Varieties of Capitalism (draft)
There are dozens of varieties of capitalism that only share one common point–private ownership of the means of production and distribution. Things like monopoly capitalism and disaster capitalism are anti-social. Things like ecological and cooperative capitalism can be pro-social and democratic. In most large, complex societies today multiple forms of capitalism usually exist in combination with each other, alongside multiple kinds of socialism and other economic systems. Modern economies are mixed economies and that is mostly a good thing. But some forms of capitalism are so toxic and so prevalent that people become skeptical of capitalism and private ownership in general. This is why I often use the term “green fair-enterprise” instead of green fair-market capitalism, for example.The problem with overgeneralizing the evils of capitalism is that private ownership tends to get tarred with the same brush at the same time. But private ownership is actually an essential component of a fair and balanced economy when it serves as a check and balance on public ownership. There are serous dangers inherent in entities with police powers owning too great a percentage of the productive assets and resources of society. A balance between public and private ownership with fair competition between them has the greatest general utility and resistance to special interests. Our goal should be pragmatic–accentuating the good elements of our political economy and eliminating the bad. Trying to create some pure new theoretical system is the worst possible approach.


Capitalism: Private ownership (as opposed to state ownership) of the means of production and distribution of goods and services.

At one point in history capitalism was a progressive, humanistic revolution against monarchy, aristocracy and feudalism (ancient systems under which serfs, tenants, or sharecroppers worked land owned by others for a small share of the yield). Yeoman farmers were some of the first capitalists. They owned their own capital, or means of production– land, livestock, tools, etc. –and were free to sell or trade as they chose. Capitalism has gone through many changes since then. Whenever we speak of capitalism now we should add at least one adjective such as the following (not a complete list):
Asocial or antisocial types:
  • for-profit or not-for-profit (footnote A)
  • post-welfare (Uber, AirBnB)
  • state (Pannekoek)
  • corporate
  • neoliberal
  • financial
  • speculative
  • libertarian
  • anarcho-
  • laissez-faire
  • authoritarian
  • global
  • neofeudal
  • predatory
  • crony
  • monopoly
  • vulture
  • disaster (or crisis, per Naomi Klein)
Pro-social types:
  • social
  • mutual
  • solidarity
  • benefit corp, B-corp
  • for-profit or not-for-profit (footnote A)
  • yeoman
  • cooperatie
  • democratic
  • fair-market
  • ecological
  • natural
  • green
  • sustainable
  • egalitarian
  • mom-&-pop
  • small-business
  • mainstreet
  • ethical
  • distributed
  • P2P
No large, modern economy is a pure example of any of the above. A real economy is a mixed economy. In the USA, for example, the economy combines nearly all the above types of capitalism with various types of socialism (i.e. national, state or local government ownership).
If the main failure of the mainstream economy is a distribution failure (e.g. wealth and income inequality, poverty, hunger, etc.) rather than a production failure, how can alternative economic theories or systems best address the typical distribution issues?
Trust (good faith, bona fides) has become increasingly scarce in a world of mass media and sophisticated public relations spin. The brain has been shocked and conditioned. Building trust and trusted organizations must start from the ground (specific people) up. I discuss this process at more length in the following essays:
1. Organizing P2P organizations (This is a bit long but the first few pages are the relevant part, describing a step-by-step process for starting any new organization with a specific group of people.)
“The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the Kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.” ~~Confucius The Great Learning
Capitalism is broken because our brains are out of touch with reality. Even when we “know better” we keep going down the wrong path. We wonder why “others” don’t see the light and wise up. The root problem is that we have changed the environment faster than brains and cultures could keep up.
If we really want to fix capitalism or anything else we have to begin with our own lifestyles. Lifestyle is more important than philosophy or ideology. The brain always urges us to look for “answers” but there are no magic answers or solutions — there is only practice.
What should capitalism do? I have nothing against the private ownership of property which is the core ofcapitalism as long as private ownership is properly regulated in the public interest. But the famous “invisible hand” is not at all adequate to that task. Capitalism should stop being evil. It should be green, renewable, sustainable, and just. Capitalism should be a good citizen. It should stop being a bully and a reckless slob. It should pay fair taxes. It should adopt some ethics. It should act in good faith (bona fides). Markets should be fair (level) first, free second. It should be positive sum rather than zero sum. Rich criminals should be punished even more severely than poor criminals.
Capitalism has had useful forms, especially in cases where capital was equitably distributed and democratically managed as in the case of some farms,businesses, and cooperatives. When people want to blast capitalism I suggest they qualify the subject of their disrespect as something like neoliberal capitalism, monopoly capitalism, disaster capitalism, predatory capitalism, vulture capitalism, etc. In any case the pathological forms don’t preclude the possibility of ethical, democratic forms.
BTW in any form of capitalism the capital is passive. The active ingredient is the capitalist.
How powerful corporations make a killing out of disaster
“Award-winning journalist Antony Loewenstein travels across the US, Britain, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Australia to witness the reality of Disaster Capitalism—the hidden world of privatized detention centers and militarized private security, formed to protect corporations as they profit from war zones. He visits Britain’s immigration detention centers, tours the prison system in the United States, and digs into the underbelly of the companies making a fortune from them. Loewenstein reveals the dark history of how large multinational corporations have become more powerful than governments, supported by media and political elites.”
Yeoman Capitalism
“I came up with the term “yeoman capitalism” based on the term yeoman farmer, meaning a commoner who farmed his own property. I was going to write a post about yeoman capitalism (meaning self-employment, small Mom & Pop shops, cooperatives, etc.) but I did a search on the term and found the following article already written for me:
“Three capitalisms: yeoman, corporate, and supercapitalism”
“I’m going to put forward the idea, here, that what we call capitalism in the United States is actually an awkward, loveless ménage à trois between three economic systems, each of which considers itself to be the truecapitalism, but all three of which are quite different. Yeoman (or lifestyle)capitalism is the most principled variety of the three, focused on building businesses to improve one’s life or community. The yeoman capitalist plays by the rules and lives or dies by her success on the market. Second, there’s the corporate capitalism whose internal behavior smells oddly of a command economy, and that often seeks to control the market. Corporatecapitalism is about holding position and keeping with the expectations of office– not markets per se. Finally, there is supercapitalism whose extra-economic fixations actually render it more like feudalism than any other system and exerts even more control, but at a deeper and more subtle level, than the corporate kind.”…/three-capitalisms-y…/
via David Week
Capitalism Requires Government
Of COURSE. Only juveniles, fools, or crazy old oligarchs don’t know this. But the richest of the rich are opposed to democratic self-government. They are tyrants ~Richard
“Americans need to realize that our economy has thrived not in spite of government, but in many ways because of government.”
“Without a whole host of government rules, capitalism could not exist. Even regulations and social programs help sustain a market economy by fixing many of its serious social and economic problems.”
In Praise of Bureaucracy
“In this provocative new study, Paul du Gay makes a compelling case for the continuing importance of bureaucracy. Taking inspiration from the work of Max Weber, du Gay launches a staunch defence of `the bureaucratic ethos’ and highlights its continuing relevance to the achievement of social order and good government in liberal democratic societies”
“Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few” will be out 9/29. To pre-order:
“Republicans want to regulate private morality — what happens in bedrooms, and whether women have a right to terminate their own pregnancies. But the real crisis of our age is one of public morality — what happens in boardrooms, and whether the rich have a right to pillage our democracy. ~ Robert Reich
Richard Wolff presents Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism
“The level of democracy used today is changing form to accommodate the middle class but it’s not empowered by our nation’s government; it’s the people who have made sacrifice to help change society by allowing all its employees to act as partial owners and business partners, that also make livable wages and vote on all business decisions which ultimately leads to more productivity for both the company and all its owners (not workers)!
Their profits are divided at a fare share that is parallel to what captured our great attention about Capitalism at its peak; back when companies had retirement benefits and paid great salaries! When Capitalism becomes one person capitalizing off of its consumers and employees than it’s time to level the field! “
Richard Wolff proposes something called “Democratic Coops,” in which all the workers make the decisions on what to do with the profit
Moyers interview (video)
“We ought to have much more democratic enterprise,” Wolff tells Bill, in response to a question from a viewer in Oklahoma. “We ought to have stores, factories and offices in which all the people who have to live with the results of what happens to that enterprise participate in deciding how it works.”
Economy for the Common Good (video)
On this episode of Meet the Renegades, Ross Ashcroft welcomes Christian Felber – author, lecturer and founder of the Economy for the Common Good.
“What really has the Mont Pelerin Society got to do with Reaganomics and Thatcherism? From forgetting the real meaning behind the word ‘competition’ to establishing ways we can, and are, rebuilding the economy for the common good, Felber gives an insight into a way of thinking about modern life which hasn’t changed for centuries. His ideas will also inspire a new debate about ways that companies are motivated to operate in the future.”
“We strive for an ethical market economy designed to increase the quality of life for all.”

The sharing or gig economy

On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours.
The ultimate conflict in the new economy, at the evolving, bleeding edge of the mainstream socioeconomic ecosystem, is between individualism and cooperatism. Those who can compete do. Those who can’t compete cooperate. Can we design multi-stakeholder cooperatives that appeal to both types of people?
“A more cooperative Internet can only happen if we re-align our culture and incentives—as well as changing the meanings of the words we use. Governments, for example, can give priority to contractors that practice real democracy in their own governance. The tech press can refuse to celebrate disruptions that don’t give workers more control over their lives. And sharing-economy boosters can insist that sharing must extend to ownership.”
My comment:
Furthermore, we should realize that when we disrupt business models that have hard-won regulatory frameworks protecting public health and safety, worker and consumer rights, and social ethics that we need to recapitulate those public and worker protection functions within our new socioeconomic models and our new political order.
“the sharing economy is one of the ways in which neoliberalism has been able to proceed with its programme of privatisation, deregulation, and reduction to a minimum of the state, public sector and welfare, …For by avoiding pre-emptive government regulation, these profit-driven sharing economy businesses are operating according to what can be understood as a post-welfare model of capitalism. Here there are few legislative protections for workers, and hardly any possibilities for establishing trade unions or other means of generating the kind of solidarity capable of challenging this state of affairs. It’s a situation that often leaves those providing services for these companies without a host of workers’ rights. As Mike Bulajewski notes, the list includes ‘the right to have employers pay social security, disability and unemployment insurance taxes, the right to family and medical leave, workers’ compensation protection, sick pay, retirement benefits, profit sharing plans, protection from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age or national origin, or wrongful termination for becoming pregnant, or reporting sexual harassment or other types of employer wrongdoing.’”
(footnote A)
Non-profit capitalism Sep 11th 2008 | NEW YORK … how non-profitsare financed, so that they can escape the obsession with short-term fund-raising that is …
DC Central Kitchen is a 501(c)3, a legal nonprofit, that solicits donations and foundation funding. It also generates revenue and earns money for its beneficiaries, partners and the government. Here’s how:
“Every day DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) collects 3,000 pounds of surplus food from restaurants and local farms and converts it into 4,500 meals that are distributed to 100 shelters, transitional homes, and rehabilitation clinics in Washington, D.C. It runs a culinary job training program that trains and helps employ 90 people a year. These 90 students (recovering addicts, the recently homeless or previously incarcerated) graduate to earn $2 million, collectively, per year.
“DCCK also runs a catering company that generates revenue and provides transitional employment for recent culinary training program graduates.
“To help explain the gargantuan role that non-profits play in modern society, a book of essays about the subject — cleverly named The Revolution Will Not be Funded– was released by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. In its introduction chapter, the book explains how non-profits have evolved into organizations that divert political movements into […] – See more at:
Conscious Capitalism, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating the theory and practice of Conscious Capitalism through events, presentations, publications and social media. We also support an emerging network of Conscious Capitalism Chapters, which serve as communities of inquiry for business leaders, entrepreneurs, coaches and consultants and others.

Poor Richard