The Capitalism Portal
Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system and competitive markets. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investments are determined by every owner of wealth, property or production ability in financial and capital markets, whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.
Economists, political economists, sociologists and historians have adopted different perspectives in their analyses of capitalism and have recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire or free-market capitalism, welfare capitalism and state capitalism. Different forms of capitalism feature varying degrees of free markets, public ownership, obstacles to free competition and state-sanctioned social policies. The degree of competition in markets, the role of intervention and regulation, and the scope of state ownership vary across different models of capitalism. The extent to which different markets are free as well as the rules defining private property are matters of politics and policy. Most existing capitalist economies are mixed economies which combine elements of free markets with state intervention and in some cases economic planning.
Market economies have existed under many forms of government and in many different times, places and cultures. Modern capitalist societies—marked by a universalization of money-based social relations, a consistently large and system-wide class of workers who must work for wages, and a capitalist class which owns the means of production—developed in Western Europe in a process that led to the Industrial Revolution. Capitalist systems with varying degrees of direct government intervention have since become dominant in the Western world and continue to spread. Over time, capitalist countries have experienced consistent economic growth and an increase in the standard of living.
Critics of capitalism argue that it establishes power in the hands of a minority capitalist class that exists through the exploitation of the majority working class and their labor; it prioritizes profit over social good, natural resources and the environment; and it is an engine of inequality, corruption and economic instabilities. Supporters argue that it provides better products and innovation through competition, disperses wealth to all productive people, promotes pluralism and decentralization of power, creates strong economic growth and yields productivity and prosperity that greatly benefit society.
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|The slate industry in Wales began during the Roman period when slate was used to roof the fort at Segontium, modern Caernarfon. The slate industry grew slowly until the early 18th century, from when it expanded rapidly and reached its peak output in the late 19th century, at which time the most important slate producing areas were in north-west Wales. These included the Penrhyn Quarry near Bethesda, the Dinorwig Quarry near Llanberis, the Nantlle Valley quarries and Blaenau Ffestiniog, where the slate was mined rather than quarried. Penrhyn and Dinorwig were the two largest slate quarries in the world, and the Oakeley mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog was the largest slate mine in the world. The Great Depression and the Second World War led to the closure of many smaller quarries, and competition from other roofing materials, particularly tiles, resulted in the closure of most of the larger quarries in the 1960s and 1970s. Slate production continues on a much reduced scale.
|Milton Friedman (July 31, 1912 – November 16, 2006) was an American economist, statistician and writer who taught at the University of Chicago for more than three decades. He received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and the complexity of stabilization policy.
Friedman's challenges to what he later called "naive Keynesian" (as opposed to Neo-Keynesian) theory began with his 1950s reinterpretation of the consumption function, and he became the main advocate opposing Keynesian government policies. During the 1960s, he promoted an alternative macroeconomic policy known as "monetarism". He theorized there existed a "natural" rate of unemployment and argued that governments could only increase employment above this rate, e.g., by increasing aggregate demand, only for as long as inflation was accelerating. Though opposed to the existence of the Federal Reserve System, Friedman argued that, given that it does exist, a steady, small expansion of the money supply was the only wise policy.
Friedman actively participated in public debates over numerous policy issues; he was a major advisor to Republican U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His political philosophy extolled the virtues of a free market economic system with minimal intervention. In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman advocated policies such as a volunteer military, freely floating exchange rates, abolition of medical licenses, a negative income tax, and school vouchers.
||The market economy must be strictly differentiated from the second thinkable--although not realizable--system of social cooperation under the division of labor; the system of social or governmental ownership of the means of production. This second system is commonly called socialism, communism, planned economy, or state capitalism. The market economy or capitalism, as it is usually called, and the socialist economy preclude one another. There is no mixture of the two systems possible or thinkable; there is no such thing as a mixed economy, a system that would be in part capitalist and in part socialist. Production is directed by the market or by the decrees of a production tsar or a committee of production tsars.
If within a society based on private ownership by the means of production some of these means are publicly owned and operated--that is, owned and operated by the government or one of its agencies--this does not make for a mixed system which would combine socialism and capitalism. The fact that the state or municipalities own and operate some plants does not alter the characteristic features of the market economy. The publicly owned and operated enterprises are subject to the sovereignty of the market. They must fit themselves, as buyers of raw materials, equipment, and labor, and as sellers of goods and services, into the scheme of the market economy. They are subject to the laws of the market and thereby depend on the consumers who may or may not patronize them. They must strive for profits or, at least, to avoid losses. The government may cover losses of its plants or shops by drawing on public funds. But this neither eliminates nor mitigates the supremacy of the market; it merely shifts it to another sector. For the means for covering the losses must be raised by the imposition of taxes. But this taxation has its effects on the market and influences the economic structure according to the laws of the market. It is the operation of the market, and not the government collecting the taxes, that decides upon whom the incidence of the taxes falls and how they affect production and consumption. Thus the market, not the government bureau, determines the working of these publicly operated enterprises.
||— Ludwig von Mises (1881 – 1973)|
Human Action , 1949
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