The State of Political Economic Definitions
Yesterday ED got a good conversation going in response to this question:
How can anti-statists reconcile themselves with protectionism?
I think however we need to be careful with the ‘s’ word. I’m guilty of throwing it around (on this site even) myself, so I’m not picking on Bro Erik here. I think a lot of us in this politico-blogo world toss it around.
Statism is technically a question of how to organize an economy. It is opposed to capitalism. Real deal statist countries include Peru (1970s-80s era), Argentina under Peron, Egypt, and Cuba. The state in essence is the economy. The entire economy (or the vast majority of it) is directly a function of the control of the state (often a military junta/rentiers).
On the other hand, there are countries that have state managed/state-directed capitalism: China, Taiwan, Singapore, etc.
The US is neither of those.
The US is a capitalist country. The economy is a market economy. What the US does have is a state that takes rents from the market and if anything by its regulatory schema sets the stage for monopolistic corporatist capitalism. That is worth some serious critique, but the ‘s’ word I think is unhelpful in this context.
We need a better term for this US situation: regulatory capitalism? Corporate capitalism? Those aren’t good enough. Liberal Fascism is too insane. Progressive statism has some merit but emphasizes progressivism (which really refers to a movement in the early 20th century that crossed left/right distinctions and would be better kept as that definition in my mind) and statism (which again it is not). At least not as I think statism ought to actually be understood–i.e. it’s original, very clear meaning.
State rentier capitalism? I don’t know.
Something that would emphasize the growing influence of the state in market forces (qua rentier in most cases…GM takeover being an exception), but not statist (rather capitalist), and yet a state that is largely at the behest of big corporate interest. So not a state power that is leveraging its influence to the larger populace (see this in health care reform as example).
Statism is a holdover from a bygone era. An era of both The Cold War and the industrialization paradigm. The Cold War is over, The End of (Ideological) History is upon us and we now live in the informational economy in which case statism makes no sense, doesn’t even come up in this paradigm. [Again see Cuba].
So we need another term. I”ve been racking my brain, but nothing good yet.