Defining Capitalism

The textbook definition of Capitalism

Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.

While technically accurate, the textbook definition of capitalism does little to help further our understanding of the topic we want to discuss. There are two main issues I have with the definition above. Firstly, it relies on people understanding what an economic system is. It also misses some critical defining characteristics of capitalism, such as free choice.

How I would define Capitalism

Capitalism is a system of allocating limited resources for the production and distribution of goods and services within a society based on private ownership and free choice.

The Friendly Capitalist

I think the most controversial difference is that I’ve removed the term “profit motive”. It is absolutely true that the profit motive is an important feature of Capitalism, but most people misunderstand what the profit motive is. The profit motive is heavily (and inaccurately) associated with exploitation. As a result, its place in the definition only hinders our ability to understand what Capitalism is.

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