First, I want to say thanks for so many thoughtful responses to this article. I'll respond as best I can.

@Dragomir, you express severe disapproval of this article -- "too many errors to be addressed in a comment." Perhaps you should write your own article refuting them! I would be interested. But to the ones you pointed out, I will say this: (1) small businesses are motivated by profit as well, but it is the faceless nature of modern capitalism I dislike. I am rarely treated badly by a small-business owner. I am always treated badly by large corporations. Do you think my experience is unique? (2) I don't understand what makes modern capitalism closer to a free market than anything else. It's hard to start a business (because I can never compete with Amazon or Walmart). It's hard to find a job which pays more than minimum wage because employers are protected by the government more than employees. That's a "free" market? As for List, or Adam Smith, I don't think I'll spend too much time with them, except as historical curiosities, though I appreciate the invitation. I find modern commentators like Piketty, Duflo, Varoufakis and Krugman to be much more plugged into the problems of the modern economy.

@John, I have to admit your comment is quite technical for me (and a little vague), but I will do my best to respond. I hope we don't overcomplicate the concept of money here. It has become complicated, what with financialization and international foreign exchange markets and quantitative easing and all the rest. But fundamentally, it is a simple medium of exchange which inevitably becomes commoditized in every culture in which it arises. As you said, people see it as a signal to extract and store -- think wampum for Native American tribes, which started as a means of exchange but ended up being hoarded by certain people, like all money in the history of the world. That's natural enough. After that you lose me a bit, though. Are you suggesting that the financialization of debt has created modern inequality? Or that public debt should be used to back more citizen-centered initiatives (i.e. retirement) and fewer government initiatives (i.e. wars)? Because I agree. But I'll need your clarification on what you think the major problem(s) is/are with public debt and financialization are, because I couldn't quite catch it. And just to be clear, I am not the biggest fan of financialization, though I think it is an inevitable consequence of capital accumulation, given human nature.

@Stephen, if I understand your article and its linked sources, you are suggesting a UBI but paid for by central bank operations (e.g. "printing money") rather than taxes. I find the history of universal government payments to be quite spotted, since at least the bread dole of Ancient Rome. While it certainly prevents some starvation and misery, it can have very negative effects on prosperity and income inequality. I would prefer massive government investment in infrastructure and related jobs programs, to give people purpose AND income, rather than just income.

@Michael, I must take issue with your suggestion that I am "not familiar" with the terms I am discussing. We can disagree on the definitions, but you are not entitled to determine definitions for the rest of the world. ;) Most importantly, you must have noted that I never used the word "capitalism" in describing our modern system without qualifying it as "modern capitalism." I understand that capitalism initially meant any system based on private ownership. But what it means to most progressive commentators in the 21st century has evolved considerably -- I think critiques of modern capitalism are critiques of the accumulation of vast sums of wealth in the hands of the 1%, not of private property in general. I like owning my own car and being able to make money with it. I just want to be paid fairly for that work. But the central issue I take with your comment is the statement that "in a competitive market, firms cannot set their price, and in the long run profits are zero." First of all, long-run profits are NOT zero in traditional economic models, but rather are equivalent to the expected rate of return on investment, which hovers between 5-10% in most industries (depending on risk). This is "zero economic profits," but it's quite a bit of money. That means that Joe Schmo in his Beverly Hills mansion can buy $10M of stock and expect to make a cool $500,000 per year *minimum*. He'll never have to work again, once he builds his "capital." To make it worse, Joe Schmo (or perhaps we can call him Jeff Bezos) may find an industry which is a *natural* monopoly, where economic profits are not zero in the long run (because for industries like utilities, package delivery, social media, etc., network effects create "winner takes all" dynamics). So without government regulation (i.e. with unregulated competition), Amazon, Facebook, and other companies will be able to continue charging monopoly rents for products and services which realistically aren't *that* hard to replicate -- there's just no incentive to do so, because even if I build a better social media site than Facebook, no one will join it because everyone is already on Facebook. So I guess I don't understand what we're fighting about here. I believe in a free market for competitive industries (like butchers and bakers), but government regulation for uncompetitive industries (like social media and package delivery). Wouldn't you agree?



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Abe Collier

“I do not understand one thing in this world. Not one.” — Marilynne Robinson, ‘Gilead’