What Capitalism Isn’t (or, “Against the Plutocrats”)

I was reading the latest edition of Liberation, the newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), which I often agree with, and I came across the section of the paper in which the PSL describes who they are and what they stand for. What I found interesting, in this section, was the PSL’s (incorrect) definition of “capitalism”: “Capitalism—the system in which all wealth and power is held by a tiny group billionaires and their state . . .”

What the PSL is describing, here, is not “capitalism” but “a plutocracy”.

I realize that we don’t often hear the term “plutocracy” but the term was quite popular during the 1890’s, when it was used by the populist movements. And the term “plutocracy” means exactly what the PSL says they are against: “government by the wealthy”.

In my opinion, an organization (like the PSL) should be absolutely certain about what it is that they are against before they begin railing against it, and I think any organization should be especially concerned with using the proper definitions of the terms which their members will be using in their on-going debates with other peoples.

For example, if you’re going to host a conference (as PSL recently did) called: “Capitalism is Organized Crime!”, then I think you’d better be absolutely certain that you’re using the proper definition of the term “capitalism”.

The term “capitalism” means: an economic system in which the people hold private ownership of property and are engaging in free market competition. The term “plutocracy”, on the other hand, means: rule by the wealthy (Greek: plutos, meaning wealth; and kratos, meaning: power).

(Perhaps “Plutocracy is Organized Crime!” would simply go over most people’s heads?)

As I’ve said elsewhere, America was founded on the principles of liberty and freedom; therefore advocating socialism, in America at least, is, I think, a lost cause.

I have no problem with people advocating socialism, in fact I have a lot in common with socialists—especially the notion that people are more important than profit—but socialism, as a political ideology, has never been (and never will be) realizable here in the U. S. (If you doubt me, then I suggest that you do your homework, starting here.)

I’m all about building a more just society, but this can’t be accomplished by taking away the people’s right to own property. And this is exactly what the adoption of socialism, as an economic system, entails. The term “socialism” means: a system in which there is no private ownership of property and the ownership of property belongs to the state (meaning: the federal government).

A socialist economy, wherein the centralized (i.e., federal) government owns and controls all property, is much different from a communist economy, wherein the people—as a collective—own and control all property. In this regard, on a nation level, any nation that adopts a socialistic economy must actually be considered fascist, because it employs a nationalized (i.e., federalized) and centralized governmental control over what becomes a highly regimented economy of a national socialism; whereas communism is considered to be international (or transnational) socialism, because it eschews nationalism all together.

I guess what I’m looking for is a society wherein people have the right to be free from as much governmental interference as is reasonably possible and wherein they have the right to own private property, but wherein they also feel their inherent, God-given, moral obligation not to oppress people.

What I love about socialists is that they care about people. They are able to see the evil the capitalist system has (often) fallen into: that profit is more important than people are. And I respect that. But what they fail to see and appreciate is the freedom people should always be allowed, by their governments, to have, especially the freedom to own property.

The solutions to the problems we’ve faced—and continue to face—in America, concerning big business and the working class, were not—and are not—of the “either/or” variety (e.g., either capitalism or socialism), rather, they were (and are) of the “both/and” variety (aspects of both capitalism and socialism).

What we’re looking for, in solutions, is a tempering of the two extremes of excess which exist in both capitalism and socialism.

During the 1890’s, big business and Wall Street bankers were running roughshod over the farmer and the working class, so the farmers and the working class used the power of the federal government to control and regulate their oppressors. Today we have a much worse situation: the federal government is controlled by the big business and Wall Street monied elites and the Washington elitist politicians don’t give a damn about the small farmer or the working class.

Neither big business nor the Washington government will help the people now, because they’re both in bed with each other; and they’re laughing at us . . . all the way to their banks.

If the People want help now, they will have to help themselves.

As I’ve been saying lately, it’s time for the People to rise up against our enemies—that ungodly symbiosis of big business, Wall Street, and the Washington government—and demand change by taking to the streets—non-violently— until we get the real change we so desperately need: an end to wars, an end to special interests and corporate lobbyists, an end to spying on American citizens, an end to the suspension of due process for Americans suspected of being “terrorists”, an end to U. S. support of Israel, and an end to the Washington government’s cover-up of the 9/11 attacks.

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About ajmacdonaldjr

writer, author, blogger
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3 Responses to What Capitalism Isn’t (or, “Against the Plutocrats”)

  1. ittecon says:

    Nice write-up, AJ, and you do a good job of separating capitalism from plutocracy, though I’d argue Merriam-Websters conflation of capitalism and free markets. Moreover, I’d like to suggest that capitalism and free markets are incompatible. Capitalists seek to acquire capital and in fact loathe free markets because it causes them to have to compete, a condition which depletes capital.

    Regarding Fascism, I can’t agree with your conclusion here, associating it with Socialism. A collective government does not necessarily mean a nationalistic government, as you suggest. I think if you follow the original intent to Fascism as it was conceived by Mussolini, who coined the phrase, it was a state where corporations and government were joined in lockstep. Your closing paragraph could be summed up nicely in a Fascist wrapper, but this is not Socialism by any definition of which I am aware.

    It is also nice that you ink to an online dictionary, but you should note that these definitions morph over time. You might want to rely on more than a single reference source for your definitions.

  2. Pingback: What Capitalism Isn’t (Or, Against the Plutocrats) a. J. …

  3. Thanks for the constructive criticism, I appreciate it very much. I think free markets are an essential aspect of capitalism, but I also think capitalists would, logically, prefer a playing field in which all competition is eliminated (i.e. a monopoly). This is one extreme of capitalism which socialistic influences are able to counter.

    I think fascism, historically speaking, was certainly nationalistic (e.g., the German National Socialists, Mussolini’s Italy).

    You’re right in saying that socialism isn’t necessarily nationalistic, because the nation-state is a modern socio-political phenomenon, which may be fading away. But I do think socialism is necessarily centralized in authority and that this centralization of authority has been, and is today is, located within the national, central, or federal government. I think of Communism, ideologically at least, as a type of “international socialism” (think: “workers of the world unite”); whereas I think of socialism as a collective on a much smaller scale (i.e., the nation-state).

    I used only the one online dictionary in order to avoid someone thinking that I was cherry-picking, from other sources, the definitions which I prefer. But, as you point out, I could give more than one definition, which would be helpful.

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