Capitalism

Capitalism generally refers to an economic system in which means of production are mostly privately owned, and in which capital is invested in the production, distribution and/or other trade of goods and services for profit in a largely unregulated market.

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  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
    • Winston Churchill, "Demobilisation", speech in the House of Commons (1945-10-22)

  • No nation was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most disadvantageous.
    • Principles of Trade (1774), by George Whatley and Benjamin Franklin, collected in The Works of Benjamin Franklin v. 2, Whitemore, Niles, and Hall, 1856, p. 401

  • Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
    • Milton Friedman, Capitalism & Freedom, 1962

  • A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it [...] gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want.
    • Milton Friedman, Capitalism & Freedom, 1962

  • If an exchange between two parties is voluntary, it will not take place unless both believe they will benefit from it. Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.
    • Milton Friedman, Free to Choose (1980), Chapter 1

  • Capitalism is based on self-interest and self-esteem; it holds integrity and trustworthiness as cardinal virtues and makes them pay off in the marketplace, thus demanding that men survive by means of virtue, not vices. It is this superlatively moral system that the welfare statists propose to improve upon by means of preventative law, snooping bureaucrats, and the chronic goad of fear.
    • Alan Greenspan, The Assault on Integrity (1963)

  • Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread.
    • Thomas Jefferson, Memoirs of Thomas Jefferson (1821), collected in Memoirs, correspondence and private papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1, edited by T. J. Randolph, 1829, p. 70

  • The decadent international but individualistic capitalism, in the hands of which we found ourselves after the War, is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous - and it doesn't deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed.

  • For over a century, popular struggles in the democracies have used the nation-state to temper raw capitalism. The power of voters has offset the power of capital. But as national barriers have come down in the name of freer commerce, so has the capacity of governments to manage capitalism in a broad public interest. So the real issue is not 'trade' but democratic governance.
    • Robert Kuttner, "Globalization and Its Critics", The American Prospect, vol. 12 no. 12, July 2-16, 2001

  • I believe that one ought to have only as much market efficiency as one needs, because everything that we value in human life is within the realm of inefficiency — love, family, attachment, community, culture, old habits, comfortable old shoes.

  • All people, however fanatical they may be in their zeal to disparage and to fight capitalism, implicitly pay homage to it by passionately clamoring for the products it turns out.
    • Ludwig Von Mises, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method (1978)

  • The first condition for the establishment of perpetual peace is the general adoption of the principles of laissez-faire capitalism.
    • Ludwig von Mises, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method (1962), p. 137

  • The meaning of economic freedom is this: that the individual is in a position to choose the way in which he wants to integrate himself into the totality of society.
    • Ludwig von Mises, Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow (1979), p. 17

  • There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man's needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means.
    • Albert Jay Nock, Our enemy, the State (1946), p. 59

  • What I realy belive in, first and foremost, ins't capitalism or globalization. It isn't the systems or regulatory codes that achieve all we see around us in the way of prosperity, innovation, community, and culture. Those things are created by people. What I believe in is man's capacity for achieving great things, and the combined force thar results from our interactions and exchanges. I plead for greater liberty and a more opend world, not because I believe on system happens to be more efficient than another, but because those things provide a setting that unleashes individual creativity as no other system can. They spur the dynamism that has led to human, economic, scientific, and technical advances. Believing in capitalism does not mean believing in growth, the economy, or efficiency. Desirable as they may be, those are only the results. At its core, belief in capitalism is belief in mankind.
    • Johan Norberg, In Defense of Global Capitalism (2003), p. 17

  • It is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community a ground-rent ... for the land which he holds. ... Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.
    • Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice" (1796), in Writings of Thomas Paine vol. 3, edited by Moncure Daniel Conway, 1895, p. 330

  • What they have to discover, what all the efforts of capitalism's enemies are frantically aimed at hiding, is the fact that capitalism is not merely the 'practical,' but the only moral system in history.
    • Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966), p. 8

  • 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: The Unknown Ideal (1966), p. 17

  • Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureaucrat's tool is fear.
    • Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966), p. 48

  • Businessmen are the one group that distinguishes capitalism and the American way of life from the totalitarian statism that is swallowing the rest of the world. All the other social groups — workers, farmers, professional men, scientists, soldiers — exist under dictatorships, even though they exist in chains, in terror, in misery, and in progressive self-destruction. But there is no such group as businessmen under a dictatorship. Their place is taken by armed thugs: by bureaucrats and commissars. Businessmen are the symbol of a free society — the symbol of America.
    • Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966), p. 55

  • It is the cheap cloth, the cheap cotton and rayon fabric, boots, motorcars and so on that are the typical achievements of capitalist production, and not as a rule improvements that would mean much to the rich man. Queen Elisabeth owed silk stockings. The capitalist achievement does not typically consists in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort.
    • Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1950, 3rd ed.), part II, chapter VII, p. 82.

  • [C]apitalist civilization is rationalistic 'and anti-heroic.' The two go together of course. Success in industry and commerce requires a lot of stamina, yet industrial and commercial activity is essentially unheroic in the knight's sense - no flourishing of swords about it, not much physical prowess, no chance to gallop the armored horse into the enemy, preferably a heretic or heathen - and the ideology that glorifies the idea of fighting for fighting's sake and of victory for victory's sake understandably withers in the office among all the columns of figures. Therefore, owning assets that are apt to attract the robber or the tax gatherer and not sharing or even disliking warrior ideology that conflicts with its 'rational' utilitarianism, the industrial and commercial bourgeouis is fundamentally pacifist and inclined to insist on the moral application of the moral precepts of private life to international relations. It is true that, unlike most but like other features of capitalist civilization, pacifism and international morality have also been espoused in non-capitalist environments and by pre-capitalist agencies, in the Middle Ages of the Roman Church for instance. Modern pacifism and modern international morality are nonetheless products of capitalism.
    • Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1950, 3rd ed.), part II, chapter XI, p. 127f.

  • Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.

  • It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow citizens.
    • Adam Smith, Wealth of nations, 1776

  • Prices are important not because money is considered paramount but because prices are a fast and effective conveyor of information through a vast society in which fragmented knowledge must be coordinated.
    • Thomas Sowell, Knowledge and Decisions (1980), p. 80 (page # from 1996 ed.)

  • The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.
    • Thomas Sowell, Is Reality Optional?: And Other Essays (1993), p. 131

  • Capitalism prospers in an environment with a peculiar combination of self-interested behavior - enough to induce individuals to look for profitable activities - and non-self-interested behavior, where one's word is one's honor, where social rather than economic sanctions suffice to enforce contracts.
    • Joseph E. Stiglitz, Whither Socialism? (1994), chapter 16, p. 271.

  • It is the fundamental wisdom of the capitalist system that it functions irrespective of the wisdom or the stupidity of the capitalists.
    • Gustav Stolper, This Age of Fables (1942), Part I, chapter 8, Sec. 10, p. 167.

  • In terms of concretes, by capitalism I mean an economy with no progressive taxes, no central bank, no pure paper currency, no drug prohibition, no gun prohibition, no 'affirmative action' employment mandates for any ethnic group, no government-run health care, no federal departments of education, energy, labor, homeland security, health and human services, no DEA, BATFE, SEC, EPA, FTC, FDA, no minimum legal wage rates, no price controls, no tariffs, no welfare — domestic or foreign, rural or urban, for the rich or the poor. You know, a free economy!
    • Larry J. Sechrest, "The Anti-Capitalists: Barbarians at the Gate," Ludwig von Mises Memorial Lecture at the Austrian Scholars Conference in Auburn, Alabama (15 March 2008)http://mises.org/story/2921

  • As we know, socialism is calculational chaos. Rational appraisement and allocation are eternally elusive. It is a gigantic negative-sum game in which each player quickly grabs a piece of the pie, and all the while the pie shrinks before the players' eyes. The welfare/warfare state, the interventionist state, is no improvement. Each intervention begets yet another. Bureaucracy is the only 'industry' guaranteed to experience growth. Each new regulation taxes the private sector, relentlessly shifting resources out of the hands of the productive, and into the hands of the unproductive. Capitalism is the only positive-sum game in town.
    • Larry J. Sechrest, "The Anti-Capitalists: Barbarians at the Gate" (15 March 2008)

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  • Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.
    • Attributed to Winston Churchill in Peter's quotations: ideas for our time (1977), p. 84

  • Poverty and suffering are not due to unequal distribution of goods and resources, but to the unequal distribution of capitalism.
    • Rush Limbaugh

  • Whoever claims that economic competition represents 'survival of the fittest' in the sense of the law of the jungle, provides the clearest possible evidence of his lack of knowledge of economics.
    • George Reisman

  • A properly functioning free market system does not spring spontaneously from society's soil as crabgrass springs from suburban lawns. Rather, it is a complex creation of laws and mores ... Capitalism is a government program.
    • George Will

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  • Having created the conditions that make markets possible, democracy must do all the things that markets undo or cannot do.
    • Benjamin Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld

  • How is property given? By restraining liberty; that is, by taking it away so far as necessary for the purpose. How is your house made yours? By debarring every one else from the liberty of entering it without your leave.
    • Jeremy Bentham, "A Critical Examination of the Declaration of Rights; Article II" in The Works of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. II (1839), p. 503

  • LAND, n. A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of terra firma is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.
    • Ambrose Bierce in The Devil's Dictionary

  • We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.
    • Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice from 1916-1939, according to Raymond Lonergan in Mr. Justice Brandeis, Great American (1941), p. 42

  • This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. ... An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
    • Albert Einstein in Why Socialism?

  • Markets are interested in profits and profits only; service, quality, and general affluence are different functions altogether. The universal, democratic prosperity that Americans now look back to with such nostalgia was achieved only by a colossal reigning in of markets, by the gargantuan effort of mass, popular organizations like labor unions and of the people themselves, working through a series of democratically elected governments not daunted by the myths of the market.
    • Thomas Frank in One Market Under God

  • Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.
    • John Maynard Keynes, as quoted in Moving Forward: Programme for a Participatory Economy (2000) by Michael Albert, p. 128

  • I worked at a factory owned by Germans, at coal pits owned by Frenchmen, and at a chemical plant owned by Belgians. There I discovered something about capitalists. They are all alike, whatever the nationality. All they wanted from me was the most work for the least money that kept me alive. So I became a communist.
    • Nikita Khrushchev, quoted in Edward Crankshaw, Khrushchev: A Career (1966), p. 12

  • Corporations care very much about maintaining the myth that government is necessarily ineffective, except when it is spending money on the military-industrial complex, building prisons, or providing infrastructural support for the business sector.
    • Michael Lerner in The Politics of Meaning


  • Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits.
    • Abraham Lincoln, First State of the Union Address (3 December 1861)

  • If by free market one means a market that is autonomous and spontaneous, free from political controls, then there is no such thing as a free market at all. It is simply a myth.
    • Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude, p. 167

  • It cannot be said too often — at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough — that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of. Professor Hayek is also probably right in saying that in this country the intellectuals are more totalitarian-minded than the common people. But he does not see, or will not admit, that a return to 'free' competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State.
    • George Orwell in a review of The Road to Serfdom (1944) by Friedrich Hayek

  • If a Martian were asked to pick the most efficient and humane economic systems on earth, it would certainly not choose the countries which rely most on markets. The United States is a stagnant economy in which real wages have been constant for more than a decade and the real income of the bottom 40 percent of the population declined. It is an inhumane society in which 11.5 percent of the population, some 32 million people, including 20 percent of all children, live in absolute poverty. It is the oldest democracy on earth but also one with the lowest voting rates among democracies and the highest per capita prison population in the world. The fastest developing countries in the world today are among those where the state pursues active industrial and trade policies; the few countries in the world in which almost no one is poor today are those in which the state has been engaged in massive social welfare and labor market policies.
    • Adam Przeworski

  • Capitalism is organised crime, and we are all its victims.
    • The Refused, The Shape of Punk to Come

  • The first man who, having enclosed a piece of land, thought to himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself belongs to nobody.
    • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Dissertation On the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Mankind

  • In most parts of our country men work, not for themselves, not as partners in the old way in which they used to work, but generally as employees,—in a higher or lower grade,—of great corporations. There was a time when corporations played a very minor part in our business affairs, but now they play the chief part, and most men are the servants of corporations.
    • Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom - A Call for the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People

  • Capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. It is now beginning to fail for the middle classes.
    • Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States, 1995 edition, chapter 23
 
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