Ask just about anyone, Hell ask yourself, what kind of an economic system does the US operate under? Most will proudly puff out their chests and proclaim we live in Capitalist nation! Others, those that have a more Libertarian bent will tell you Free Market, maybe including Capitalism and a scowl or two noting that it would be a Free Market if the damn Socialists would just get out of the way. A minority, but a growing minority, would identify the US as a mixed economy of Socialism and Capitalism. Not much mention of a Free Market from that group. And then there are the fringe players, most notably those that call the US a Socialist country, and that’s why nobody got a job.
It all gets complicated when you have mix and match economies all operating under one roof, but that is exactly what is happening in the US, and it is the misconceptions and conflations that both confuse people and moreover leads to many people making bad choices. For example, a lot of people conflate Free Markets with both Capitalism and Democracy. Each of those are actually separate attributes of a nation. Free Markets and Capitalism are two economic attributes, and Democracy is a political attribute. A nation does not need to have Free Markets for Capitalism or vice versa, and neither automatically makes a nation a Democracy. In a similar vein Socialism is also an economic attribute and does not exclude Democracy as a political form. Democracy is simply a means of governing by consent of the people.
The only point of confusion to clear up now, is the difference between Free Markets and Capitalism. Capitalism is ownership by individuals or groups of individuals of any enterprise. Note, not necessarily all enterprises, just any. Free Markets, on the other hand are an attribute of an economy that does not deal with ownership per se, but instead establishes that enterprises require minimum oversight and are Free to operate in the Marketplace based almost solely on supply and demand. This may occur regardless of who owns the enterprises, in fact a Free Market economy left unchecked will lead a robust Capitalist economy into ownership almost exclusively by an oligarch, which in medieval times were called royalty. In more recent terms, in order to become an owner you must be invited.
Socialism is the other end of the spectrum from Capitalism, whereby ownership is by the people and in a Democracy it is much more natural fit. However, as we all know such a means of operating an economy defeats the risk taking that Capitalism without Free Markets encourages. Free Markets in Capitalism amplifies all the weakness of Socialism. But Socialism is very good at doing the necessary work to maintain the Commons, a critical component of any society. The Commons are for example, the air, waterways, roads, communications technology, schools, police, military, public parks, recreation facilities, libraries and even health care. There are more, but those are a good sample.
That leaves the rest beyond the Commons to Capitalism, but Free Markets does not bring out the best aspects of Capitalism. That is where Free Enterprise enters the picture. Now many do think that Free Enterprise and Free Markets are one and the same, but in fact their function is much different. Free Enterprise is a means to restrain Capitalism from its tendency to revert to medieval economies. It places a premium on making sure that any enterprise, Capitalist or Socialist, are subject to the same rules. Thereby forcing Socialized enterprises to compete for talent and ideas equally. But more critically, it is the Free Enterprise economic attribute that prevents monopolies and trusts to gather up a controlling share of the market place. It makes sure that ownership is based on your ideas and ability to gather backers that allow an enterprise to enter the market place. In many ways, it operates by Socializing Capitalism and encourages Democratic institutions to establish the rules and apply them equally to all enterprises.
Look at what has happened for the last 40 years in America, everywhere Free Enterprise is weakened and eliminated, and the call is for Free Markets to operate as the guiding light for our economy. Free Markets are destroying both Capitalism and Democracy, while wiping out Socialism. There are models to take as templates for the future, I am in favor of Democratic Socialism operating under a mixed economy of Socialism and Capitalism guide by Free Enterprise.