I read various things stating that the USA is behaving in socialist (or similar ways). And there are often attempts to state that what the writer desires is capitalism and what they don’t like is an attack on motherhood, apple pie and capitalism.
I’m not sure when or where those writers would say capitalism did exist. It is true we have corporations using their power (political power and market power [oligopolies, monopolies]) to serve their interests. This would not surprise Adam Smith at all, from the Wealth of Nations:
He knew that is what they would attempt to do and said they had to be regulated to allow capitalism to function (but many that say they want capitalism don’t want any regulation of the sort they don’t want). Some seem to agree that some regulation is needed but any regulation they don’t want is seen as “socialist” or “anti-capitalist” or… At least the Libertarians are very consistent about practically no regulation – I question that being capitalism, but at least I understand their position.
Maybe the amount of direct cash payments and sheer amount of not very indirect subsidies (free money from the Fed, huge government contracts to political friends, tax breaks for big contributors [hedge fund managers, corporations using offshore tax havens...], quotas to aid political contributors) have been very high recently. But those changes are more a matter of degree than a qualitative change from the few years before that and few year before that and so on.
I am not sure if people are thinking back to the days when we had large trusts as “capitalism”? Some people equate “capitalism” with essentially no government (no FDA, no SEC, no DoD, no FDIC, no EPA…) – so then maybe the wild west or Afghanistan today is capitalism. I don’t. I would say that we have been become less interested in maintaining a free market (allowing oligopolies and monopolies to exist and distort markets) and an excessive amount of letting those with gold pay politicians to get special deals lately (the last 20-30 years). But it is really just a matter of being worse in those areas not some huge qualitative change.
We broke up trusts for awhile but lately have been supporting those with lots of clout using the clout to prevent competition.
Of course perfect competition is not really reasonable to expect in many markets in the real world. But the aim of shooting toward open and competitive markets is just not something we seem to have paid much attention to for decades. I’m not sure when we did. And paying attention to sensible things like externalities is still very weak. Even in the trust busting era the actions (to move toward a more capitalist economy where markets could function more freely) were fought by many. And while the efforts made a huge difference, it isn’t as though they went to anything close to perfect competition.
Countries like Hong Kong (questionably a “country”) and Singapore do lots of things that are nice capitalistic practices. But they have plenty of practices that are not very capitalistic. I’m not really sure what paragons of Capitalism those that appose regulating markets suggest as better models than the USA. Perhaps they believe the USA is the most capitalistic but it is still not capitalistic enough. A perfectly reasonable positions, I would think, but I am not sure if that is their belief or not.