Right wingers usually argue that the state should get out of the way of private capital - that economic problems are caused by an overbearing state or regulation. Jack Farmer argues that the state actually serves to prop up the private sector, a role confirmed by the way that capitalism has evolved in recent years
Tories often say that they don't like the state. They say it's a drag on the economy, dampening the risk-taking creativity of the private sector.
When the credit crunch hit in 2008 and governments bailed out banks with trillions of pounds so they didn't collapse many people recognised that this was because of the huge amounts of debt in the system. Banks had loaned money to people and companies with no idea if they'd be able to pay it back, and these debts had then been sold on and bets taken on their future value.
So if the crash was caused by credit and debt, is it the fault of the banks for lending money, or people for borrowing? And couldn't we just regulate the system to get rid of this toxic aspect?
When I was at university friends who studied economics were told that not only is the boom and slump cycle entirely natural, but that it was also a good thing. One professor said "the economy is like a drunk throwing up the morning after the night before". A slump may not be pleasant, but it was necessary to cleanse the system.
Gordon Brown used to endlessly repeat the mantra that, thanks to New Labour's policies, there would be "no return to boom and bust".
That looks laughable given recent events. At least it would be funny if people's lives were not being savaged by recession and cuts.
In reality, the history of capitalism is one of successive expansions followed by collapse. Today's apologists will have to choose their words more carefully given the objective reality of the crisis. Yet during booms when new buildings go up on a grand scale, high street sales increase and unemployment falls, enthusiasm towards the market seems to correspond to an extent with reality.
Does money make the world go round?
Money is a key factor in explaining inequalities in the world today. Rich people can pay for the best healthcare, education and lifestyle. It seems as though "money makes the world go round". For those who want to challenge inequality, money is therefore an obvious target. Would abolishing money address the injustices at the heart of capitalist society? In order to answer this question, we have to understand what money is.
Accumulation: the motor of capitalism
We are often told that what drives capitalism is greed - the endless desire to accumulate more and more wealth. The idea that individuals are just self-interested was promoted by classical political economists such as Adam Smith. Smith attributed to humans a natural propensity to "truck and barter". This was, he argued, all part of the "economic man".
Where does profit come from?
The first in a regular series of columns explaining key concepts in Marxist economics
The secret of the source of profit is the crutch upon which capitalism depends. It is also what the system must conceal from every worker.
Recent panic in the stock markets has led some commentators to ask whether Karl Marx might have been right after all. Bill Dunn explains some of the core ideas at the heart of Marx's understanding of capitalism and shows how they can be used to explain the system's current crisis
Worries that banks might not get the returns they expected from lending to Greece and other states have provoked a fresh round of stock market panic. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has downgraded its global growth forecast for 2012 to 4 percent. By coincidence, this is exactly the same figure that in October 2008 it predicted for 2009. It had no idea, even after it had begun, that we were in for a spectacular contraction.
Bankers and bosses appeared cheerful at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos. But the state of the global economy remains precarious
Last month the global ruling class - the bankers, political leaders, the CEOs of top multinationals and their acolytes - met for the World Economic Forum at the luxurious Swiss ski resort in Davos.