Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What's in a Name?

Karl Marx, archenemy of the free market, gave capitalism its name. It was a smear; but it was a smear that stuck, a smear that denotes a specific politico-economic system. Unfortunately, it also connotes, as Professor Bryan Caplan writes, "a system of rule by capitalists for capitalists," while its antipode, socialism, connotes, "a system of rule by society for society." In other words: capitalism bad, socialism good. Should those who are outspokenly pro-free market, those like me, adopt a new name for the system we advocate, purely for clarity's sake?

My answer, in short: no way.

It's true, many may equate any country apart from North Korea or Cuba, like the United States since the 1890s, as capitalist. Yes, the waters have been sufficiently muddied. But as Professor Caplan notes, the alternative only leads to further cognitive disarray.

There are no capitalist countries and, apart from the aforementioned extant communist economies, no socialist countries left on Earth. We only have gradients of mixed economies: from China to the USA. What's a free-marketer who demands clarity to do? Modify. Call it laissez-faire capitalism. Those who know the term will understand. Those who don't, don't matter anyway.