Free Markets, Free People

Is it the fault of multiple generations of public schooling?

Or is it the constant demonization of capitalism?

This does’t particularly shock me:

Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. adults nationwide say that capitalism is better than socialism. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 18% disagree, while 21% are not sure.

How can you not be sure?  As I see it, you can only not be sure if you really don’t know what each of  them are -seriously.  That 18% disagree isn’t a big deal.  That 21% don’t know, is a big deal.

But what’s up with this?

However, it’s important to note that just 35% believe a free market economy is the same as a capitalist economy. In fact, despite tepid support for capitalism, 77% of Americans prefer a free market economy rather than a government managed economy. That’s consistent with the 75% who say that business is better at customer service than government.

So 17% of that 21% (one assumes those with a definite positive belief in socialism (18%) would know that captalism is a free market system) like a “free market economy” but don’t know what the hell that really means?

Ye gods … They know “free market” is good and preferable, but capitalism has been so demonized by politicians, academics and activists that they don’t associate it with “free market”.



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35 Responses to Is it the fault of multiple generations of public schooling?

  • Between ignorance borne of a lousy education and the routine twisting of words for political purposes, it’s a wonder many Americans can correctly say, “Doggie!” or “Kitty!” when shown pictures of those animals!

    I suggest that the following definitions are common… and part of the problem:

    capitalism – an economic system in which rich people step all over poor people to make even more money, which is, like, really bad and, like, you know, somebody ought to do something about it.  See also: greed, Wall Street, exploitation, unfairness, Republicans

    free market – a place where people buy stuff.  See also: mall, grocery store, E-bay

    • I was just thinking that some large percentage of the “I don’t know”s probably consists of people who can’t decide between capitalism and socialism because they’re all in favor of having capital letters, but at the same time they really don’t use them a lot on the social media.

  • The survey should have been on how many people will attempt to answer questions they don’t know the answers to when they aren’t given multiple guess opportunities.
    And Doc any good Imeme voter knows that the “free market” is a place established in 2009 when President Imeme was inaugurated where I can go and get my free gasoline, free rent, and now, my free health care.

    • If you know where that place is, please tell me!

      Seriously, though, it’s amusing to ponder all those disappointed Imeme voters who now rate him unfavorably because those things AREN’T free like he led them to believe would happen.  It’ll be REALLY amusing when the deadbeats who supported him start getting fined because they didn’t purchase health insurance.  Or discover that gas is $10 / gallon because he’s passed some sort of “climate change” bill (or simply gotten the EPA to do the same thing without bothering to send anything to Congress).  Or can’t find a place to rent because taxes on all those greedy rich people are so onerous that they stop building apartment houses.  Or can’t see a doctor without going onto a six month waiting list.  Good times, good times…

  • I think it was in Liberal Fascism that I read that the word capitalism was invented by the progressives as a way to demonize the free market, turn it into a bad “ism” kind of word. Seems to have worked.
    The great irony is that now socialism has become OK, because it’s, you know, social, and social is good – like facebook is like, you know a social network and all, so socialism is like a social government and that’s cool and nice right?

  • We all know the issue: Capitalism is identified with Crony Capitalism.
    The word has grown poisonous to me.

    • Most of us call it a “mixed economy” which, btw, isn’t “capitalism”. The fact that someone, somewhere decided it would be cool to cripple capitalism by adding “crony” doen’t make it an accurate description.

      • Indeed!
        “Crony Capitalism” is really more like mercantilism and guilds.

  • Could it be that our form of capitalism is not a free market system?
    Our goods and services are regulated by the government from start to finish.  Also, the capitalists themselves intervene whenever and however they can to protect monopolies or whatever niche they can carve out for themselves – the highlight of unfair economic protectionism.
    All of which hardly makes for a free market.

    • Well yes, pogue – but that isn’t the question, is it?

      And it doesn’t mean “our form” is capitalism then either, does it?

      • Well, McQ, no it doesn’t.
        And yes it does.
        Wait… The first part is to the second part, and the second part is to the first.
        You see, because Americans do not conflate the word “capitalism” with free market ideas that might explain why adults poll favorably to “free-market” rather than “capitalism.”
        For a lot of folks, “capitalism” conjures imagery of back-room deals among barons and politicians.  And that invocation is not unfounded – despite the dictionary definition.
        I suggest abandoning the word “capitalism” all together.  After all, it’s a relatively new word – we won’t miss it terribly, and the word “free-market” has better curb appeal.
        You know… ’cause it has the word “free” right there!!

        • What it conjures vs what it means are more likely the product of our brilliant education regime than reality. Capitalism has a meaning. So does socialism. And part of capitalism’s meaning includes the fact that it is a “free market system”. I even left you a handy link in the post to make the point.

          Free market is fine with me – see our masthead- but that doesn’t change the point of the post.

          • What it conjures vs what it means are more likely the product of our brilliant education regime than reality.
            By this, you suggest that the majority of folks were simply duped by the likes of people like Erb – that there is no other reason to associate the word elsewhere.
            By this, you also suggest that back-room deals among barons of all stripes and politicians of both parties – that we would both consider undeniable – do not hold much sway with the people when they frequently learn that these more than frequent deals are used to quash free enterprise and competition from those without means.  Both politicians and barons use the word “capitalism” to describe and defend these unfair practices.  It leaves little wonder then when the lexicon allows for mutation and distortion.
            And because educators or any other media pick up on these cues does not necessarily discount your overall point, it may merely add to the equation.
            IOW, the above described use – or demonization if you prefer – of the word capitalism is not manufactured from whole cloth.
            Again, the barons and the politicians they buy, wave the word around like a crucifix.

          • By this, you suggest that the majority of folks were simply duped by the likes of people like Erb – that there is no other reason to associate the word elsewhere.


            By this, you also suggest that back-room deals among barons of all stripes and politicians of both parties – that we would both consider undeniable – do not hold much sway with the people when they frequently learn that these more than frequent deals are used to quash free enterprise and competition from those without means.

            Which, of course, isn’t a free market system. And we’ve established, by definition, that capitalism is a “free market system”.

            Those who wave the word around like a false “curicifix” only reinforce my point.

          • And, in an extended economic order, “back-room deals” among direct competitors are reduced in significance by the total competition within the extended order. The most unsavory element of capitalism is the tendency toward rent-seeking (the seeking of advantages from the state) and the corrupt receptivity and encouragement of rent-seeking by the state. The state gains power from the rent-seeking of businesses, and so it sets up an environment where rent-seeking is an expedient way to do business. When it becomes the dominant form of doing business, you essentially have the fascist variant of socialism. The state is in the drivers seat. The differences between how that worked in fascist states and social democracies isn’t worth the trouble to make the distinction.

    • Also, the capitalists themselves intervene whenever and however they can to protect monopolies

      Which monopolies are those? The only monopolies I know of are my utilities and our government.
      Maybe you were indoctrinated, too, Pogue?

  • But the word Socialism has also been bastardized.  And part of that is our fault. For instance accusing average liberals of being socialists is simply not true.
    Socialism isn’t just a progressive income tax and a safety net. Socialism is the nationalization of major industries.
    Therefore, Someone like Clinton was not a socialist, but Obama is.
    Merely taxing and regulating business might be stupid, bad, or crony capitalism, but it isn’t actually socialism.
    Taking control of large parts of the Banking, Auto, and health insurance industries is.

    • Socialism is the nationalization of major industries.
      I would agree with your overall point.
      Couple of things, however.
      Obama hasn’t nationalized the auto industry, the banking industry, or even the health care industry.  Now the government may be putting their hand into those more than we would like, nevertheless, they are not nationalized.
      I don’t drive a government made car.  I don’t keep my money in a government run bank.  And I don’t have a government run health care insurance program or see a government doctor.  It is ALL private money being exchanged.
      But let’s explore this a little though.  Let us say that Obama did instill a single-payer, government run health care operation – complete with an unlikely scenario of barring all privately run health care operations.  At the same time, however, all or the vast majority of industries are left as is.  Does the government takeover of one industry – albeit a large one that affects everyone – a socialist system make?
      At what point do we draw the line?  From a capitalist economy, to a mixed economy, to a socialist one?
      That would make for a good discussion.

      • The government “owns” 61% of GM – what would you call that condition?

        Ownership is about control of the property – the abililty to do as you wish with your property. If, for instance, the new banking regulation prevents the bank’s “owners” from doing as they wish with their property but instead only what the government allows them to do, who “owns” it?

        • Ownership is about control of the property – the abililty to do as you wish with your property.
          Okay, so the government “owns” 61% of GM.  Not Ford.  Not Chrysler.  Not any other auto maker.  The automobile industry is not “nationalized.”
          Hey, I don’t like it anymore than you do.
          But if you insist on sticking to the literal definition of capitalism, then you must stick to the literal definition of socialism.
          But you won’t.  You, and most others here, will continue to distort the meaning of socialism, not unlike how you claim the educators distort the meaning of capitalism.
          Best you can do is call it a quasi-socialism.  Much like the US has been experiencing over the last fifty years.

          • By calling everything that Obama does as socialism – regardless if it meets the true definition –  at the same time, do you not distort the true meaning of “socialism”?
            Little wonder then, why so many people polled “do not know.”
            Call it what it is… liberalism.  That’s scary enough, right?

          • Not Chrysler? Really?

            And again, I’m not calling it “socialism” – but I am questioning your waving off “nationalization”. There may not be any big announcment, but in case you missed it, 2 of the big 3 are OWNED by government.

      • Those are all moves toward socialism. Just because he doesn’t have the ability to institute it in one fell swoop does not mean he is not headed in that direction.
        Besides wich, with Obama we can just read his books and take him at his word.

  • Yes, on the fault of public schooling.

  • Capitalism as a system is made possible by state laws, regulation and policy.   “The Myth of the Free Market” by Mark Martinez is an excellent book in making that point clearly.   At the same time, markets are a necessary aspect of capitalism, but it would be factually wrong to say capitalism is the same thing as a free market economy.  That is not the way the term is defined.   Every capitalist economy is by definition a mixed economy.  Government intervention is not socialism.    So the person with a misunderstanding of capitalism is a person who defines it simply as a free market economy.   In fact, the idea of a complete ‘free market economy’ is a fantasy (the utopian version as out of touch with reality as the utopian version of communism), it cannot happen.   It will always devolve as those with wealth try to circumvent the market and secure their position.   That is why government regulation is necessary to protect markets from such actions.   When regulation is insufficient, as was the case with dervivatives markets and financial institutions (read “The End of Wall Street” by Roger Lowenstein), then these wealthy movers and shakers can seriously damage the system, even while raking in eight digit yearly salary/bonus pay.   Without the state, markets fail and become much less free than with state support.

    • I would basically agree with that, a free market would be something just short of anarchy. Yes it COULD work in the sense that you would have a lot of buying and selling going on, but it would certainly be caveat emptor.
      But that should not be confused with the term Free Enterprise which IMO is simply a way of stating a belief in a capitalist system in which controls and regulations are meaningful, not onerous, and do not favor one group or industry over another.
      And As I stated above, Socialism is not the same as simply what we call Liberalism. As it contains the out right take over or control of entire industries.

      • Yes, I agree.  Even Social Democratic parties in Europe have drifted towards  a more liberal position as it became clear bureaucratic inefficiencies made government control worse than markets.   Telling meaningful regulations from onerous ones is the tricky part.

        • “Worse than markets?”

          Markets are prosperity, Scott. The more freedom they have to function, the leaner they are, the more productive they become, the more wealth they produce.

          Anything more than common sense rule making, having to do with such basic things as the enforceability of contracts and anti-fraud measures, impede the effectiveness of markets. It becomes harder and harder to do business with more and more unnecessary regulation. Incentive gets killed. Instead of wealth being created, you get stagnation, and eventually the prosperity declines and people are stuck in bureaucratized welfare state.

          About one-third of America has one or both feet in that situation already. Thanks to people like you.

          • “Free markets” means they produce what CONSUMERS want, not what bureaucrats want.
            How is that a problem. As such, market don’t fall, despite all the BS about market failure.
            Markets only “fail” when they don’t produce what only pols, bureaucrats, and a tiny segment of the economy wants (too small to waste resources producing it) want.
            It’s the difference between a DEMAND economy and a COMMAND economy.
            I can’t believe that needs to be pointed out (except with our local ankle-biting Prefesser).

          • Obviously you missed the unregulated derivative market, and the way markets acted in the recent bubble economy.   But yeah, I’m trying to work to make sure people don’t follow the path of bitter ignorance you seem to have taken.   Only someone in complete denial of the last year and a half could pretend that all we need is to prevent fraud and protect contracts *eyes rolling*

    • That’s about 95% nonsense.

  • Ye gods

  • Sharpshooter, you are literally not making sense.   The derivatives market was an unregulated market wherein mass speculation and misunderstanding of risk created systemic failure.   Bad mortgages weren’t the problem, it was securitizing them and then having financial institutions leveraged to rates above 30 to 1.   They were using short term loans to fund loan term investments.   It was complete insanity, and it led to a massive loss of jobs and an economic slow down, even while the market architects of this disaster pulled in multi-million dollar payments — even if they left their firms.  If you don’t regulate, you get people who can manipulate markets and you’re more likely to get systemic failures.   The fantasy that markets are some kind of perfect thing, a true expression of “nature” has led to this catastrophe.  Even Greenspan admitted his world view was wrong.   Markets are necessary and good — no one wants a command economy around here!  But proper regulation is essential.