Capitalism is an Un-System

Markets and commerce are not created top-down, they are emergent behavior:

...“no one” made markets. No one put out rules for when a market should or should not exist, much like the footprints in the snow following a fresh storm, these markets emerge from the self-interested actions of millions of buyers and sellers each responding to hundreds upon hundreds of incentives every day. Indeed, no one ever sat down and said, “you know, we have this major problem here – there are simply not enough things out there for all of the people who want them, so, let’s have this thing called capitalism and see how it works.” It simply didn’t go down that way, and discussing “markets” in the anthropomorphic way that is often done, particularly in these lines of inquiry, really takes us away from appreciating that market activity is an emergent process. Yes, it does operate in a richer institutional and intellectual framework and yes the “rules” of the game do alter when ends up being for sale or not, but simply condemning “markets” as allowing “everything” to be sold quite misses the point.

  • norse

    I'll add my obligatory reminder that just like Karl Marx fantasy of communism, capitalism has yet to actually be put to trial. The US, for all our happy statements to the contrary, is pretty far from capitalism, featuring tightly regulated markets (try to open your own clinic or restaurant to see how free you are in exchanging capital for labor), and poor arbitration (going to court is essentially random, and contracts are therefore often unenforceable).

  • norse

    Btw, speaking of federal budgets, use of funds and markets in everything: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2013/10/a_cheap_inoffen.html

  • Scott

    Indeed, no one ever sat down and said, “you know, we have this major problem here – there are simply not enough things out there for all of the people who want them, so, let’s have this thing called capitalism and see how it works.” It simply didn’t go down that way, and discussing “markets” in the anthropomorphic way that is often done, particularly in these lines of inquiry, really takes us away from appreciating that market activity is an emergent process.

  • norse

    I'd love to see it happen in my lifetime. I am a big believer in free markets and deregulation (part of being an engineer - half of the job is knowing how to reduce a system to only the absolutely necessary set of rules), and I can see almost all the big problems of our time just being swept away if we ever had the balls to really try.

  • Gil

    Capitalism had its heyday in the 19th century.

  • jdgalt

    It's emergent behavior, but it's certainly more likely to happen in places where property is protected than in places where the rulers pillage anything they can get their hands on.

  • dromedician

    Elites and property-mongers had their heyday, but they gave up a share of their power long ago in favor of the state in order to protect the greater share of their wealth from all of those dispossessed peoples who were unwilling to "voluntarily" submit the the owner's wage/subjugation conditions and were threatening to "expropriate the expropriators". The only way you'll see your right-libertarian fantasy come true is when you can sufficiently rely on non-state outsourced military units to mow down the hungry masses when they come knocking. That might even happen: it will look like a more high-tech Somalia.