What is Capitalism Really, and Why Do People Hate it So Much?

Thank you to Bruce Tanner for letting me use this! Check out his other work at https://brucetannerphotographer.wordpress.com.

Why do people hate capitalism so much? What’s wrong with the freedom to exchange private goods and services without major intervention by the government? What are people really saying when they denounce capitalism?

First, a definition:

Capitalism: an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Synonyms include free enterprise and the free market. 

I take two issues with the “fuck capitalism” attitude.

1. People don’t seem to know what socialism is (but love it anyway).

2. They’re confusing capitalism for income inequality and/or commercialism.

Capitalism is essentially a system where the means of production are owned by the people, rather than the government. There is neither a truly socialist economy in the world nor a truly capitalist economy. In America, you have the freedom to produce and exchange goods and services – but we also have public goods like fire departments, schools and social security/welfare benefits. In Sweden, many goods are provided by the government, but there’s still a free market. These are considered a “mixed economy”. The four countries that consider themselves to be truly socialis(China, Laos, Vietnam and Cuba) are Marxist-Leninist states. Marxist-Leninism is a political philosophy in direct opposition to capitalism, adopted by the Soviet Union and communist leaders like Stalin and Mao Zedong. This is considered a stepping stone to communism.

So what is communism? There are generally two types of communism, defined by mode of ownership: public and cooperative – with the only difference being how the resources are allocated. In public ownership communism, surplus product is distributed equally to all, and in cooperative ownership communism surplus product of a given enterprise is distributed equally to the workers in the given enterprise. All means of production and surplus product is owned and distributed by the state. On the contrary, Socialism (when it’s been applied) democratically allocates resources, with the means of production and industry still owned by the government.

Nothing says “Fuck Capitalism” like utilizing your freedom of enterprise to sell sassy tote bags.


Nothing separates a “capitalist” from an “entrepreneur” but interpretation. Sometimes capitalism is confused (or blamed for) excessive advertising and materialism. There is a difference between capitalism and commercialism.

Commercialism: the attitude or actions of people who are influenced too strongly by the desire to earn money or buy goods, rather than other values.

Commercialism is born from aggressive capitalism, an obsession with profit and expansion. However, a capitalist economy is (arguably) not disposed to commercialism by design. Income inequality is also a common side effect, as those who mastered commercialism make massive expansions and attempt to the maximize the profit they take home.

I’ll keep my semi-free market, if you don’t mind. These economic systems are so fundamentally different that I’m not sure a person can even accurately side with one. I agree that the United States could use a little more socialism in their mixed economy, but it’ll never ever become a socialist state – just as it won’t become a capitalist state. If it does I’ll eat my economics degree.

Thank you to Bruce Tanner for letting me use his “Capitalism Can Fuck Off” photo! Check out his other work at https://brucetannerphotographer.wordpress.com.








4 Replies to “What is Capitalism Really, and Why Do People Hate it So Much?”

  1. Yes! Definitions matter! If we know what we are really talking about, we may end up agreeing more and arguing less.

  2. Great Educational article from Sound Economics and UPS.
    hope this gets sent to lots of people.
    Jessie Nunn

  3. Great educational article about what Capitalism IS & not what many assume it is. from Univ of Puget Sound Economics Dept… Hope it gets sent on to lots of people.

  4. Capitalism requires growth through extraction and resale of resource be it human, natural, mineral.
    The profits dictate to what extent the capitalist will go to- ( to ensure uninterrupted profit streams ) with deceit and impunity, as
    Directors of Board do…to generate dividends.
    In the areas where they encroach upon, they will leave behind tailings of extraction and destruction…to land and community.
    When diminishing returns are realized, a new venture adventure elsewhere somehow magically materializes!
    Imminent collapse – and resurrection…brilliantly played.
    That is what Capitalism is. Exploitation portrayed as an art form.
    For those who wish to glorify it, Lorraine.
    This is coming from an evolved, non-stereotypical Socialist…
    that is but just one of a great many.
    Capitalism is in fact, killing the planet.
    From Capitalism we will progress to Cannibalism.
    The planet will consume us all in the end; it will survive us.

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