What is Capitalism?

Geek!This is Bryan Haskell’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Capitalism is the world we live in. It’s the polluted air we breathe, the water we drink, the frozen dinners we eat, the computers we spend hours on, the rules we follow, the conflicts we face… all influenced by popular opinion and wrapped up into a big box covered in green paper made of lies, misconception, deception, and the idea that enough is never enough. Capitalism has a very pliable structure, one that can withstand abuse, change shape, and perhaps even be recycled when need be. In my opinion, there really is no straight definition of the term. Capitalism simply consumes us, and we consume it, too.

What I am trying to say is that capitalism is a subconscious state of being. Capitalism isn’t real. Capitalism is a utopia that we’ve created; a utopia filled with inhuman characteristics that are masked by the hopes and dreams to be a successful figure amongst your peers. Capitalism is an excuse to be unethical, to get away with doing improper things in order to gain self satisfaction. Capitalism forces you to abide by the holiness of items called money. I would not disagree with the suggestion that capitalism could be considered a mental disorder. After all, the single most important aspect to this thing called capitalism is the root of all evil, the reason for how people act, the reason why people commit crimes.

Throughout the history of man-kind, competition and the will to survive have always been the most important parts of life. So what exactly makes capitalism so important? Well, capitalism simply is just a name for our will to survive and compete, except that these preconceived notions are influenced by technological advancement. It is a known fact that human-beings throughout the history of their presence on earth will perform actions only if they have some motive or receive some sort of reward for doing it. Any other activity is really just a distraction. The wonderful thing about capitalism is that it motivates people to do many things they otherwise would not do. Capitalism preserves personal hopes and dreams and creates ambition. In turn, this allows substantial progress to be made technologically. All this is able to occur because of the level of importance capitalism has made money become.

Capitalism controls us. Everything we do, say, write about, and act on is because of capitalism. Capitalism can easily be referred to as “Big Brother”, a subconscious man overlooking our every motion. What is right necessarily isn’t always right and what is wrong necessarily isn’t always wrong. I think the movie “The Matrix” and the rest of the trilogy have depicted capitalism quite well. The world we live in is created by capitalism. Capitalism is a fantasy world created for the overall success of those in charge. The fact that people on the bottom of the ladder seek some sort of satisfaction through whatever means is great for those on top of the ladder. In capitalism, the only means of success is the acquisition of money. It is as simple as that.

Can we live without capitalism? Just go ahead and try to do something without a reward (even without personal satisfaction as a reward). I absolutely feel that capitalism is the end all to human ideology. Capitalism gives humans everything they want in an accepted fashion while allowing the freedom of life to mask a much larger picture that is progress and success. Even though there are those more successful than others, capitalism allows everyone to feel some sort of success; success of which benefits those above.

49 thoughts on “What is Capitalism?”

  1. I think that Bryan has a great look and opoion on the governemne that we live in and that he really lays out what capitislim is. SO thanks Bryan i learned something. I guess it is true that you learn something everyday.

  2. This is a very creative description of the generalality of Capitalism. It really is a great thing in our society, but it also is the cause for a lot of problems, too! You have a unique writing style, Bryan!

  3. The paradoxical argument that capitalism is harmful yet necessary is to me a self-condemnation that can’t be overlooked. The article started off on the right track, it just switched poles to the affirmative which made it an unfortunate contradiction.

  4. Nice look at Capitalism, most people would call you a nutjob because they are as you said wrapped tightly into the life of capitalism.
    What are you gunna do? everything in our society is based on it.

    Nice read Bryan!

  5. I agree, the economy is the lowest its ever been, and we need a change. I like your comment about big brother, so true. Thanks for your article, it was well written and brought the issues forward.- AB

  6. The current state of the economy IS NOT DUE TO CAPITALISM. It is due to banks giving out loans to people who cannot afford them. It is also due to poor business management. The government needs to stay out of the market.

  7. As an economic student, i can attest to some of the comments made in Bryan’s article. Most of this article is opinion although it does reflect the shadows of capitalism. Are you for or against capitalism? It is a little difficult to tell.

  8. Thoughtful, innovative angles on capitalism. One needs to write boldly about it to get heard. To say it’s the end of ideology is bold, yes, but I think ideology will survive quite nicely, as will mythology. The end of ideology spells the end of humanity. Hey, but that subtext does loiter in the shadows of your post somewhat, anyhoo.

    Good work!


  9. This is a reply to hector’s post. Business and economy are components of capitalism, buddy! All the economic downturn we are facing today is explained by the ‘wave’ theory of capitalism. This state of the economy is just part of a ‘lifecycle’ that historically needs to occur.

  10. Capitalism may not be the best thing for those that enjoy difficult finanicial statuses. However, capitalism is what makes this country so great! I would much rather live in a capitalistic society than, say, a communist one.

  11. Forms of currency for trading have been parts of history for thousands of years. Humans have to natural tendency to find patterns and organization. By allowing a trade market, you are allowing humans to create their own sense of organization within a community. Nice topic

  12. Capitalism is based on paying for this satisfaction. Socialism doesn’t work because it deviates from survival of the fittest. This author is correct though, big brother is capitalism, but it is also socialism. Big brother is economy; it will either reward you, or force you. To walk away is to live independently from society as we know it. However, there is much more to humanity than capitalism, and perhaps there will come a time when abundance is so great that needs will become automated and money will be frivolous. I’ll see you on the yellow brick road!

  13. i have to agree with the statement about how the system benefits the lower class (the harder they work, the more they receive) and the upper class (the harder the lower works, the more they receive too). Some of your other statements seem a bit too opinionated but everyone is entitled to that i guess.

  14. Bryan, you make some good points.

    I don’t think Capitolism is always a bad thing.

    I think many people are motivated to excel, to achieve their dreams.

    At the same time, I’m a bit odd, I guess. None of my current activities has anything to do with making money.

    Ok, I wouldn’t object if my pursuits somehow started earning money. But I’ll keep going this direction, no matter what.

  15. I disagree that people only do stuff to make money.

    There are many people that volunteer such as at hospitals and soup kitchens.

    Other than that, the article is pretty good.


  16. Its pretty bold to say that capitalism is the end all of economic movements…… i personally think capitalism will die out and some other more drastic economic movement will take over

  17. Capitalism is nothing but an economy model. I am not sure if the ideas of a “big brother” or a distorted reality (cue Matrix) fit in your argument that well. I also agree with Kyle Rice. Do you have a thesis? What is your argument?

    My two cents: The biggest problem with capitalism is the unfair distribution of wealth, land and power. One could argue that most or all modern wars are a Capitalist interest. After all, the war industry is still the most profitable.

  18. i think bryan is trying to say that he appriciates the bad things capitalism has to offer, but also recognizes the good that comes from it.

    i feel pretty much the same way.

  19. If you look back to the fuedal times, a system of kings and queens and farmers and peasants actually worked out quite well for some time. this held true until ofcourse the civilians decided the power difference was unfair, as one example.

    all systems, both economical and natural, possess bell shaped traits. that means they will start out in the reconstruction phase, meet some highpoint, and then decline only to be rebuilt again

  20. The Idea of Capitalism is Great the problem is that it brings with it power and when that power is abused we look at the system and not the people who abused it.

  21. The United States has not practiced Capitalism in it’s true form since the birth of Social Security! So it has really been mixed with Socialism from the Left and increasingly more so until it had to collapse! Soon this Nation will be like all the other Socialist Nations and we will see how much you like “CHANGE”.

  22. “The wonderful thing about capitalism is that it motivates people to do many things they otherwise would not do. ”

    Aint this the truth. Some people go nuts when money is involved. One recent example is the violence that we have heard about on the news on Black Friday at Walmart in NYC and Toys R Us in CA. I honestly think money destroys certain people in this world, and turns people into animals.

  23. Cool text about Capitalism Brian , the start of your text make us think about capitalism in other way , like pointing the finger to it but your last part of the text says it all .
    My opinion is we need capitalism and is a good thing and a needed thing , just my opinion , but the start of your text is interesting also and have good points that make us think more about it .

  24. If this article, and the majority of the responses, are indicative of the knowledge level of the average subscriber, it may be time to cancel my subscription. You are, collectively, morons. Capitalism isn’t a system of rewards…all economic systems are based on rewards for certain behaviors. Capitalism is the system where the individual is trusted to own the means of production, pure and simple. I get the impressions that almost all of you would fail the first test in an economics course if it asked for any comparison/contrast between capitalism, communism, fascism, and the other “isms” the world has tried.
    So, maybe instead of congratulating Bryan on his article, you should all get out a dictionary and do a bit of research for yourselves.

  25. I think capitalism has changed from a system of people owning means of production to a system that bryan has described. there s too much stuff going on behind closed doors these days, and you cant trust some government officials anymore. i think bryan’s view of capitalism is an interesting one.

  26. I agree with Bryan that money is very important to a lot of people. There are lots of things that are influenced by your financial status like loan approval and financial aid to attend college. I doubt there is going to be anybody that says they can care less about how much money they have or make, because if you think like that you really aren’t going to be successful

  27. It seems that a lot of political actions these days are far from the idealogies that they had when they were created. It also seems like the government really is just taking as much advantage as possible when it comes to finance. There are way too many cases of double and tripple dipping in government jobs.

    Isn’t this capitalism though? Isn’t the role of a capitalist to be as individually productive as possible and prevent those below him from preventing that? Wouldn’t it be wrong to say that what is currently going on in with our economy is unethical or wrong? Surely everyone in entitled to their opinion. I certainly don’t like how the economy has turned, but in the end this is the fate of a society under capitalism.

  28. I can relate to Bryan when he describes the lower classes as being a horde of “worker ants”. The lower class is a very important social class in our country. Without the working class, there would be no real upper class. The same holds true for the opposite position where there would be no lower class without a group of people with the wealth to provide the capital for production. This is the beauty of our economy, though. It has allowed our country to make giants leaps in technological and social advancement.

    I would like to be careful in my statements here. I have not said that Capitalism is the only economic pathway for great advancement. The fact of the matter is that communism can also make for great advancement as well. The main difference is that capitalism tends to occur in a free society were communism doesnt.

  29. Bryan i liked the way you drew out capitalism and made us feel the strength of it. Truthfully, i couldnt imagine the USA under any other econimic policy. Capitalism is american because when you think of capitalism you think about the economy that you have experienced in your lifetime. The American individual is taught that success doesnt come free, and thats why working so hard doesnt really seem like such a bad thing after all. I am with Urban Underbrink when he said that our current form of capitalism is a mix of a couple different philosophies.

  30. Jack hit the nail on the head. Capitalism doesnt care about rewarding its understudies as long as progress in made. Its is a spin off European policy that has formed from the beginning of freedom in this country. C-ism was formed to allow people to build their own future. The problem we face with capitalism today is that the government and the wealthy have way too much power and i dont beleive that will end any time soon without some sort of huge conflict (civil war anyone?).

  31. The goal of a capitalist is to turn profit into progress, plain and simple. In an society, there will always be more followers than leaders, and more loser than winners. There is this idea called the 80-20 rule. It says that 80% of work is done by 20% of the work force; 80% of property falls into the hands of 20% of the population;80% of the effort produces 20% of the value; 20% of the equipment, workers, and devices on an essembly line are responcible for 80% of the defects. There is never going to be a balance and nothing will ever be fair in a capitalist society.

  32. When talking about capitlism, you need to also talk about their point of view on trade. Free trade helps everyone in the long run and almost everyone all along, butthe benefits may be small until they are added up accros the whole society. Protection is almost always good for a small segment of society and bad for the protected society as a whole. It often happens the a large amount of suffering visited on a small number of people commands more attention than a little bit of suffering widely distributed. Responding to the needs of one group of workers displaced by foreign competition is politcally more attractive than keeping taxes low for the general population.

  33. RYAN posted that the current economic status is not because of capitalism. I think this is true in a sense because capitalism isnt necessarily what is lieing and misleading the public. Capitalism as a system is working just how it was designed to work. It is the capital(ists) who are destroying our economy because of all the corruptedness that is going on and because of their crooked business strategies.

  34. Capital is not a material thing like bryan describes. Its a process that uses material things as moments in its dynamic existance; an expansive process. It is more so a social process not a physical one. At the center of this process is a social relationship between the owners of money and goods, the “embodiments” of capital, and the users of these embodiments who need them to carry on the acivity of production which their life depends on.

  35. The power wielded by capital differs in small but substantial ways. The owner of capital is not entitled to use direct force against those who refuse to enter into a trade scenario with him as a buyer or seller. The merchant or employer may have to turn to the power of state to enforce contractual agreements. The state is usually willing to lend out its power to break up riots and strikes, and to protect trade routes and means of production. Coersion belongs to the state, not the capitalist. When the capitalism uses strong-arm tactics, it is not a proper use of their power.

  36. Capitalism can be described as a society in which the accumulation of wealth serves two purposes: the realization of power, with its danger of unconscious sexual and emotional needs, and the expression of that power, with its own ingredients of unconscious requirements and origins.

    Both aspects of capital can be seen in capitalist social formations where the proccess of acquirin capital is pursued in part because it is the way the dominant class expresses its social control. Also, it is the typical means by which distinction is acheived in a socialized economic country.

  37. I think capitalism is simply a formal way to express our greediness. Laws are made by government officials that benefit themselves more than the general population it seems. Bryan mentioned that people only do things if there is some sort of reward. I have to agree with that because everyone in this country is looking for ways to make “an extra buck” here and there, especially in these hard times. Nothing is free. Heck, not even our freedom is free.

  38. The greatest thing about capitalism is that it has the natural ability to run itself with natural regulation. This regulation is powered by the business actions and decisions that everyone in this country makes. Self regulation is a consequence of the capitalists goal to expend, the clash of various business practices, and also the society in which the trading takes place.

  39. The fundaental force that drives a system through history is its search for profit- a search whose outcome depends on the historical fate of the social formation as a whole. The capitalist path takes different turnings at different points in histroy, and the parths of the capitalist nationas by no means run along the same tracks. Yet, in all variations, the direction of capitalism is easily recognized as a movement guided by the need for profit.
    There is another aspect of the system that is the effect of accumulation in forcing structural changes inside the system. These changes alter the way in which capital pursues its unchanging goal. The real question is “how long can profits be won?”. The answer is ultimately based on the ever changing balance of class power.

  40. There is nothing wrong with an economic society whose primary goal is to acquire wealth. It sounds like Bryan is frustrated about the economy and is taking it out on capitalism as an evil being. Sure, it may stink to not be successful in acheiving the goals of a capitalist. As much as i hate to say it, capitalism needs peopel to fail in life in order for it to grow and prosper. There can not always be winners across the board. Tim moore explained it well with his 80% 20% scenario. Those numbers are the equilibrium capitalism has reached in order to maintain progress.

  41. In capitalism, wealth inhabits material things briefly and temporarily. We discover surplus in all societies that have made a leap from primitive communities to more advanced civilizations, a movement that pays thanks to the rise of state. The reason for the formation of these states has been the birth of the extraction of surplus. Capitalism is not just the production of goods and the money. It is eihter of these things when it is used to set into motion a process of continuous transformation of capital-as-money to capital-as-commodities, followed by a restructure from c-a-c into capital-as-more-money. Its almost like a repetitive, expansion metamorphosis!

  42. There has been some great discussion here. Without a doubt, the business world represents the outward facing reality of capitalism and is an important part of what ever capitalism is. It is the presense of the business firms and practices that defines the capitalism of modern life. We are all affected by this system one way or another. It is this image of every day life that constitutes the central fascination of capitalism for all of the great exconomists out there.

    I would also like to touch on some of the discussion about feudal systems. The nature of capitalism, described by its behavior and beliefs that make its components work, can not be found in earlier forms of social organization. The logic of capitalism also has no parallel distinctions with feudal systems because capitalism is much more economically dramatic and exciting.

  43. The only way money can become a problem in someone’s life is if they make money important to them, unless the decision is out of the individual’s hands and forced on them by the power of the society. I do not beleive any half intelligent person in out country can go about successfully without being worried about their personal financial situation. That having been said, this “stress” factor allows capitalism to be second handedly moderated. There is no “capitalist organization” to sit behind desks and run the country. Capitalism is run by the ambitions, hopes, and dreams of its members (like it seems Bryan tried to say).

  44. When i think about capitalism, this is how i think. Everything we possess has two uses. One use is the proper use, the other is an improper use. For example, a vehicle is properly used for transportation. But this same vehicle can also be exchanged for food or money. It is true that exchange is also use, but it is not the proper way the vehicle was inteded to be used.
    Before capitalism began, and in some cases afterwards, production was for use in most parts of the world. Food was made to be eaten, not exchanged. Only with the ascent of capitalism did production for the sole purpose of exchange become dominant.

  45. With this recent world wide financial crisis, I have begun to wonder whether we are seeing a “whithering away” of capitalism which Marx and Engels predicted 150 years ago.
    I also wonder whether some conservative Muslims will point to the Qur’anic prohibition against lending on interest.

  46. America today is NOT Capitalism. America today is far from being Capitalism.

    “So you think that money is the root of all evil?” “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

    read the full article: “Francisco’s Money Speech” by Ayn Rand. http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=1826

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

    The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.

    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.


    Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

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