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 socialist (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 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.