Imagining a Market Without Capitalism

[Ed. Note: This is an excerpt from Will Schnack’s speech to the UNT Students for Liberty on April 17, 2014, in Denton, TX.]

A market without capitalism would be very different from the one we have today. A market without capitalism would be one in which everyone is entitled to use land for their personal benefit, where credit distributes capital more equitably, where state-business collaboration no longer exists, and where bosses can no longer remain inflated consumers, buying and selling labor that is not their own. Without the state’s unilateral monopoly on force, aggression would largely disintegrate, and with it the economic returns associated with capitalism.

Such a society would incorporate the positive elements of capitalism and socialism into a form of free market anti-capitalism, wherein there is complete economic equality of opportunity, and freedom of exchange. This society would be a market society filled with competing jurisdictions, each one reflecting the will of its membership. In other words, the free market would be a sea with competing islands of democracies and republics, such as cooperatives and mutual associations. Instead of providing options between bosses, as capitalism provides, a mutualist society would provide options of social contracts, sets of bylaws, regulations. Instead of choosing between bosses, one, in effect, begins to make choices regarding participation in decision-making systems and their prior outcomes. In the free market, if one doesn’t like the way a place functions, one doesn’t move on to the next arbitrary rule of the next capitalist, but instead can find a place which allows them more influence. In this manner, the competition of the free market breeds democracy and cooperation. This should come as no surprise, as markets have always accompanied freer social organization, as seen in ancient Athens and in most maritime societies, as well as in the papal states of the Italian peninsula of the medieval ages, and in our own capitalist republic today.

Instead of forcing democracy on people, as socialism does with its democratic centralism, mutualism allows one to “opt out,” and to belong only to those associations which one feels brings them personal benefit. Mutualism—that is, markets without capitalism—in no way endorses the forcing of people into aggregate compounds, but instead supports voluntary combination from the bottom up, facilitated purely by the force of nature. A mutualist market, in every sense of the word, is free of state interference, and a market free from the state is a market free from capitalism.

Credit: Will Schnack, “Understanding Markets Without Capitalism,” with permission