fredag 27 april 2007
One of my best friends is an unreconstructed Marxist. She is always going on about the evils of “Capitalism”, but what exactly does she, or anyone else for that matter, mean by this term?
“Capital” refers to goods set aside for the production of further goods – the fisherman’s net or the artisan’s tools, for instance are capital. So humans have been employing capital since the Stone Age. And markets have also been around for about the same length of time. Money is merely a medium of exchange, to avoid the need for bartering actual goods. So what is this “Capitalism”?
Clearly, our systems of economic organisation are not good for the environment and often lead to extremes of wealth and poverty, but what precisely is the problem? Is is our tax systems? It is joint-stock companies and the privileged position they enjoy? It is systems of land tenure? Everyone occupies land, but could there be something wrong with the legal and fiscal framework under which land holdings operate? My friend advocates “common ownership”, but how would this work and would it really help the situation? After all, it is a legal fact that the Sovereign owns all the land in England and holds it on behalf of the nation, but in practice, there is no difference between freeholding and absolute ownership of land. Under “common ownership”, how would land be allocated, by whom and on what terms?
It seems that in economics, there is a laxity in the use of terms and definitions that would not be tolerated in the physical sciences, and perhaps that is the problem, as nothing can ever be systematically analysed.
kl. april 27, 2007
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