When Judge Richard Posner, the prolific conservative intellectual, released his book A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of ’08 and the Descent Into Depression last year, you might have thought the final verdict was in: Capitalism caused the economic downturn and high unemployment.

That this verdict was pronounced by someone like Posner, who is associated with the University of Chicago and the free-market law and economics movement, gave moral support to all the politicians who were intent on exploiting the recession (as they exploit all crises) to increase government control of the economy.

But what exactly is this “capitalism” that is blamed?

The word “capitalism” is used in two contradictory ways. Sometimes it’s used to mean the free market, or laissez faire. Other times it’s used to mean today’s government-guided economy. Logically, “capitalism” can’t be both things. Either markets are free or government controls them. We can’t have it both ways.

The truth is that we don’t have a free market

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