Why You Should Avoid “Capitalism”

Notes On Liberty

“Capitalism” means the sector of an economy in which markets determine prices and quantities. In a “capitalist” system, both the market for goods and the market for inputs are based on voluntary action within the constraints of governmental interventions, namely taxes, subsidies, restrictions, and mandates.

The term “capitalism” was first used in 1854 by William Thackeray in his novel The Newcomes. The term “capitalist” was used previously to refer to an owner of capital goods. The term was popularized by the German sociologist Max Weber as well as by socialists who use the term to condemn private enterprise as a system that exploits labor. In response, advocates of free markets use the term to mean private enterprise and to praise the concept of a free-market economy.

Confusion sets in as adjectives apply the term to markets with governmental interventions or to governmental enterprise, as in “state capitalism,” “crony capitalism,”…

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