Capitalism, Corporatism, Mercantilism
Eric over at The Liberty Papers hits upon a point that I think is very important:
More importantly, he betrays an idea that is part of the Left’s meme war. This particular idea has been so effective that many on the Left don’t even recognize just how false it is, perhaps even Eugene doesn’t. The idea that has been promoted since the the mid-19th century is:
Corporatism = Capitalism
Anyone that has read Adam Smith and then looks at how supposedly capitalist economies work would recognize that the USA and UK are not capitalist in any sense of the word. The purpose of government, from a capitalist perspective, is to provide a neutral framework for the market to work within. It should not favor producer, retailer nor consumer, nor should it favor management or labor. By continuously aligning the idea that a scenario where government favors management over labor in the employment market and favors centralized corporations over small businesses and consumers in the broader market, the Left has successfully created the idea that this is Capitalism.
One of the biggest problems I run into when talking to leftists about capitalism is that their idea and my idea of what capitalism is are completely different. I usually try to point out that the system that we're practicing is actually mercantilism, but I think that's a losing battle since most people don't really know what mercantilism is. However, people on the left tend to be familiar with the term corporatism, and corporatism is something I'm opposed to as well. What I disagree with the left about is government's role in eliminating corporatism: leftists tend to see government as a solution to corporatism and corporations as the cause, whereas I see government as the cause and corporations as a symptom.
Ultimately the biggest cause of the problems though is that we're trying to rescue the word "capitalism" from the legacy of Karl Marx, who I believe invented the term, though at the very least he popularized it. The best solution may be to avoid the use of the word entirely because it's so confusing. "Free markets" is probably the best term for what I want and "corporatism" seems like an excellent name for what the left views as "capitalism."
Update: Eric's response to my comment seems exactly right to me:
In my opinion corporatism is the historical successor to mercantilism. Corporatism encapsulates some of the ideas of capitalism to transition from the zero sum ideas of mercantilism to a more modern, but still state centric, approach to trade, industry and economics.