Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley's 'Case for Free-Market Anticapitalism'

Ridley argues that the champions of markets need to recapture their radicalism.

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MattRidley
Matt Ridley

Many Reason readers have surely had the experience of trying to explain that libertarians are pro-market, not pro-corporation. This plain truth often elicits a puzzled look, doesn't it? You go on to explain that open markets are networks of voluntary cooperation that enable people to produce and sell goods and services that create prosperity. In contradistinction, when functionaries or politicians describe themselves as pro-business, they all too often mean that they want to provide favors in the form of subsidies and regulations that benefit specific corporations at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.

Matt Ridley makes this vital distinction crystal clear in his 2017 Keith Joseph Memorial Lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies. The author most recently of The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge, Ridley titles his lecture "The case for free-market anticapitalism." Below are a few choice quotations:

I want to argue that the champions of markets and enterprise need to recapture their radicalism, to reassert the right to be a disruptive, even subversive, not a reactionary, force in the world.

They need to distinguish between free markets serving consumers, on the one hand, and crony capitalism addicted to corporate welfare on the other, because it is the corporatism that people dislike, but it leads them to distrust free markets because they do not perceive the difference.

"Capitalism" and "markets" mean the same thing to most people. And that is very misleading. Commerce, enterprise and markets are—to me—the very opposite of corporatism and even of "capitalism", if by that word you mean capital-intensive organisations with monopolistic ambitions.

Markets and innovation are the creative-destructive forces that undermine, challenge and reshape corporations and public bureaucracies on behalf of consumers. So big business is just as much the enemy as big government, and big business in hock to big government is sometimes the worst of all….

The essence of free enterprise is that people become more prosperous by working for each other. The more they abandon self sufficiency for interdependence, the better off they are. The more they specialise as producers, the more they can diversify as consumers. And what this means of course is that networks of exchange and specialisation create cooperation, collaboration and community on an epic scale.

By collaborating through commerce we can do things that are far beyond the capacity of the human mind to comprehend. Human intelligence is a collective phenomenon, a distributed brain, a cloud. As Leonard Reed famously pointed out, among the thousands of people who contribute to making a simple pencil, not one of them knows how to make a pencil.

You can see where I am going here, can you not? That true communism, true collectivism, is created by the market, not the state. That the deepest cooperation is what we achieve by buying and selling. It's time we told the young this. They will never have heard it….

Critics of commerce focus on the role of competition between firms, but forget the cooperation between producer and consumer, and between co-workers.

I once gave a talk in Oxford and an academic approached me afterwards and said that he was troubled by what I had said, for was it not obvious that the most evil people in the twentieth century were all, without exception, capitalists? Surely I could see that. I looked at him, wondering if this was a trick question. Er, what about Stalin, I said? And Hitler? Mao? Pol Pot?

OK, apart from them, he said.

Is it not bizarre, after the 20th century, that people are so forgiving of the state and so mistrustful of the market?…

In some disciplines, the universities have become little better than madrassas for the promulgation of a Maoist cultural revolution. The Gramscian Long March through the institutions, on which the socialists embarked in the 1960s, has culminated in students voting en masse for a man who preaches a tired, old, reactionary and authoritarian creed.

Let's give them something more revolutionary, liberating and democratic. Let's offer them freedom.

Hear, hear! Ridley's entire lecture is well worth your time and attention.

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  1. Is it not bizarre, after the 20th century, that people are so forgiving of the state and so mistrustful of the market?

    Corporations have no coercive power over me. The state does. If these idiots truly want to reduce the power of corporations, then reduce the power of the government corporations so often buy.

    1. Right, you point out your own contradiction. And even to the extent that you can cut yourself off from things like cell phones, cable, internet, or uber, most people rely on them every day and oligopolies can exert coercive monopoly pricing and pressure on those consumers.

      1. …you point out your own contradiction.

        I’ll be damned if I’ll let someone else point out my contradictions!

      2. oligopolies can exert coercive monopoly pricing and pressure on those consumers.

        And how’s that working out for Uber?

    2. I think its also pretty useful to consider the classic Miller v. Schoene, 276 U.S. 272 (1928) problem – there is no real distinction between government action and government inaction. Either the government steps in, and sides with someone, or the government stays out, and sides with someone. How we best facilitate freedom of choice and anticapitalist free-markets can well require allowing people or corps to be self interested actors, or could require the government to set boundaries.

      1. Keep in mind that your at a libertarian site, not an anarcho-capitalist site. Most here would agree that some government is necessary to enforce things like contracts and property rights.

        It’s not a binary choice between no-government and all-government.

        1. Exactly; and it’s a little naive to think that the tools often used to preserve the worst elements of crony capitalist regimes (the courts; regulatory capture, etc…) will magically “do the right thing” when the right government folks are in power.

        2. It is necessary to enforce contracts and property rights, true. But why does such enforcement need to be done by a coercive monopoly?

          1. Because force is inherent in the concept of “enforcement.” If I’m dealing with someone who refuses to abide by a contract, I need to be able to appeal to a party that can use force unilaterally against that party. If the force is not unilateral, all you get is war.

            A coercive monopoly on force is therefore the very definition of “necessary evil.”

  2. I predict much wailing and gnashing of teeth in this thread, and not a lot of point-getting.

    1. But he said “communism” and “collectivism” were good! Burn him!

      1. It is funny that he uses those two labels but not socialism, considering there are arguments for a free market system being called socialism. Don’t think there’s any way to do the same with communism or collectivism, and besides, socialism has more cachet.

        1. Marx would strongly disagree.

          One thing Marx openly hated more than capitalism was socialism. He saw capitalism as the force that enabled large-scale cooperation as a necessary precursor to communism. Socialism, in his view, was an empty parody of communism whose sole purpose was to reinforce existing power structures. A palliative for the wealthy and a distraction for the poor.

          For Marx, the communist end-state = a free market without government coercion. He just thought that once capitalism had established large-scale cooperative organization, it was simply a matter of violently overthrowing the capitalist class so that the workers would be in charge. That latter idea was one of the many things he was wrong about.

          1. I thought Marx saw socialism as a necessary midpoint between the capitalist accumulation of wealth and the end-of-history proletarian dictatorship whose right it was to enjoy that wealth – e.g. socialist governments were supposed to seize the means of production from the capitalists, and then “wither away” by some means and leave everything to the working class. Was that a later addition to Marxism?

            At any rate, the current trajectory of history seems to indicate that the next step past socialism is actually a loop back around to feudalism.

            1. Terminology gets tricky, since it’s so easily appropriated.

              In Marx’s view, just as his contemporary “free market advocates” were largely actually cronyists, his contemporary “socialists” were just feudalists in disguise (just like today).

              One could certainly look at the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” as essentially what we would now think of as a socialist dictatorship, and that’s certainly how “socialists dictatorships” spin themselves – “we are the Revolution, comrade! Now do what you’re told.”

              I’m convinced, however, that Marx would have been utterly sickened by 20th century “communism” and “socialism.”

              I think he was deeply confused about a number of things, though, like thinking that the Dictatorship of the Proletariat wouldn’t simply be the socialist dictatorship whose hypocrisy he attacked so viciously. So one could argue that socialist dictatorships are a kind of unintended consequence of Marxist revolution, rather than part of the process of “Marxist communism.”

              1. One thing that I never understood about Marx is: what is stopping the workers from organizing and forming coops? If REI can do it in outdoor equipment, why not in other industries? Could it be that most workers do not want to be owners and just want a paycheck?

                1. Yeah – I worked for a small contractor through the trough of the recession, and those of us on payroll did not envy the boss, who was sinking into debt in order to keep us paid.

          2. The problem with caring about what Marx would say, and trying to use his work to make these comparisons, is diving into his bizarre ideas about history and class and competition and long outdated value theory. We all know the communism he envisioned is not like any free market ideal we have in mind, for a bunch of reasons. And, as you indicate, socialism is a much bigger and broader term than what Marx was pushing.

            1. We all know the communism he envisioned is not like any free market ideal we have in mind, for a bunch of reasons.

              Do we?

              While the labor theory of value is shit – my favorite Marx quote:

              The sphere of circulation or commodity exchange, within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, let us say of labour-power, are determined only by their own free will. They contract as free persons, who are equal before the law. Their contract is the final result in which their joint will finds a common legal expression. Equality, because each enters into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodities, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent Property, because each disposes only of what is his own. And Bentham, because each looks only to his own advantage. The only force bringing them together, and putting them into relation with each other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interest of each. Each pays heed to himself only, and no one worries about the others. And precisely for that reason, either in accordance with the pre-established harmony of things, or under the auspices of an omniscient providence, they all work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal, and in the common interest.

              1. I added the emphasis. How better to counter Marxists than with Marx?

        2. I guess he’s focused more on the stateless endgame of communism, but that doesn’t work because of the assumed absence of private property rights, without which you can’t have functioning markets. If you’re not free to dispose of the fruits of your labor as you see fit, you’re not free. Collectivism is sort of a non-sequitur – there are plenty of (alleged) free-market advocates right here on Hit’n’Run who work under the assumption that the category that a person can be slotted into is a more germane indicator of their value as a human being than their individual thoughts, actions, qualities, etc.

          1. Right, I don’t think you can square the requirements of free markets – private property, autonomous firms in competition, free contract – with any conception of communism. If you reduce communism to the most abstract cliche about meritocracy and cooperation, with each paid according to their ability and all that, you can maybe argue that the free market reaches for that ideal. Collectivism is right out.

            I think socialism would have been a better word for him to use, because it is more popular, more present in contemporary debates, reinforces the social aspects of a free market system, and is arguably a less inaccurate comparison.

          2. You can be free in a world w/o property, just by different rules. You can’t keep anything, but you can take anything.

    2. I predict much wailing and gnashing of teeth…

      I enjoy the rending of garments as well, quickly followed by the casting of ashes on heads.

      1. Not to mention the proliferation of hashtags.

        1. Ie Jesu Domine

          *smack*

          Dona eis requiem

          *smack*

  3. Ridley me this AnCap man.

  4. I’m trying to think of an actual evil capitalist. I’m sure some exist, but I can’t think of any in particular. The truly evil people of the 20th century were pretty well universally government actors/dictators.

    There are certainly companies and private actors who do nasty, evil things, but “the most evil people in the 20th century” is far from the mark. And companies doing bad things tend to be enabled by bad or corrupt government.

    1. Dude, all capitalists are evil. They make money! They get rich! That makes them evil!

      1. Oh, right, I keep forgetting. They are motivated by base greed. In a more perfect world, everyone would just work for the government.

        1. Well, yeah. Profit is theft. Profit is stealing from workers and customers. Earning wealth is evil.

          Government doesn’t profit. So government is good. Government takes from those who earn their wealth and give to people who deserve it.

          Greed is wanting to keep what is yours. Greed is evil. Envy on the other hand, envy is altruism. Nothing is more virtuous than altruism.

          1. What I don’t get is why “lust for power” is somehow so much better than greed?

            If I want to accumulate more and more cash, or stuff, or whatever — as long as I don’t steal it from other people, what do you care? How does it hurt you or anybody else?

            But if I want to have power over you and others… Because I think I’m smarter and can make better decisions for your life than you can. And I then take control of you and others like you (i.e., be part of government) how is that GOOD?

            Even if all politicians and government types were 100% altruistic and acted only in what they perceived as being in everyone’s best interest (what a laugh!), it still doesn’t make sense that they should know what’s best for other adults more than those adults know what’s best for themselves.

            The whole idea of lording it over other people disgusts me.

    2. El Chapo, El Mencho, the Gambinos and Lucchese, all some pretty evil capitalists 😉

      1. Mafias and gangs differ from governments only in scale.

        1. Yes, and most of them are actually enabled by government!

          El Chapo was a drug kingpin, right? The Gambinos, etc., were profiting from stuff like the booze trade during Prohibition, gambling, prostitution, and maybe drugs too more recently.

          Notice any common thread there? Like government basically creating the perfect conditions for a black market?

          Not to excuse any of the violence these people also perpetrate, but it shouldn’t be a total surprise, either. It’s not like they can easily handle disputes through legal channels the way conventional business operators do.

    3. I’m trying to think of an actual evil capitalist. I’m sure some exist, but I can’t think of any in particular.

      I think most would agree that the truly memorable villains of the 20th century were dictators of various sorts.

      The anti-capitalist argument would hold that the evils of capitalism are much more widespread and destructive, but less dramatically visible or attributable to particular virulently evil individuals.

      Sort of like the difference between taxation-as-theft and robbery at gunpoint. The robber is going to stick out in your mind, even though we all unwillingly pay much more to the government than you ever will to a petty thief.

    4. Shkreli seems like a right cunt, if we’re calling him a notable capitalist (he definitely is in the corporatist sense of the term).

      1. My threshold for calling someone “evil” is fairly high. There are definitely plenty of cunts and shitweasels in the corporate world.

        1. Same, but willfully exploiting the regulatory mess to get monopoly prices on meds for sick people could qualify as evil.

          1. It’s as if he put people onto ovens or something. Oh wait…. he withheld his own property from transactions he did not like and was able to do so in distasteful ways. So no, not even close to evil.

            After statists the next worst are private actors of violence (pediatric, serial killers, at al) who aren’t acting in the role of capitalist but as animal. So even if we say, “OK… EXCEPT for those bad statists… THEN capitalists are the next worst class of people!” we would still be wrong.

            If rather need meds that Shkreli has than be Jeffery Dahmer’s dinner guest.

            1. Lol… autocorrect changed pedos to pediatric.

            2. Property which he has an FDA granted monopoly on.

  5. The financial crisis and the Great Recession was in large part successfully attributed to the free market run amok as the root cause. (That analysis is wrong, of course, but explains why a lot of people think free markets equals what is in reality cronyism and government distortion of market mechanisms.)

  6. Corporations are a creation of the state. They rely, inherently, on the force of the state for their very structure and form.
    Evil capitalist? Bill Gates, Elon Musk, to name just two. Why evil? Because both muscle their way into the game and support their businesses by anti-market practices, including taking massive hand-outs, lobbying for massive hand-outs, and inserting themselves into the legislative process to insure favorable legal climates for the activities.
    Hyperloop?
    No ownership of nor warranty on software?
    These are not market driven innovations, although neither of them necessarily requires corporatism nor evil.
    It’s the means and their relationship to the ends.

    1. “Corporations are a creation of the state.”

      Corporations are the creations of their owners. You may as well say any contract is the creation of the State as well and suspect because of it.

      “Why evil? Because both muscle their way into the game and support their businesses by anti-market practices, including taking massive hand-outs, lobbying for massive hand-outs, and inserting themselves into the legislative process to insure favorable legal climates for the activities.”

      None of which are inherent properties of the corporate form.

      1. “Corporations are the creations of their owners. You may as well say any contract is the creation of the State as well and suspect because of it.”

        Are you sure? Seems to me that, in order to incorporate, you need to go through some government body. It provides all sorts of benefits not open to people doing business as independent producers or sole proprietors.

        Example: I used to know a shady guy who ran property management companies that, time after time, committed all sorts of violations, were found in breach of contract, and were sued into bankruptcy. The guy, however, would just turn around and start a brand new management company — re-incorporating under a new name and starting the same old shit again. If a private individual did that, they would soon find their personal property gone (from losing the suits brought against them) and their personal reputation so trashed that nobody would give them the time of day.

    2. Microsoft, believe it or not, tried its best to stay out of lobbying and cronyism, but were arm twisted into it by politicians.

  7. “You can see where I am going here, can you not? That true communism, true collectivism, is created by the market, not the state. That the deepest cooperation is what we achieve by buying and selling. It’s time we told the young this. They will never have heard it….”

    It has been out there (like in the Money Speech in Atlas Shrugged). The young have been told to hate and disbelieve it.

  8. The power of the government gives rise to cronyism. I agree with Ridley on many topics. He needs to make that distinction. Cause big businesses are not – in and of themselves – a bad thing. The collusion between large businesses and government is the problem. The only way to reduce the problem is to reduce the power and scope of government.

    1. Big government is not itself the problem, the only way to reduce the problem is to reduce the power and scope of the corporations buying influence.

      Ta da.

      More to this point, Big business goes out of its way to eliminate competition, just as suredly as red tape.

      1. the only way to reduce the problem is to reduce the power and scope of the corporations buying influence.

        We’ve tried that. Again and again. And again.

        The only influence you have over corporations is to choose not to deal with them and to refuse to allow the government, which you do have some say in, theoretically, to over-empower them. Because that’s what governments do, without exception.

        I think one could argue that the most nakedly and aggressively capitalistic entity operating in the world today is the Chinese Communist Party.

      2. Big government is not itself the problem, the only way to reduce the problem is to reduce the power and scope of the corporations buying influence.

        And the only way to do THAT is to reduce the influence that is available to buy… by reducing the size and influence of government. You have the problem exactly backwards. That’s okay! So do most people who don’t pay attention.

        More to this point, Big business goes out of its way to eliminate competition

        Which they do via lobbying and regulatory capture, two anti-competitive (and therefore anti-market) means that exist solely because the government is so big, powerful, and intrusive.

        Absent access to government force, Big Business ain’t so tough anymore.

        1. And they will still attempt to eliminate competition – by making a better product.

      3. An exchange is mutually beneficial; if a corporation is buying influence, it’s because someone with influence wants to sell it to them. You’re relying on the sellers to continuously deny themselves these benefits.

        1. The idea that big government isn’t so bad requires a person to believe that politicians are inherently the wisest, noblest, least self-interested members of a given society. Obviously, this idea is provably, laughably stupid, but the amount of denial and subject-changing that occurs when you point this out is fascinating from a psychological standpoint.

          1. You pick up that line from John Calhoun?

      4. Corporations can not grant themselves the favors that enable them to exploit. Those favors can only be granted via government. If you want business to stop buying political influence, make political influence worthless. You can only do that be reducing the state. Reducing business still leaves the true power holders with exploitative power.

        To wail against businesses for exploiting but not against exploitative power in and of itself indicates you have no problem with exploitation but a problem only with who gets to do it.

  9. was it not obvious that the most evil people in the twentieth century were all, without exception, capitalists?

    . . .

    Is it not bizarre, after the 20th century, that people are so forgiving of the state and so mistrustful of the market?.

    Interesting that even after Ridley’s essay, even he still responds to a comment about the evils of capitalism not with “that’s why I’m drawing a distinction between free markets and capitalism” but with “isn’t it funny that people are still suspicious of free markets” when what the guy did was fail to get Ridley’s distinction between free markets and capitalism.

    Ridley doesn’t seem to have fully grokked his own point.

  10. “Is it not bizarre, after the 20th century, that people are so forgiving of the state and so mistrustful of the market?”

    Ain’t that the truth. Corporations gave us trains, cars, telephones, radios, televisions, microwave ovens, cell phones and search engines.

    The governments gave us….. death, lots of death.

    1. The governments gave us….. death, lots of death.

      And ballpoint pens!

      1. and tang!

        1. Velcro!

          Teflon!

    2. Look at the 19th century.

      The greatest villains are capitalists like Carnegie and Rockefeller who brought us steel and petroleum.

      The greatest hero is Lincoln who prosecuted a war that killed more than 600,000 people.

  11. “was it not obvious that the most evil people in the twentieth century were all, without exception, capitalists?”

    Wouldn’t some capitalist (which one I don’t know) have to appear on the most evil list at maybe number 50? I mean after the usual suspects like Hitler, you’d have Wilson, FDR, Holmes, Ted Bundy, John Gacy, the Texas Clocktower guy, and Timothy McVeigh.Maybe the the first capitalist to appear would be the guy who invented the pet rock, showing people how stupid they were.

    1. I think there are probably a number of entertainment industry people who might rank pretty high.

      1. OJ?

  12. are there any examples of an anticapital product? communism is just state owned capitalism. I think I’m missing his point.

    1. Well, there’s your mom.

  13. Am I the only guy who read the pencil story? It was fascinating.

    1. There’s also the movie version. I showed this to my kid the other day and she watched it like three times in a row.

  14. RE: Matt Ridley’s ‘Case for Free-Market Anticapitalism’
    Ridley argues that the champions of markets need to recapture their radicalism.

    “Many Reason readers have surely had the experience of trying to explain that libertarians are pro-market, not pro-corporation. ”

    Large corporations started out as small businesses. I wouldn’t be the one to stop some small entrepanneur from more successful or wealthier. That doesn’t sound what America was based upon.

    1. “Many Reason readers have surely had the experience of trying to explain that libertarians are pro-market, not pro-corporation. ”

      While I’m not pro-corporation, I’m not necessarily knee-jerk anti-corporation, either. When it comes down to it, I can tell any business, no matter how big, that I won’t buy their stuff, period. Do they have the authority to kidnap me and put me in a cage, take my things by force, or even kill me? Nope. Do you know who does have that authority?

      In addition, most examples of corporations actually doing bad stuff, are them taking advantage of regulations put in place by government. People point to monopolies as the poster children for too-powerful corporations, but there would be no monopolies if there was a truly free market.

      1. “When it comes down to it, I can tell any business, no matter how big, that I won’t buy their stuff, period. Do they have the authority to kidnap me and put me in a cage, take my things by force, or even kill me?”

        Yet, how many of their employees understand that. I have had, more than once, conversations with a store employee who seemed not to understand that I did not have to buy from this company after some disagreement. The issue comes down to some company policy and these employees insist that I just have to accept it and do business with them. Try and explain that there are other companies providing the same product or service and I will take my business elsewhere. They just keep repeating that I just need to understand that it is company policy (implying that I don’t have a choice) and I will tell them that I understand that but that I don’t care to do business with a company that has said policy and will take my business elsewhere. They get more frustrated (forgetting that it is a two-way street between buyer and seller) and just keep repeating it is company policy as I walk out door or hang up the phone.

        1. If you have a beef with company policy, take it up with those who set the policy rather than trying to persuade powerless minions who are given no say in the matter. The owner will be more interested in keeping your custom than some low level time server.

  15. “The essence of free enterprise is that people become more prosperous by working for each other.”

    If our own prosperity were our only concern then the free market system might fill the bill. But there are problems that the market can’t deal with. Just look at Ron’s ‘solutions’ to climate change, none of them are market solutions and all of them, nuclear, carbon sequestration, carbon taxes etc, rely on heavily coercive government regulation and funding.

      1. Carbon sequestration, nuclear power generation etc are not market solutions. There is no market to sell carbon for sequestration. There is no consumer demand for sequestered carbon. When and if it comes, we’ll have the government to thank.

        1. That’s just silly. There’s no market for carbon sequestration? So I guess materials like lumber are exclusively government-provided products, right? Last time I checked, a hell of lot of carbon is sequestered in every single tree. If you use that tree to make a table, or a house, or even a bunch of pencils, you are not releasing all that carbon. Unless you just burn the wood, the carbon pretty much stays locked.

          As for nuclear power generation, I wonder why it is the only form of power generation that has to be handled by government. If private enterprises used to be able to function producing energy people want to buy by older methods such as burning coal or natural gas, why is it –other than because of government–can no private company afford to use cutting-edge technology to generate clean power?

          1. Come on.

            “Carbon sequestration” as a product is “storing carbon for environmental/climate change reasons”, isn’t it?

            That lumber does so as a side effect does not make “sequestration” the thing that people are buying when they buy a 2×4 or stick-build a house.

            (I agree re. nuclear power, though. There’s market demand for cheap electricity, and in a non-radiophobic regulatory environment with modern plant designs it should be able to compete usefully, if allowed to.)

            1. “There’s market demand for cheap electricity, and in a non-radiophobic regulatory environment with modern plant designs it should be able to compete usefully, if allowed to.”

              It’s not the design of nuclear power plants that is stopping investors from coming up with the billions of $ required for the construction of these generating facilities. It’s the billions of $, even though the government has generously allowed liability to be shouldered by the tax payer. Nuclear regulations are written by the industry itself. It’s called regulatory capture.

          2. It’s not the cost of nuclear power that’s the problem (well not a majority of the problem anyway). It’s the licensing and liability costs.

            1. “It’s not the cost of nuclear power that’s the problem”

              The costs for construction and de-comissioning etc are also prohibitively expensive. Especially if you are considering building enough generating capacity to replace the need for fossil fuels. You would need 1000s of reactors. The only places on earth where there is a thriving nuclear industry is in non-market oriented societies like China and North Korea.

          3. “can no private company afford to use cutting-edge technology to generate clean power?”

            Because it’s risky and expensive. My advice to these private companies – team up with a government like that of China or North Korea. They will shoulder the risks and costs.

  16. “”capitalism”, if by that word you mean capital-intensive organisations with monopolistic ambitions.”

    True as stated.

    Of course, er, that leading definition is more or less limited to Marxists, who (in fairness) invented the term.

    To everyone else it’s just “the opposite of Socialism”, in normal use, or more technically, “private ownership of the means of production”.

    The dichotomy is more aptly stated as “markets vs. Big Business” (since small ones, as much as they might like to distort the market or seek rents, are not really able to do either, generally).

    1. Yes. I like ridley but he’s being too clever by half here and playing semantic games which aren’t all that helpful.

    2. Yes. I like ridley but he’s being too clever by half here and playing semantic games which aren’t all that helpful.

    3. A business may be privately owned without being capitalist. A capitalist operation should yield some return for its investors, and the owners are always on the look out for opportunities to expand. There are plenty of privately owned businesses, like the corner shop for example, that don’t operate under these constraints.

  17. “?the experience of trying to explain that libertarians are pro-market, not pro-corporation. This plain truth often elicits a puzzled look, doesn’t it? You go on to explain that open markets are networks of voluntary cooperation that enable people to produce and sell goods and services that create prosperity.”

    I just as often have the inverse. Some person selling their home-made goods (soap from goats’ milk for example) or service (unlicensed hair braiding) will be adamant in their denial that they are engaging in free-trade (open markets). Their argument is that free-trade is something that only corporations do.

    I have lost track of how many times people give me a puzzled look when they find out I call myself a libertarian and yet have not problem with them selling their home-made goat soap or providing hair braiding our of their home. It just does not equate for them.

    1. “libertarians are pro-market”

      Feminists, however, aren’t. It’s the market that has decided that employed women are to be paid at a discount. Because of their traditionally heavy involvement in child bearing and rearing. These are essential contributions to society that the market doesn’t recognize. What feminist in his right mind would favour such a system?

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