Is capitalism different from free enterprise?

We hear that Russia is picking on capitalists, but it seems that’s only those who are like the robber barons that the US fought off when they created all the anti-trust laws.
Can rigning in capitalists with monopolistic tendencies actually be a way to promote free enterprise for all the other companies?

You’re asking three distinct questions.

Free Enterprise, more or less, refers to the ability of individuals to engage in free exhcange of goods and services.

Capitalism refers to an economic system where by individuals pool or create capital to invest in promising enterprises. It arises naturally from certain conditions, the most notable of which is Free Enterprise; this is why they are generally understood to be the same thing in the modern sense, though not in the ancient (pre-1000 A.D.)

Capitalism promotes monopolies when those are most efficient for the market. The problem with monopolies is that they tend to accumulate political (non-economic) power. Otherwise, Capitalism tends to be broken up or replaced naturally over time. This is because there is never a shortage of opportunity; only a shortage of capital. A monopoly is not attractive, capital-wise, but creates opportunities to profit from breaking it.

There are some other situations where individuals have been so successful that it is not clear that outside factors could break their monopoly. I believe this is generally because they were so exceptionally good at finding opportunity in the first place no one could compete in capital. In any case, the “Robber Barons” were not obviously bad for America in retrospect. They had both good and bad points.

As for Russia, I would not be eager to accept the state’s party line or favor the “Capitalists.”

Does the state even have a party line these days?

It’s two long rings for Olga, two long and a short for Ivan, and three short for Katerina.

For whatever it might be worth toward your question, free enterprise in a classical liberal context (a la von Mises) means enterprise that is free from coercion. Capitalism, on the other hand, can be very coercive, particularly if it is institutionalized and tycoons partner with governers.

What about Igor?

(Smiling Bandit did a great job on the serious answer I opened this to give; I might as well have some fun while I’m in here.)

Hence the term “Crony Capitalism”, of which Russia is probably a good example.

This should read, “Monopolies tend to be…”

Putin does, anyway.

Russia? Sure. But I think the US is a good example as well. That’s what pork is for.