What is capitalism?

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church. — AYN RAND


Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

Under capitalism the state is separated from economics (production and trade), just like the state is separated from religion.

Capitalism is the system of laissez faire. It is the system of political freedom.

  • Adam Smith

    Who the hell wrote this crap? It is a social system based on self-interest, not recognition of individual rights. I mean, who in the bloody hell is an altruistic capitalist? It’s an oxymoron. The right to property is the right to privatize and capitalize off other people who don’t own property. And also, I hear the stuff doesn’t exactly grow on trees.

  • http://www.libecon.com/ LV Agorist

    Through capitalism, we better society by serving others. It is in our self interest to benefit, and we benefit through service. Ironically, it is selfless to be “selfish” by your own description. How can one capitalize through those that do not own property? That is a self-contradicting statement. One’s labor can be considered property, but it can not be taken except through slavery, or perhaps fraud.

    If society can reap collective benefit from the altruistic efforts of volunteers such as firefighters, I find your criticism more than vacuous, bordering on ignorant of even the definition of many of the words used in such blind criticism.

    I also find it quite ironic indeed that one using the moniker of Adam Smith would attempt to refute ideas promoted in works like the Wealth of Nations. Perhaps you should start with the basics and work your way up economic theory from there?

  • Marco Lara

    This site is major misinformation about capitalism…it is about owning capital you got that part right at least. However, you fail to understand that in todays world who owns ALL the capital? The rich class owns all of it and this “social system” exploits the worker class, and you can’t really say it doesn’t…..I mean just do a google search my friend. Capitalism isn’t a peach and roses and it sure as hell isn’t about fairness. Also, free market in effect created major problems for the worker class and government HAS to get involved or exploitation will just get out of control even more so as it is now. Nevermind the fact that living ones life just to make more capital is illogical way to live……

  • http://www.theamotimes.com/ Abdul Malik Omar

    Are you referring to individualism or anarchism? Because it seems to be like the latter.

  • http://www.theamotimes.com/ Abdul Malik Omar

    “Most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself” Milton Friedman.

    Mull it over and be grateful you and your family are living in a free country(if you are American that is).

    Developing countries are not that lucky as your are. The injustice and inequality that accompanies the absence of human rights, thus capitalism, has brought countless wreckage to many economies and societies out there.

    Unlike you, who have access to internet and are able to comment anything you want under the banner of free speech-your country’s rule of law, they are subjected to tyranny and censorship. Where even the slightest mistake can land them in jail or the butcher house.

    Simply compare South Korea to that of North Korea and USA to that of Russia, readers will then get a basic picture on the enormity of a nation’s system under socialism and that of capitalism.

    If you are hell bent in striving for equality, then you should study socialism. I heard they did extremely well in Britain. And so did Communist Russia and Nazi Germany which resulted in countless lives lost and a world war.

    People would then argue that Communism and Nazism is not socialism.

    Well does Communism not strive for equality for all by removing the right of private property and rights for the “betterment of state”. Their logic is that if no one owns anything the Commie would completely wipe out inequality.

    Nazism, which unsurprisingly translates to National Socialism, have the same goal to. They have destroyed people’s liberty in matters pertaining the rights of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” which not only collectively wipe out their identity and will but was replaced by an evil ideal.

    These are the ends of a socialist system. Heck, they perfected the idea of inequality you are fighting against.

    Thus Capitalism is Freedom, one which defends and values human rights and private property; a system which all economies should strive for in its quest for development. Not the wreckage of the so called Socialism which you, perhaps unconsciously, propose.

    Source: 1) Milton Friedman’s Freedom to Choose, Capitalism and Freedom. 2) Ayn Rand’s Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal 3) Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

  • Marco Lara

    Go team capitalism? You seem to fail to see the down side of capitalism do a google search on child labor and see how many social fights we had to do because the simple fact capitalism left alone is exploitive as hell. I sorry but there are dictators in ANY economic system YES even capitalism. Why people seem to bash on communism so much? It had very good social changes and IT HELPED backward farming countries into industrial countries in a very short time and helped promote the idea of universal health care and free education. It had a lot of bad ones also but.wait.for…..it ….IT was a NEW economic system for crying out loud! You act like capitalism was freaking “Perfect” and all about fairness right off the bat when it was first made up (I’ll give you a hint it wasn’t.)

    Read up on the Cold war, capitalist didn’t want communism to win or even give it a chance to grow…did the communist revolution fail? Yes but we should I always try to learn why it started in the first place, it wasn’t just a random event, it was pointing out the many flaws of capitalist system to the point of people wanting to destroy it. Capitalism isn’t about freedom for all, if you study it, you will find out only people with the most capital (Rich Class) has the most freedom….think about that.

  • Marcus Pierce

    People left alone are “exploitive as hell” there is no rule saying there can’t be wage equality under a capitalist system, people are free to do what they want with the money they earn. I’m not an advocate of capitalism but frankly it seems the problems that stem from it are more to do with human nature than the system itself.

  • Marco Lara

    In a capitalist system the people with the most capital has the power. This can be ANY group with the most money. Think of corporations has basicly little kingdoms now…it has gotten horrible. Many people don’t understand without government and laws to protect citizens, capitalism left alone would make things worse not better.

    Right now most governments even china has a mixed economy, some countries practice socialism more so than others. However, if we keep letting government or special interest groups, take down social programs and destroying labor unions, we are letting the capitalist become even more powerful and sooner than later, we won’t be able to fight them….

  • Kurt Davidson


    YOU AREN’T SEEING THE “BIG PICTURE”, NONE OF YOU ARE…AMERICANS are far too divided by partisan politics. Long story short…Corporations, the supposed prodigal son of Capitalism, is actually Equally representative of Socialism in many ways (if Socialism and Capitalism had a baby, its name would be Corporatism). Corporatism, and in turn…Corporations…aren’t just good, they are great! The commonly heard term “Corporate Welfare” (a government/taxpayer driven economy), is both essential and beneficial to this country, as it drives innovation and reduces the inherent risks associated with business/trade. Simply put, “Corporate Welfare” is actually good. On the other hand, “Crony Capitalism”, which refers to corruption that occurs behind the scenes, and which leads to the general misuse of “Corporate Welfare” funds, isn’t a result of Capitalism or Socialism (economic institutions), but instead is a direct result of our FLAWED Political Processes that can in fact be “easily” corrected! All we really need to do…aka WHAT MUST BE DONE…to prevent “Crony Capitalism” is: 1) put a stop to “GerryMandering” and 2) enact Congressional term limits – together these reforms should hold the government sufficiently accountable to We The People.

  • http://www.ШTO.org/ ШTO

    Agreed. Capitalism is an economic system, and nothing else. Has nothing to do with freedoms or individual rights.

  • Albert8184

    Blaming capitalism for all the world’s ills, Marco, is like blaming photosynthesis for climate change. Your communist philosophy is nothing more than totalitarian dysfunctionalism applied to the natural functions of free market activity, with the ultimate deleterious effects. North Korea practices the ultimate form of crippled capitalism – where only the “dear leader” and his cronies are allowed to direct production and utilize it’s fruits for their own personal benefit.

    And what you are describing here as “capitalism” is in reality nothing more than crony capitalism CAUSED AND MAINTAINED BY THE STATE. It’s socialism in a mixed economy.

    Communism is a failed philosophy, and you are brainwashed. Anyone who extols it as you do can’t POSSIBLY care about people or justice.

  • Albert8184

    That’s not the fault of capitalism. That’s the fault of the state – but you would never blame the state, would you.

    What you do is the functional equivalent of blaming the rape victim and encouraging the protection of the rapist.

  • Albert8184

    But the relative amount of freedom and individual rights in a given social entity (nation, state, etc) will directly impact the functioning and subsequent benefits of capitalist activity. Freedom and capitalism go hand in hand. The former cannot exist without the latter, and the latter can only benefit society according to the measure of the former.

  • Marco Lara

    I agree with you Communism failed, but to say capitalist that have most of the wealth isn’t something to worry about is kind of being silly don’t you think? You can blame capitalism for some if not all of the worlds ill because it is a global economic system, it is worldwide it isn’t limited to one country. Governments have to lessen the negative effects of capitalism, and you don’t even have to take my word for it. Even capitalist countries admit many aspects of capitalism isn’t human friendly. Alot of aspects of capitalism is predatory, and it affects the people that have the least amount of the wealth the most. I would highly recommend doing more research about capitalism then going to sites like this one, which is a feel good site that offers almost nothing of substance.

  • Albert8184

    Communism has failed, yes. Capitalism is abused, yes. The former fails because of it’s systemic shortcomings. The latter fails only when those same systemic shortcomings are allowed to operate against it. So, you still won’t face the real source of the problem. And that is because you are emotionally and intellectually wedded to the idea that big government is the solution to all the corruption and outlaw behavior.

    Government IS the problem. Not the solution. I suggest YOU do more research, because you are the one who can’t think outside the narrow confines of an all-too-familiar mode of thinking.

  • Dwain Dibley

    Capitalism is not an economic system, it is an Ideology that uses economics for the capture and subjugation of markets.

  • Gary

    actually that is not true. communist hong kong china. capitalistic and communistic. lol

  • Gary

    untrue. capitalism is an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.
    a few of the folks here need to review a little history and economics.

  • Albert8184

    Actually, it is true, and Hong Kong is a wonderful example of that. They have one of the most free economic climates in the world.

  • Albert8184

    Or…. Capitalism appropriately understood, is the catch-all definition of human economic activity, governed by both intuitional social policy and immutable mathematics. In other words…. capitalism is the description of ALL human economic activity on Earth, for all human history, expressed in behaviors and decisions about money and markets. Capitalism is a word broadly describing what is the NATURAL “mechanics” of human survival instinct. Capitalism is the human equivalent of photosynthesis in plants, in other words. It’s the ONLY system, and it’s a system not subject to alteration or abolition without catastrophic consequences for the species.

    “Markets” don’t exist WITHOUT human economic activity in the first place. Markets are automatically created by human economic activity (capitalism) and all behavior in them is REGULATED by whatever form of social policy is imposed on the economic activity… be it laissez faire policy or communist centralized planning. But it’s ALL an effected condition imposed on capitalism.

  • Albert8184

    Your’s is ONE partial definition. But….interestingly enough….it’s an example of “a definition by non-essentials”. And it’s the definition usually preferred by those who advocate collectivist, iconoclastic ideologies which minimize individual freedom in favor of the state..

    An “essential” definition of capitalism is a political definition, such as:

    “Capitalism is a social system based on the principle of individual rights.”

    This isn’t the complete definition either, but it illustrates a competing philosophy of minimalized regulatory intervention in economics.

    An economic system in which “production and distribution are privately or corporately owned”, must have social policies geared to individual rights – specifically property rights. The only way to have such an economic system is to have a political system tailored to that social compact. The economics is an implication of the social structure. Because the political definition is fundamental and causes the first, it is the more useful definition.

  • Gary

    according to you but who died and made you king.

  • Gary

    communistic hong kong is not a free society and yet the capitalism is the most free in the world you said freedom and capitalism go hand in hand. so i think you should rethink your premise that capitalism exists in a society with freedom for the individual. aren’t the protests in honh kong about the lack of individual freedom. lol

  • Gary

    albert, reread your post and explain how a restrictive communist government and capitalism go hand in hand to benefit society with more personal freedom to express themselves. you need to think about what you are saying and the reality that does not match. lol

  • Albert8184

    Gary, get caught up with current events. Hong Kong enjoys economic autonomy to a greater degree than mainland China. Secondly, a state run centralized planning style economy can be steered toward capitalist activity to whatever degree the central planning committee decides to allow. China is practicing a hybrid now called state capitalism (which is akin to fascism or syndicalism or even corporatism. China is in the midst of great reforms – not necessarily heralded by the media in the West.

  • Albert8184

    Read some economics.

  • Albert8184

    Hong Kong is not communist. Let’s not argue about this, okay. If you need info, do some googling. I’m not being paid to educate you online.

  • exoticknight


  • Wookie2k

    Capitalism had everything to do with individual rights. All capitalism is, is trade without restrictions. Your right to own property, especially yourself, your right to trade your services, your right to travel to buy or trade services. Without capitalism, it would be the state that give your permission/ prevelages to use your individual rights

  • Wookie2k

    Economically Hong Kong is Capitalist, and more so than most places on earth, that means less regulations. Politically it is controlled by the Communist Party, but the Communist Party had pretty much left Hong Kong alone when they inquired it in 1999.

  • Wookie2k

    Communes are capitalist as well, as long as it’s voluntary.

    Capitalism just explains how humans interact with each other with equal liberty/freedom for all.

  • Albert8184

    Capitalism explains how humans interact with each other economically, in the market. Government policy explains how human capitalist activity is regulated with borders and to what extent.

  • Lasse Broman

    People are NOT free under capitalism. Thats the biggest lie of all. Most people are actually in the hands of the big capitalists who in a way completely control their lives.

  • Wookie2k

    Government policy explains how they want to control human action. Most of the time they fail, or try to alternate, at human nature and human rights.

    Most government have no clue how economics works, they think it’s all about money, but it’s not, it’s how human interact and when you try to control it, humans change habits to adapt around the control to find freedom.

    Most governments destroy their economic system, creating fiat money leading to hyperinflation and the destruction of the economy.