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Context : LeftLibertarian

Quora Answer : What exactly is free market anti-capitalism? How does it work?

Jul 3, 2015

Like all "isms" Capitalism is a word with many interpretations.

But there seem to be two broad understandings.

The first is that "Capitalism" just means "Free Markets". Under this definition, the term "free-market anti-capitalism" is more or less a contradiction and probably seems comically silly.

The second is that "Capitalism" is the system that's grown up in the last 300 years or so. The main characteristics of which are a) modern nation states, b) limited liability corporations and public corporations, c) markets for trading shares in ownership of these corporations and other kinds of financial instruments.

Now, what is the limited liability corporation?

It's basically an agreement that allows a group of people to get together to borrow money for a venture without being personally liable for those debts if the venture fails to pay them back. This is a privilege given by government to the corporation's owners. In return it demands that the corporation lodges accurate accounts with it.

In other words government offers corporations a trade-off of financial transparency for limited liability. A further stage, public corporations, the trade-off is that the corporation has access to money on an open market, in return for even more transparency.

A free-market anti-capitalism, then, is one which recognizes the value of free markets and wants an economy grounded in them, but DOESN'T appreciate this particular deal whereby government gives the privilege of limited liability in return for transparency.

Any particular FM-ACist may have a number of motivations for their position.

  • perhaps she's an anarchist that thinks that this is too much government and that contracts should just be negotiated by private parties under whatever terms they like. And that defaults should be worked out between them in exactly the same way as defaults by individuals and other groups.
  • perhaps she's in the Marxist tradition, and believes that the arrangement gives so much advantage to the recipients of this privilege that it creates a runaway positive feedback-loop that funnels all wealth and power to them. And ends up warping the
    rest of the political system and fabric of society.
  • perhaps she's against usury altogether (for religious reasons)
  • perhaps she thinks there is some other advantage to ending this privilege.

I'm sure there are other possibilities too. But basically, FM-ACists must start from the assumption that the Capitalism that they oppose is a narrower thing than merely existence of markets and (at least some tradable) private property as the governing principle in the economy. And it's the extra features of "capitalism" that they want to criticise and renegotiate.

See also : Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Other than communism, what is the alternative to capitalism?