We are constantly told that we live in a capitalist society.We are usually told this by liberals bemoaning that fact or big government conservatives upset about loopholes or sweetheart deals that do not benefit them. It is true that we are capitalists as we are not engaged in feudalism, we are not ruled by kings and we are not surfs tied to the land. Another thing we are not is a free market society. While the terms capitalist and free market are usually taken to mean the same thing, they most certainly are not. Capitalism is any system of society where one exchanges their labor for currency in order to purchase goods. The free market is one in which you can exchange those goods freely without government interference. The United States has never been a truly free market, in fact as long as there is a government involved you will not see a free market no matter how noble the intent maybe. Government is a monopoly of force and once someone has that power they will eventually manipulate it.
There are all sorts of labels for types of governments. Socialist, communist, fascist, are just a few but nothing is ever that neat and simple. The communism practiced in the Soviet Union and China as well as other countries is not the same that Marx envisioned. True socialism is very rarely seen, and even then it usually it is just the second half of the equation or the redistribution of wealth without the ownership of the means of production. A new name could be created for this hybrid and probably will be done after enough time has passed but there will be no difficulty in finding an example because the United States will be the best test case possible.
Author Malcolm Gladwell wrote an intelligent book called Outliers in which he tries to show that while people need to have a drive and ability to succeed, circumstance and timing are incredibly important. I believe one could categorize the U.S. as an outlier. This country's previous drive and ability (as well as lack of history to hold it back) was well suited for its time but within the last few generations that seems to have been lost. Ian Morris, in his book Why the West Rules...for now, describes an advantage of backwardness in which circumstances that hold a region back will eventually allow it to prosper when the current supreme region over exploits itself. He documents it throughout history and one can see the allusions of this with the U.S. and countries such as China.
History will most likely not be kind to the United States. The scribes of the next super power will certainly be happy to point out how our country decided it could have it all. It could have private property and companies, freedom of speech, rampant consumerism, inflated wages created by minimum wage laws and unions, low taxes relative to the amount of spending of the government entitlement programs and military spending, $16 trillion in debt and was able to sustain it for so long thanks to its fiat currency being the default currency of the world. Life is full of lessons to be learned. Some can be explained and therefore keep the painful experience from occurring Sometimes it has to be done the hard way. Americans need to reconcile the type of government they think they have and what kind they actually have.
"The only people who don't want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide." – Barack Obama
In response to Eric:
The entire point of the argument, as was mentioned in the article, is that none of these are pure entities of the political system it identifies with and to dispell the notion the United States is not socialist in practice. Certainly, our government was setup as a democratic republic with capitalist designs and continues to function mechanically that way. Socialist countries do operate with similar government bodies.
China and the U.S.S.R., not Russia, were built on and used communism as a template so even if they did not adhere to Marx's ideals, that was at least their claim.
The use of the photo is actually meant to show my disdain for socialism and lament the fact that this country continues to move in that direction and at this point at time more resembles Euro-socialism than any true capitalist or free market society.
Is your claim that I believe that we are and hope that we become socialist country while at the same time do not understand what socialism is? I will gladly take my B.A. back now.