The notion that the government’s
intrusion into the economy is some sort of external influence (some sort of
outside intrusion on what would be better left without such intrusions), I
would argue based on a lifetime of work in the field we call economic history,
that this is a complete illusion. Strong government has been part of capitalism
throughout its history. It has been something both denounced by
capitalists and yet eagerly embraced by them, usually at the same time. Nor is
that all that unusual. We are often angry at the things we are
most in need of, and we can live the contradiction between needing it and
being angry about it all at the same time. And I think this is no exception.
let me give you some concrete examples. Nothing is more important to the modern
functioning of a capitalist economy than money. But to whom do we entrust the
production, distribution, and control of the money we use every day, all the time?
The government. We give the government an extraordinary power by being the only
one allowed to print the money, to mint the coins, to set the interest rates, to
determine how much money is in the economy. And we do that because
capitalism needs it. In every capitalist country there were times when lots of
people were allowed to produce money and that produced a level of chaos that led
in every country for one authority (the government) to be given that job, and for
everybody else to be told “if you print money yourself, we’re going
to put you in jail.” So the government is awfully important isn’t it by having
been given the control, the origination power, for money. But let me give you some
others. Here in the United States the government took the land from the Native
Americans and distributed it to other people. The economic effect of that [was]
staggering. Staggering. The government controls the waterways. The government
controls traffic into and out of the country. The government controls the
movement of people into and out of the country. The government sets limits on
weights and measures, and makes sure this scale in the butcher shop is accurate
and not swindling us. We’ve brought the government in to check on food and drugs
to make sure it’s pure. You know why? Because capitalists adulterated it. On
and on. Capitalism has always needed a powerful government. We need an apparatus
to prevent us from killing one another, and stealing from one another, and
likewise from having folks outside come in and steal our stuff, etc.. So
the notion of a capitalism without a government has only one adjective that
really applies: it is a utopian fantasy.