[Piketty] wants his tax on capital to ‘promote the general interest over private interests while preserving economic openness and the forces of competition’, and has said in interviews that the indispensable role of markets in complex economies justifies the persistence of capitalism. But the familiar equation of markets with capitalism lacks a historical or theoretical basis. It ignores the extensive markets in many precapitalist societies and the strong element of monopoly and state interference with markets throughout the history of capitalism. It also overlooks the fact that few leftists since the 1980s have proposed a return to centralised command economies. Visions of a postcapitalist future, from Alec Nove’s Economics of Feasible Socialism (1983) to David Schweickart’s After Capitalism (2002), have more often been forms of market socialism.
The endless conservative quest to locate new and ever-more-exotic reasons to hate Obamacare has discovered virgin territory: The health-care law is crushing the economy by brutally suppressing the growth of the health-care sector. This promising new discovery is explicated in today’s Wall Street Journal editorial page, which seizes upon yesterday’s news that the health-care sector unexpectedly shrank to decry “ObamaCare's role in nearly sending the economy back into recession.”
What’s curious is that conservative economists are well aware of the danger of “regulatory capture”, in which public institutions are hijacked by vested interests, yet blithely dismiss (or refuse even to mention) the essentially equivalent problem of democratic institutions hijacked by concentrated wealth. I take regulatory capture quite seriously; but I take plutocratic capture equally seriously.