On Straight Dope, there is a thread on whether one can be anti-capitalist but pro-market. I’ve captured my response below.
1) Capitalism (distributed planning and control using the technologies of property and the pricing system). Or politically: a bias toward letting the market solve problems of production.
2) Socialism (centralized planning and control in the necessary absence of the pricing system). Or politically: a bias toward political centralization of solving problems of production.
3) Mixed Economy ( distributed planning and control using property and pricing system, with redistribution of wealth through taxation). Or politically, letting the market solve problems of production, while centralizing some amount of the wealth generated for redistribution and investment in outcomes where the market process is unable to concentrate capital.
4) Market: the voluntary production of property for the purpose of speculating on it’s voluntary trade. The speculative pricing assigned to the goods or services. The reliance upon prices to determine the products to be produced, and the factors of production to be consumed. Implies the regulation of products into the market. and implies the defense of property rights and conflict resolution within the market of goods and services by a third party.
5) Trade: the voluntary transfer of property from one individual to another. (which implies knowledge of the purchaser, and the irrelevance of third parties)
Early Leftist were traditional luddites who confused the necessity of ownership of the means of production (property) with the ability to redistribute the results of that system of ownership: It is not necessary to control the means of production in order to redistribute wealth. While property and prices are necessary for complex production, and incentives are necessary to encourage people to produce, it appears that we can determine rules of property use, and we can determine some level of redistribution while maintaining sufficient incentives to produce. At least, that has been the general course of events over the past century.
Contrarily, unstated but implied in that statement, such a redistribution will affect the ability to consume, but not ‘organized control over’ what is produced. This may disappoint some. However, since all groups are led by elites and elites must make decisions on production, the such centralized control creates only the illusion of proletariat control over what is produced.
You cannot have a market (speculative production in anticipation of trade wherein prices communicate relative demand) without prices and property. This is logically impossible. While communists have forever posited the opposite, people will not produce excess for market purposes without the incentive to do so (and will resort to black markets, and therefore recreate the market).
If what you define as “anti-capitalist” (i suspect) is having a number of people with knowledge and relationships and control of property concentrate resources toward productive ends that you disagree with, then you can indeed be “anti-capitalist”. If you define anti-capitalist as a status-criticism, wherein you dislike the fact that you are most likely a permanent member of the proletariat, which decreases your access to mates and opportunity, then you indeed can be an ant-capitalist. Those are sentimental objections. (Despite the fact that our society is largely run by the middle class and upper proletariat.)
But if you mean that you dislike the nature of prices and property, then you’re just illogical, and the result of your beliefs would result in destitute poverty, murder and war. The market evolved because of the limitation of the human mind. We cannot replace it without making the human mind far better than it is. And perhaps far better than it can be.
Redistribution is a biological sentiment in the human animal that evolved because it is necessary for group-persistence: to retain competitive ability against other groups, and to insure the group’s survival. Universal egalitarian equality, which is a member of the set of leftist sentiment of “harm/care/nurture” or the sentiment of eliminating the sensation of status differences, or the sentiment eliminating the material differences between people’s access to resources, is simply an illogical construct regardless of which sentiment is being applied: Because we need incentives to produce, and we must over produce and divide our labor to reduce prices. (“We are not wealthier than cave men, everything is just infinitely cheaper due to the division of labor”) Because people will always seek status differences even under socialism. Because the iron law of oligarchy mandates that elites and leaders emerge, and once they emerge they form a self-serving bureaucracy. Because it is impossible for more than a family sized group of people to agree on both the means and ends of doing anything meaningful in a division of labor sufficient to produce low prices. (this last, is the virtue of what we call the market).
Participating in the market is also voluntary. One can consume the goods of the market without participating in the market one’s self. Some people, in fact, a majority of people, are not sufficiently competitive in any form of production that they can conceive of, or afford to speculate in the market. So they TRADE their productivity rather than SPECULATE on by producing goods or services for the market.
To be a member of a market economy, one only needs to refrain from theft. To be a ‘good’ member of a market economy, once needs additionally to refrain from fraud and deception. But these are the means by which we obtain citizenship in the market, not participate in the market. To enter the market itself, means that you risk capital and compete in the arena that is the market, and are willing and able to accept losses. The problem for the proletariat is that their value-system is predicated on self-production for consumption purposes, and trading for goods that cannot be self produced. People only a century ago would put to market only their over-production, and purchase from the market only for goods that they could not produce themselves. Except there is precious little in modern society that a person can produce himself, let alone, produce for market consumption himself. This necessitates an uncomfortable uncertainty for those people who must speculate in order to survive in the market. Hence leftist sentiments of the family, epistemology of the family, organization of the family, production of the family must compete with rightist sentiments of the market.
It is quite likely that the right and left will both fail. That we will instead of succeeding in incorporating all people into the market (the error of the right) or incorporating all people into the luddite familial structure (the error of the left) that we will adopt the european and south american models of a wealthy urban and rural groups, and a ring of abject destitute hyper-breeding poverty around the urban cores, wherein the upper and middle classes pay the permanent proletariat just enough to subsist, and we emerge with a tiered society both geographically, genetically, and materially. And this end result will in no small part be due to the christian error of egalitarianism sentiments that deny the productive differences of human beings in the real and material world – the majority of which differences derive from the ability and rate at which one can learn and apply abstractions (IQ) in a dynamic and rapidly moving economy.
While neither left or right can achieve it’s idealistic ends, leftism is an attempt to enslave the productive (innovative) class’s attempt to increase production and increase prices for the purpose of status enhancement. But by that restraint doom all people to poverty. This is the strategy behind all monotheistic religions. They are resistance movements that attempt to make status among the proletariat a spiritual rather than material construct. Capitalism (or right-ism) on the other hand is an attempt to keep sufficient productive resources in the hands of market producers that all society benefits, despite the fact that the proletariat feels increasingly left behind and deprived of status because of the accelerating rate at which the productive classes (those who take speculative risks and thereby increase choices and decrease prices) seemingly depart from the lower classes, despite the fact that in all but the rarest circumstances (catastrophic health care) that the difference between the quintiles is one of symbolic status and diversity of forms of entertainment, rather than differences in material well being.
As it stands Quantitative Keynesianism is the socialist research program, and Anarcho capitalism is the capitalist research program. The difference between these methods lies in both their ambitions and their methods. By applying 19th century advances in the mathematics of the natural world (closed probabilism) to the aggregate symbols of production of the economy (monetary values), it became possible to try to fulfill some methods of the socialist program by using capitalism for socialistic ends.
The problem for the capitalists, and the reason for the failure of the Austrian (qualitative) program’s emphasis on micro-economic behavior, is that they do not have a method of mathematics to provide sufficient explanatory power equal to the left’s program, despite knowing, with absolute certainty, that the Keynesian program must fail. This is because despite the efforts of Poincare, Mandelbrot, Hayek, Popper, Mises, and Parsons, more recently Taleb, and a host of others, there appears to be no symbolic language that can represent the plasticity and organic behavior of the property-pricing system and how it reacts to human knowledge. (This is typically called ‘Hume’s Problem’ of Induction.) It appears, at least at this point in time, that we will need a vast amount of data, on the order of many times that of the Google indexes, to provide us with enough of a basis from which to derive the patterns in that symbolic information.
Even if we could find that information, we could find the patterns, and develop a mathematics of economics and the social sciences, the question would remain whether these innovations would have any material impact on the fact that humans are of pedagogical NECESSITY, epistemic status seekers, and that there are those who lead that pack of humanity and those who are forever followers in it, and the envy of the followers, and the arrogance of the leaders mandate that we will remain competitive, and that the problem of human difference is both permanent and valuable to the division of knowledge and labor.