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Capitalism is generally considered a philosophy of economic systems that favors private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit or income by individuals or corporations, competitive markets, voluntary exchange, wage labor, capital accumulation, and personal finance.[1][2] Capitalism is variously defined by sources and there is no general consensus among scholars on the definition nor which economies can historically be properly considered capitalist.[3] The designation is applied to a variety of historical cases, varying in time, geography, politics, and culture.[4] There is, however, agreement that capitalism became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism.[5]

Economists, political economists and historians have taken different perspectives on the analysis of capitalism. Economists usually emphasize the degree that government does not have control over markets (laissez faire), and on property rights.[6][7] Most political economists emphasize private property, power relations, wage labor, class and emphasize capitalism as a unique historical formation.[8] The extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, is a matter of politics and policy, and many states have what are termed mixed economies.[8] A number of political ideologies have emerged in support of various types of capitalism, the most prominent being economic liberalism. Problems of capitalism include private debt and frequent recession.[9]

Capitalism gradually spread throughout the Western world in the 19th and 20th centuries.[4]

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Hong Kong is a major center and important symbol of Modern capitalism.

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Adam Smith (baptized June 5 (OS) or June 16 (NS) 1723; died July 17, 1790) was a Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneering political economist. One of the key figures of the intellectual movement known as the Scottish Enlightenment, he is known primarily as the author of two treatises: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). The latter was one of the earliest attempts to systematically study the historical development of industry and commerce in Europe, as well as a sustained attack on the doctrines of mercantilism; it also contained Smith's explanation of how rational self-interest and competition can lead to common well-being.[Neutrality disputed — See talk page] Smith's work helped to create the modern academic discipline of economics and provided one of the best-known intellectual rationales for free trade and capitalism.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.
  • No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed and lodged.
  • The word "capitalist" by itself is actually a pejorative, and was always intended to be misleading. As best I can tell (and I have looked into it), the word was coined by Karl Marx and/or Frederick Engels. The purpose of the word was to tie free market activity to the accumulation of capital – stores of money. The intent was to stir-up envy. (And it worked.) What people call capitalism should really be called "free human action" – and it is the only thing that produces advanced life on earth.

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  • ...That, during the industrial revolution, the standard of living for the average worker in wealthy nations was enormously higher than during preceding ages in those same nations? [citation needed]
  • ...That Andrew Carnegie was born poor and worked as a janitor in steel mills before rising to become a monopolizer of steel and one of the champions of modern capitalism?


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Capitalism .. Private property .. Capitalist mode of production .. Laissez-faire .. Ludwig Von Mises .. Murray N. Rothbard .. Economic Freedom .. Adam Smith .. Money .. Ronald Reagan .. American Capitalism .. Criticisms of Socialism .. Patent .. The Wealth of Nations .. Corporate capitalism .. Democratic Capitalism .. Ronald Reagan .. Milton Friedman

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  1. ^ Heilbroner, Robert L. Capitalism. New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, Second Edition (2008)
  2. ^ Tormey, Simon. Anti-Capitalism. One World Publications, 2004. p. 10
  3. ^ Critical Issues in History. Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999, p. 1
  4. ^ a b Scott, John (2005). Industrialism: A Dictionary of Sociology. Oxford University Press. 
  5. ^ Capitalism. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. 
  6. ^ Tucker, Irvin B. (1997). Macroeconomics for Today. p. 553. 
  7. ^ Case, Karl E. (2004). Principles of Macroeconomics. Prentice Hall. 
  8. ^ a b Stilwell, Frank. “Political Economy: the Contest of Economic Ideas.” First Edition. Oxford University Press. Melbourne, Australia. 2002.
  9. ^ Glain,Stephen. (June 2, 2011) The Limits of Free-Market Capitalism. New York, NY: www.usnews.com