“We’re used to assuming that capitalism and markets are the same thing, but as the great French historian Fernand Braudel (at left in this post) pointed out, in many ways they could equally be conceived as opposites.  While markets are ways of exchanging goods through the medium of money…capitalism is first and foremost the art of using money to get more money.  Normally, the easiest way to do this is to establish some kind of formal or de facto monopoly.  For this reason, capitalists, whether merchant princes, financiers or industrialists, invariably try to ally themselves with political authorities to limit the freedom of the market, so as to make it easier for them to do so.  From this perspective, China was for most of its history the ultimate anti-capitalist state.  Unlike later European princes, Chinese rulers systematically refused to team up with would-be Chinese capitalists (who always existed).  Instead, like their officials, they saw them as destructive parasites – though unlike the usurers, ones whose fundamentally selfish and anti-social motivations could be put to use in certain ways…merchants were driven by greed and basically amoral, yet if kept under careful administrative supervision, they could be made to serve the public good.  Whatever one might think of the principles, the results are hard to deny.  For most of its history, China maintained the highest living standard in the world – even England only overtook it relatively recently in the 1820’s, well past the time of the industrial revolution.”  — David Graeber, from Debt.

Obama Meets With Heads Of Major U.S. Banks At White House

JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and White House Director of Broadcast Media Dag Vega leave the White House after they and 13 other bank heads met with President Barack Obama March 27, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama used the meeting to tell the bankers that they must look beyond short-term interests toward obligations each person has in order to make it through the current economic troubles. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jamie Dimon;Lloyd Blankfein;Dag Vega (March 27, 2009 – Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America)

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