Or is the distinction between free market and unfree economy one of kind rather than degree? For example, between the set of economic norms prevailing in the United States before about 1980 or so, and the set of norms prevailing since that time, which is a more serious violation of free-market principles. The conventional (and of course flawed) understanding of “free market” principles would lead us to believe that the present is a lesser evil than the postwar era when it comes to “economic freedom,” as so many “market based” reforms and structural adjustments have been undertaken since then. I guess what I’m hoping to hear from the free-market anticapitalists is that the opposite is true; that the changes advertised as market-based reforms are actually steps away from the ideal of free markets, and that the economy was actually closer to the free-market ideal back when there were more jobs with bennies and more job security all around; say 1946-1979 (give or take). I don’t expect such a revelation, as free-market anticapitalists (among others) have identified that period as the “managerial age,” characterized not by economic freedom, but by a type of of bureaucratic order or cockroach caucus that somehow manages to buy off a sufficiently large fraction of public opinion with cushy jobs or what have you. By my reckoning, on strictly economic matters, America 1946-1979 was a better place than America 1979-present. I won’t go quite so far as to say that the past was better than the present because we may have (or may not have) made up for the losses in economic security with advancements in civil rights and personal freedoms, although the latter gains have pretty much been completely erased by the post-9/11 hysteria. My own take on it is that the post-war period was economically better, while the post-Reagan period is more market-oriented. What I want to hear the free market anticapitalists say is that the Reagan “revolution” made the economy less market oriented. That would be the only answer compatible with there being anything positive about the market system.
What is capitalism?