Markets do not make capitalism

Markets do not make capitalism. The fantasy of a frictionless, completely market-driven society is just a fantasy, because successful capitalism depends on nonmarket institutions—schools, police, courts, and all the rest—that are not run along capitalist lines.

Cosma Shalizi, "What can emergence tell us about today's Eastern Europe?" SFI Bulletin, Winter 1999


Part of the allure of libertarianism is the promise that markets will allow us to escape the necessity of normative values. Values, which glue together every social interaction, yet for which Science can say nothing, leaving us unmoored.

What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? #

Markets will save us! Put a price on every value and let the market decide... everything.


Markets are not the only available mode of political organization, or even the only mode used in a capitalist economy.