What, then, is this system called “capitalism”? It can’t be the free market because we have no free market. Today the hand of government is all over the economy — from money and banking to transportation to manufacturing to agriculture to insurance to basic research to world trade. If the meaning of a concept consists in how it is used (there’s no platonic form to be divined), “capitalism” can’t mean “the free market.” Rather it designates a system in which the means of production are de jure privately owned. Left open is the question of government intervention. Thus the phrases “free-market capitalism” and “laissez-faire capitalism” are typically not seen as redundant and the phrases “state capitalism” or “crony capitalism” are not seen as contradictions. If without controversy “capitalism” can take the qualifiers “free-market” and “state,” that tells us something.
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