when Mark Leibovich in the Washington Post says that the news from WorldCom is "yet another body blow to our national faith in capitalism triumphant," we have to wonder if the defenders of "capitalism" shouldn't consider the dangers of using their enemy's vocabulary. For "capitalism," as a man from Mars unfamiliar with the terms of political debate in the 20th century would have to conclude, is simply the socialist word for life.
Or, to put it another way, this supposed "system" of capitalism is simply the way things are, baby - even under "socialism," as the inevitable black markets in socialist countries bear witness. To give this fundamental economic reality its socialist name, to call it an "ism" and speak of that "ism" as a "system" implies that there is some alternative to it
An interesting piece, but ultimately wrong. "Capitalism" is the economics that spring up from private property. It is not "life", except insofar as we accept liberty as a default state which is so obvious as to be unchallengeable. But clearly liberty is challenged by many political ideas. The fact that "capitalism" of a sort exists even under socialist systems does not mean it's "the way things are". It means that the socialist system, for one reason or another, has not seen fit to extinguish defacto private property in some particular segment of the economy.
The economic results that grow from private property stand in stark contrast to the economic results that grow from public property. Succinctly, private property is good; public property, bad. And thus it is important and worthwhile to have words, "capitalism" and "socialism", to use to contrast to such ideas. One could, I suppose, instead say "the system of natural liberty and its economic aspects", or something like that. But hey, we have the word. Why not use it? Indeed, given that it is a compact description of a complex thing, we will never expurgate it from the language.
As for the idea that the ideological enemy is shaping the discourse, I think that is only true if we, the defenders of liberty, let it be true. I use "capitalism" myself all the time, without irony, as a good, desirable, and even wonderful thing. As in, "look at all these brands of cereal! Ain't capitalism great?!" Capitalism is great, and we ought to say so. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either uneducated in economics, or an idiot.