Is it more useful to think of the contemporary US as a rentalist economy rather than as a capitalist economy?
Here I use the word rent in the economists' sense:
A return from a differential advantage for production, as in case of earnings due to natural resources, fertility, etc.; — as distinct from profit and wages.
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1958
In more detail, as Stirling Newberry said,
... Rent does not reflect capital — a factory in the US is the same as a factory in China. The difference in costs is the rent paid for having stable laws, transparent mechanisms of government and the rest.
Capital consistently misprices rent ...
Why does rent exist? Because if you have something that others must rent, you can charge them almost anything for it. Rent is either very cheap, or very expensive. ...
In an economy like ours, there are three ways to gain income:
It is easy to see what happened in Russia:
Russia went from being state capitalist under Stalin as part of the then Soviet Union to becoming state rentalist under Putin.
It is harder to consider the contemporary United States a rentalist economy, but consider:
Rather than see the 21st century as one in which conflicts will be among those who promote different paths towards equal opportunity, as Philip Bobbitt1 argues in The Shield of Achilles, will conflicts occur between rentalists and capitalists?
After all, capitalists need a certain amount of stability to survive. They need the basics of a rentalist economy.
Even the mainland Chinese government decided against investing in Bolivia at the beginning of 2005, saying it was not going to spend over US$1 billion for fossil fuels. This occurred even though mainland Chinese managers know how to operate in corrupt and unstable environments.
One reason for the United States to continue its huge balance of payments deficit beyond 2005 is that the US appears to offer a better precautionary destination for money than Europe, which depends on the Russia government being able to guard its pipelines well. (See http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2005/02/scenario_cechen.html)
What if the US comes to look as bad a precautionary destination as other countries? Would it be enough for a dozen or so suicide soldiers, terrorists, to steal loaded gasoline or chlorine tankers and drive them into various Halburton offices?
 The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History,
Random House, Knopf edition, 2002: ISBN 0-375-41292-1,
Random House, Anchor Books edition, 2003: ISBN 0-385-72138-2
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