Whatever the reason, more and more often I see people conflate three very different concepts: capitalism, democracy, and liberty.
Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and the means of distribution. Workers are paid wages, and individuals and companies aim to make a profit.
Democracy is a political system in which the people govern, either directly or through representatives they elect.
Freedom is a philosophical concept. It has had many different meanings over the millennia, but at its essence has to do with the arenas in which people can behave as they choose and the arenas in which people are protected from oppression.
The United States is a representative democracy whose economy is rooted in capitalism and whose Constitution and its amendments guarantee certain freedoms and protections. Democracy, capitalism, and freedom are constantly evolving. For example, two hundred years ago in the United States, slaves and women could not vote, and poor children worked long hours for pitiful wages instead of going to school.
I'm not leading up to an attack on the Tea Party movement, although its members do seem quite confused about these concepts and their history. Rather, I want to encourage people who write historical and speculative fiction to think carefully about their extrapolations into the future or past. Too often, the stories and books I read don't hold water because the author takes as given the idea that capitalism and freedom are defaults, natural and good, rather than social constructs viewed differently by different people. How often have you read fantasies with a Bronze- or Iron-Age civilization with an apparent free-market economy with no explanation of how such an economy could have developed? How often have you read a fantasy or sf story in which a slave wants to be free, with no explanation of how they got such an alien idea in a society in which slavery is accepted and free people are in the minority?
I've barely skimmed the surface of the problem of American beliefs about democracy, capitalism, and freedom infecting fiction set in other places and time periods. I'll leave a fuller treatment to a grad student in need of a thesis topic.
I'll stop here by restating an argument I've made before in my NovelSpaces blog posts: Writers need to be well versed in many subjects, including the social sciences. Poor fiction results when people don't research or examine their personal beliefs and prejudices before worldbuilding.
I'll be blogging here again on October 21. Until then, may your writing be true to your world.