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Why does Objectivism consider capitalism a social system and not a political system? Is there any specific purpose for the difference or is it the same? After all, the political branch of Objectivism is capitalism, is it not?

Also, is there any difference for Objectivism between free markets and capitalism? As I understand they are both complementary to each other, but are they the same?

asked Sep 29 '13 at 17:14

Juan%20Diego%20dAnconia's gravatar image

Juan Diego dAnconia
110113

edited Sep 30 '13 at 13:10


The question is absolutely correct in describing capitalism as a social system. Refer to The Ayn Rand Lexicon, opening sentence in the topic of "Capitalism" (excerpted from CUI). That sentence is even italicized in the original for emphasis:

Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

Where, however, does the literature of Objectivism say that capitalism is not also a political system? Every applicable reference that I know of in the literature of Objectivism expresses the opposite, i.e., it is a political system. Being a social system does not preclude capitalism from also being a political system (and an economic system, as well). The relation between politics (as a branch of philosophy) and society is succinctly described in the Lexicon topic of "Politics":

politics ... defines the principles of a proper social system.

In other words, the political system of capitalism depends on the political principle of individual rights, and capitalism is the system of individual rights (and is both a political system and a social system).

Regarding free markets, they are the result of a system that recognizes and upholds individual rights, including property rights, with people left free to trade with each other voluntarily if they choose to trade at all. What better one-word name for such a system than "capitalism," particularly given its widespread historical acceptance?

answered Sep 30 '13 at 22:36

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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Asked: Sep 29 '13 at 17:14

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Last updated: Sep 30 '13 at 22:36