I don’t think I’ve strayed at all.
For there to exist a free market with no growth, there needs to be artificial controls put in place in order to prevent growth. Who will have the authority and power to enact those controls?
Fair enough. How about if we use the same mechanisms we already have? Tax regulations, banking regulations, corporate regs. and so on, and we just tweak them a bit?
I really don’t see how doing what we’re already doing, but just a little different, is going to make the shift you’re looking for. A No-Growth economy is a fundamental shift in the goals and purpose of the economy.
Capitalism is about the acquisition of wealth. Within capitalism wealth is a necessary component to acquiring profits, and profits are how you pay for things you don’t produce. Merely owning wealth becomes a means of making profits. If I own the factory, I make profits. Not from my labor, but from the fact that I own the factory. If I put in labor, I’ll probably make more, but this is a separate issue.
I don’t see how small changes to regulations and taxes are going to change the fundamental nature of capitalism.
There’s probably a lot I’m in favor of that you’d disagree with, but I’ll put forward something I think we’ll agree on, but more importantly, why I think it’s a good thing. I like markets. I hesitate to use “free” because that comes with a lot of baggage, but lets assume for the moment that producers get to choose what they sell, and buyers get to choose what they buy. There’s a reason I like markets, and it has to do with jellybeans.
Lets say we’ve got a large jar and we fill it with jellybeans. If I ask you to guess how many are in there, unless you’ve got a really good measurement of the jar, beans, and can do the math to solve for it, you probably aren’t going to have that great of a guess. It might be okay, but it would be a statistical anomaly if you guessed the correct number, or even within a couple percentage points. If we add another hundred people guessing, there’s decent odds that a couple will be kinda close, but again, no one will be spot on. Some will be wildly off the mark being either way too high, or way too few. There’s an interesting phenomenon though. If we average all the guesses together, there is a high statistical chance that the average will be closer to the actual number than any individual guess.
This is not to imply that crowds are always correct, but there is a process by which a sort of collective brain develops, and in certain types of situations that collective brain is better than any individual brain. I think a good case can be made that this is what is jokingly referred to as the “invisible hand of the market”. Collectively, even without central authority, we are good at making determinations of what resources we need and how to value them against other resources. This is not always perfect, and hysteria can take hold of the market (bubbles), but its the best way to determine things like what color a car should be, how many doors it should have, and whether there’s a cupholder in the center armrest. It’s bad at determining things like whether the fuel should be leaded, emissions standards, and if safety belts should be mandatory.
I’m in favor of using markets to determine most aspects of consumer goods and services. I think there’s a strong case to be made that even in a state-controlled socialist system, most decisions about consumer goods and services should be determined by the market. It’s more efficient, and there’s a good case that people should just be allowed to live their lives for the most part.
All that said though, capitalist markets are not capable of solving problems like leaded fuel or the Dust Bowl.