The Semantics of “Capitalism”

I’ve written a bit recently about socialism—at least in the sense that is meant by Bernie Sanders and company—but I want to make it clear that as much as I’m opposed to socialism or social democracy, I’m also opposed to capitalism. Our modern socialists are very correct to note that our current system is disastrously broken and is destroying the vast majority of the people to enrich a tiny few.

Before I go on, I should clarify what is meant by the word “capitalism”. I’ve mentioned before in a recent post and in one of my earliest posts that getting common definitions nailed down is very important. If we have different conceptions of the same word, I may come across as extolling virtue in a concept you know to be villainous, or I may deceive you into supporting something villainous by deliberately mis-defining it as something virtuous you do support. So by “capitalism” I mean what it originally meant and still means to everyone but those deceived about its true nature: an ideology whose basis—whose axiom, if you will—is the accumulation of wealth.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the accumulation of wealth per se, but when an ideology sets that as its overriding foundational principle, then it becomes the goal to be achieved by any means necessary, and that is when things go wrong. That is why socialists easily see so many problems in our system—a healthy self-interest has turned into unhealthy greed. That is why there is a government—not to stem the tide of this greed, as socialists believe, but to act as an outlet for it, an avenue through which avarice can more effectively accomplish its goal. It is far easier to amass a fortune when people just give you their money than when you work for it, so why not deceive people into giving you mandatory “taxes” in exchange for “protection” from devastating wars, economic calamity, or oppressive employers, protection which never really materializes? It is far easier to eliminate smaller competitors by deceiving the people into accepting burdensome statutes and regulations than by producing a higher quality product or service that the people will prefer.

As I’ve said before, government has never existed to serve the people; it exists to serve the oligarchy, be they feudal kings and nobles or corporate executives and bankers. People in centuries past were ignorant enough to believe they needed the king’s government for protection; people today are smart enough to know they don’t need a king’s protection, but most are still gullible enough to believe they need a capitalist “free-market” government or a populist government “of the people” for protection, both of which exist, in reality, to serve their hidden masters. Our modern kings aren’t even all that hidden—they may be slightly obscured from view by the democratic process, which turns the people’s ire away from the kings and pits them instead against each other, but they don’t really make much other effort to hide their influence over government policy because we are too distracted fighting our imaginary Republican or Democratic enemies. In centuries past to speak against the king was treason, an offense for which the loyal people would ensure you were found out and punished, rather than opening their eyes to the truth of liberty. Although such free speech is no longer punishable by death, today is really no different—if you speak against the party or the American concept of government in general, the loyal people will see to it that you are punished with the full force of their vociferous wrath, rather than opening their eyes to the truth of liberty.

I believe we “anarcho-capitalists”, therefore, give ourselves a bad reputation by including the word “capitalist” in our ideology’s name. “Market anarchism” would be a better term, for we really are not capitalist; we believe in free markets. Capitalists, thanks to the confusion of terms, have been able to deceive most Americans, including ourselves, into believing that free markets and capitalism are the same thing—they’re not, as the above should make clear. Capitalism hates a truly free market because, without the ability to bring the force of government to bear against their customers and competitors, capitalists have tremendous roadblocks to feeding their greed. Through this deception, capitalists have convinced believers in the free market, Libertarians and Republicans, to defend a system whose markets are not actually free, to support capitalism to their own detriment because they believe it entails economic freedoms which it actually doesn’t. Through this deception, they have convinced opponents of capitalism, Democrats, to oppose a system which would actually free them from their current economic slavery to capitalists, to oppose the free market to their own detriment because they believe it entails economic oppressions which it actually doesn’t. Furthermore, this deception has convinced all of us that the other side is our enemy, because one side thinks it supports capitalism, the mortal enemy of the other side, when in fact it does not, and the other side thinks it opposes free markets, when in fact it does not.

Those of us who favor free markets have often tried to make a distinction between capitalism and what we call “crony capitalism”, but this is disingenuous, I think, because in reality capitalism is crony capitalism and always has been. I don’t mind continuing to use this new term of ours, but rather than getting bogged down in semantics, trying to persuade our modern socialist friends to support something we call “capitalism” because it’s different from what they call capitalism, we should recognize that their entire understanding of capitalism is actually quite accurate and instead try to gain their support by showing them how the free market is the true enemy of the capitalism they rightfully detest.


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