest.


  9. know next-to-nothing about such things, but my understanding had always been the opposite. Can you either a) explain how the misunderstanding is so commonplace despite being wrong or b) point at somewhere I can learn it for myself.

    See: monopoly, monopsony, conglomerate, cartel, corporation, union, feudalism, plutocracy, autocracy, regulation, taxes, tithes, political economy, money, blah de blah blah...

  10. Okay, I've read. I'm still digesting, but I'm not feeling less confused yet. When most people talk about "free markets" they're doing it like "the celtic chimp" did above. So in that sense, free markets do exist. They might not be technically free, but aren't you equivocating by mixing up the definitions like that? You knew what he meant, but you switched to another meaning in your response, yes?

    (That's mostly directed at James.)

  11. I was thinking about this in the shower this morning, and I realized that I probably came off as sounding like I didn't believe markets existed, which would make me a silly little man -- or, rather, more so.

    When I'm discussing economics, it's typically with right-wing Heritage Foundation types. These are the kind of people who believe in totally unfettered markets, bereft of regulation. In the American political context, that's what laissez-faire free markets means. If by free we're discussing a more generic free market without societal barriers to entry, then yes, those do indeed exist.

    But they've only existed through the aid of government.

  12. I realized that I probably came off as sounding like I didn't believe markets existed, which would make me a silly little man

    Thanks for the clarification, James. That's exactly how it sounded to me, which was somewhat confusing.


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