by Sheldon Richman
Capitalism versus Capitalism
The following article was written by Sheldon Richman and published on his blog Free Association, April 12th, 2006.
While reading the symposium on Kevin Carson’s book, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, in the latest Journal of Libertarian Studies, I was struck by how upset people can get when someone uses a term differently from how they use it — even if he makes his usage perfectly clear and explicitly draws on legitimate historical precedent. This comes up on at least two occasions in the commentary on Carson. I’ve read Carson’s book, and I had no trouble seeing how he uses the word “capitalism.” Much of the book is devoted to showing that historical capitalism — the real-life mercantilist political-economic system that most people attach that word to — bears only superficial resemblance to the laissez-faire free market, which he favors. Indeed anyone who does not quickly see this in Carson’s work is not paying attention. It is not some obscure point buried under other material. It is the point! Moreover, Carson shows the historical precedent — in the work of Thomas Hodgskin and Benjamin Tucker, for example — for such usage. It shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Continue reading
by Sheldon Richman
Capitalism versus Capitalism, continued
The following article was written by Sheldon Richman and published on his blog Free Association, April 15th, 2006.
In my previous post about the Journal of Libertarian Studies symposium on Kevin Carson’s Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, I said that the harsh reaction to Carson’s use of the word “capitalism” was striking. I did not intend to take up every point made against Carson in the critiques. As I said before, valid criticisms can be and have been made of his 400-page book covering political-economic theory and history. Nevertheless, I have learned much from the book. Overall it is a valuable contribution to political economy and a timely reminder (if that is the right word) to libertarians of how radical their creed actually is. In my view, one cannot overstate the importance of Carson’s asking libertarians: what are you defending, the free market or the political-economic system we currently live in? He is right that many libertarians are ambivalent, one day criticizing the pervasive state intervention and privilege, the next day defending particular companies and individuals as though their gains were purely the outcome of effort in a laissez-faire environment. It is fair to ask, as Carson does, which is it? Continue reading