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Capitalism is a much overused political term, which has little to do with economics. Terms like capitalist economy are clearly used in the wrong context. This is a very biased, right-wing article, written in a style that reminds me of Goebbels' propaganda. The theorists mentioned (Hayek, Friedman, etc.) are prominent economomisits. Their motives were far from involving themselves in a political discussion of this sort (Keynes had very different views to the gentlenmen mentioned above, but one cannot say that he was anti-capitalist). This looks very much like a cut/paste job from a dodgy source. -- WojPob


When Milton Friedman wrote 'Economic Freedom, Human Freedom, Political Freedom', and 'Capitalism and Freedom', and 'Why Government Is the Problem', and when Friedrich Hayek wrote 'The Constitution of Liberty', and 'Law, Legislation and Liberty : The Political Order of a Free People', I think they were both indicating their willingness to involve themselves in a political discussion.


WojPob, I suggest you simply change the article so that it's more accurate by your lights. I am very curious to see how you would change it. -- Larry Sanger


In an attempt to make the article appear to be less one-sided, I added some anti-capitalist theorists to the list of theorists. I think that the article is mostly good as it stands right now because it doesn't advocate for or against capitalism, but merely defines the term in a way that a broad spectrum of people can agree is accurate. I say broad spectrum because I don't think that everyone will agree.

Perhaps a revised version might acknowledge some other definitions of the term? --Jimbo Wales


As private ownership and private economic decision-making are the bedrock of capitalism, and not expressly mentioned in the article, I plugged that in. Hope no one minds.

Not at all. Indeed, in terms of a definition by essentials, this is probably much better than a definition based on 'intervention'.

Incidentally, 'the absense of government intervention' and 'private economic decision-making' are identitical concepts. By definition, decision-making is private when it is not governmental, whereas if the government intervenes, it can only be to alter the private decision-making that would have occured otherwise. Drawing a distinction between the two is not useful. -TS


It's been a while since this page has been regarded, but since the move brought it to the top again, I say open season. It occurs to me that intervention can't possibly be a basis for a definition of capitalism, because there is a special term for a capitalism in which political intervention is minimal, namely laissez faire capitalism. I suggest that most of the page contents be moved there and something else be put up in its place. Any objections?

I think that logically, laissez-faire capitalism is pure capitalism, and anything else is diluted capitalism. If we want to define our concepts in terms of essentials, then capitalism is a system based on non-intervention. - TS

Checking the quickest to grab sources. Britannica starts out by equating capitalism with a free market but in the same breath says it has been dominant since the decline of feudalism. Encarta mentions minimal gov intervention as one of the primary characteristics, but is talking mainly about modern capitalism, and elsewhere calls mercantilism a different kind. M-W does the same. And a book randomly grabbed off the shelf, A history of Early Modern Europe, places the development of Commercial Capitalism from 1500-1650. All of these care more about private ownership and, in the case of the last, the appearance of a merchant class, and clearly indicate that the system was in place well before Smith. So I think that your definition is non-standard at best.

What we now call capitalism was first systematically proposed by Adam Smith for the specific purpose of refuting mercantlism. So if the standard definition says mercantilism is a kind of capitalism, then the standard definition is wrong. Economic activity can be either economically motivated (broadly defined), or politically motivated: either people act as they choose, or they act as they are compelled to act. The distinction is relevant and should be addressed in the definition of the terms we use to refer to these concepts. The concept 'economic activity that is free of government intervention' is referred to using the word 'capitalism' because there is no other word in common usage for that concept. If you stick other concepts under the umbrella of that word then you destroy the distinction between economically motivated and politically motivated action, which would be bad, because the distinction is relevant. One's understanding of the issues is significantly impaired without it. - TS

Agreed, the distinction between Mercantilism and the system proposed by Adam Smith is important. Therefore we should be careful to use the right words for each. The latter is called laissez faire capitalism because, as is plainly evident from the examples, capitalism does not refer specifically to it. Encarta mentions that the first use of the word capitalism was by Marx, who plainly intended it to cover all economic systems after feudalism, and as shown above that definition is still used in most sources today. So you are claiming that the original and prevalent sense of the word is somehow wrong, and I think you can see how that's ridiculous.

Incidentally, when Lenin attempted to equate capitalism with imperialism (in 'Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism'), he was deliberately attempting to impair your understanding by destroying the aforementioned distinction. Communism involves political control of the economy, likewise imperialism; capitalism does not. So which go together? Clearly communism and imperialism. But Lenin wanted to advance communism as being opposed to imperialism, so the commonality between them had to be played down. To do this he advanced a category scheme in which the distinction between the economic and the political was obliterated. It is high time to undue Lenin's work, and restore a sensible category scheme that classifies by essentials. - TS

I'm not particularly interested in getting in a political debate, but the above is just flawed reasoning. Imperialism refers to a practice by which powerful nations exert control over weaker ones. Obviously a government's control over its people is not an example of imperialism, whereas the mercantilist policies that were the most prominent form of capitalism at the time of Marx' writing are. Moreover note that imperialism involves control by nations or peoples, not necessarily the governments thereof - see the afformentioned sources as examples of the way the word is actually used - so the term also applies to control of other nations via privately owned corporations, which is still a prominent feature of capitalism today.

But mercantilism is very clearly a form of government control of "its" people. If it is a form of imperialism, as the above seems to claim, then the mercantlist form of government control of "its" people is imperialism. In capitalist theory, mercantilism is essentially the domestic corollary of imperialism. - TS

What makes mercantilism imperialistic is not the government's control of trade, but the fact that under that system people were sailing off all over the world taking over and exploiting large chunks of land. That's the definition of imperialism. I suggest you learn it before you make statements about what is or is not imperialistic.

I should also mention that your last sentence, it is high time to undo Lenin's work, is highly unsettling. Terms like capitalism and imperialism have well-known meanings, and what you seem to be proposing is for us to change these away from the standard in order to reflect some particular opinion on what the essentials of different systems are. Redefinition of words for the advancement of an agenda is propaganda, and I would strongly encourage you to abandon such a program right now, because it is both in violent contrast with the goals of an encyclopedia and is quite frankly offensive.

You seem to be redefining Propaganda to suit your agenda. Propaganda refers to information, not definition. Also, the redefinition of words to serve an agenda is precisely what I accuse Lenin of doing, and what I would like to have undone. This unsettles you, but then you accuse me of doing the same thing and say you would like to undue my definitions. Is it ok to redefine words, but only if it advances a socialist agenda? And what is my agenda, exactly? -TS

Redefining words is used primarily to add respectability to new ideas and to transfer their implications, and is actually a very common form of propaganda. Thus the well-known word Aryan was misapplied by Hitler to make it seem as if his master race was an established concept, and thus the term democracy was occasionally applied by communists to their own systems to make them seem good.

Definitions evolve as our understanding of underlying concepts evolve. The concept of charge, as used by Franklin, who coined the term in physics, is very different from the concept as used by physicists today. Should they abandon the term because they do not mean the same thing Franklin meant? Economics has been extended to the study of human action in general. Some people object to this on methodological grounds, but should we say it is wrong because that's not what someone 160 years ago meant by economics. Our understanding of capitalism today is vastly superior to Say's or Marx's. Why shouldn't our definition of the term change to reflect this improved understanding? -TS

Our physics is superior to Franklin's, but charge still means the same thing it always did; our gravity is something different from Newton's, but it is still recognisably akin. The change we are talking about here is of a different nature altogether, where both the fundamental idea behind and the circumscription of the concept are being changed completely - it is like redefining insect to mean ant because we now have a better understanding of what ants are like. In any case, though, my point is not about the original use - see below.

Now you have announced that you intend to impose a new categorization of political systems, that is your agenda. I personally suspect this is mainly with the intent of making certain systems seem more respectable and others seem worse, as in your needless redefinition of imperialism - something generally regarded as negative - from something that applies to capitalist systems to something that applies to communist ones, reminiscent of the above. But that is neither here nor there: as an encyclopedia reports on things as they are and not as they should be, you should leave words with their original meanings. Capitalism was never redefined by socialists, it was defined by them in the first place, and so expresses their particular view of the world, and should. If you want to express a different concept, then for heaven's sakes use different words!!!


Apparently, capitalism as a topic should be generic and provide a list of short definitions of various different forms of capitalism with appropriate links to more detailed pages on each of the topics.

Agreed, and this is my point. Capitalism should be defined the way it is everywhere else; laissez faire should be treated as a subtype. If there is no reasonable disagreement I plan to make this change sometime later this week.


Just made some changes. Article is in Positive tone mode. Challenges and overviews from differing perspectives will no doubt appear. Should the socialist take on capitalism be at Socialism/Capitalism or at Capitalism/Socialist view of?

The main complaint here is not merely the tone, but that the article is using an inaccurate and propagandical definition, while brushing off as 'socialist' what is both the original meaning of the term and the variety found in all sources checked - and I would not consider Encarta a hotbed of socialist rhetoric. In short, this is the meaning of the term, and if you think that it is fair to pass that off as a variant then you are writing partisan nonsense more appropriate for a party newsletter.

So for consistency's sake, Josh must argue we should only use the word 'liberal' to refer to a whig. -TS

If that were what people mean when they say liberal, I would argue such; but they do not. Original meanings only came into things when you had the audacity to claim you had a right to adjust definitions because they were socialist propaganda (and strangely denying at the same time that definitions can be propagandical)...

I did not call Lenin's wordplay 'propaganda'. I wrote most of the Propaganda article so you can go see this is not what I mean by the term. I deny the charge that I contradicted myself. - TS - Fair enough, I'll grant you that.

...My main point, which is unaddressed,...

My justifications for this use of the word 'capitalism' are above, if you care to wade through this mess. Also, as I added to the main page, it is a definition that is used by people who call themselves capitalists, which gives it a certain legitimacy. -TS

The justifications given above are as far as I can tell entirely based upon the term capitalism as usually defined grouping together various systems which have little in common except private ownership and being coined by socialists. Neither of those is a good reason for altering the definition of a word. That capitalists themselves define the word such would be a much better argument - but are there not people who call themselves state capitalists, and do they not also determine what practitioners use the word to mean?

... is that this also the prevalent current usage of the term, as evidenced by citations to a number of current sources. Words are welcome to evolve, but noone decides when and how they should, and they are rarely forced to without propaganda as a motivating force; perhaps someday your definition will prevail, and then should be used here, but not until then.


While I agree with Tim in spirit that definitions evolve and that we should not be constrained by forgotten historical uses of words, I think the purpose of Wikipedia (and any Encyclopedia) is best served by using the definition of a word that is in common use among generally educated people of the time. Here's the test: imagine that a foreign-born person in his fourth year of English lessons see the word "capitalist" in a newpaper article and wants to know what it means, because he's never seen it before. A reference work should give him the meaning that was probably intended by the general-audience text that used the term, not a specialized meaning that some experts might consider more accurate, but that doesn't reflect the general understanding of the public. At this time (2001), I believe a majority of educated English-speaking persons (not necessarily economists) use the word "capitalist" to refer to economies characterized by private ownership of most means of production, whether heavily regulated or not; those same educated English speakers use "laissez-faire capitalism" to refer to lack of government intervention. --LDC

This as a policy could be problematic. Take the definition we use for evolution, "the change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time." This is a more technical definition than the one educated laypersons might use, such as, "change in a species to keep it adapted to its environment." Should we abandon the precise definition because it is not how most non-experts think of it? I don't think that would be desirable. I don't know exactly what the guidelines for other cases would be. -TS

Yes, I agree that there are times when the general public understanding of a term (even among educated persons) may be considered a misconception by experts. I think in that case it's important to point this out immediately, e.g.:

"Many people use the term 'evolution' to mean the same thing biologists call 'adaptation', but it is more properly used to refer only to changes that occur over time, regardless of the reasons for those changes...."

Also note that the broader definition of capitalism is not just used by laypeople but also by economic and political historians, who presumably are those most interested in the variations of said field. In short, by everyone except possibly certain capitalists themselves.


LDC raises an interesting issue. I'd say it's important, however else the problem is solved, that we at least describe the less enlightened uses/meanings of terms. More information (properly organized, of course) is always better than less. (Well, I think so, anyway.) --LMS


There has been no further comment on the issue, but I'd like the record to show that I am not agreeing taking a consensus to have been reached, nor am at all happy with the page as it stands. The prevalent definitions of terms should be given prevalence, or at the very least equality, and absolutely never shunted off as variants as presented here. The language of wikipedia is English, and as mentioned above most English sources do not use this definition of the word, so pretending it is the more prominent flavor is very dishonest. I would change it myself but I strongly suspect any such moves would simply be undone. --JG, author of most of the above complaints.


Josh, I'm a little bit unclear about what you find problematic about the definition. You seem to regard it as somehow ideological or politically motivated, but I don't see how it is. I'm not asking out of idle curiosity -- I want to attempt a rewrite that addresses your concerns, but without losing the essence of what Tim is after, either, i.e. a conceptually sound definition.

One improvement that I can see immediately is the recognition that 'capitalism' is a broader term than 'laissez-faire capitalism', with the latter being the purest form of the former, with the purity determined in precisely the way that Tim's definiton would lead us to suspect: i.e. 'capitalism' is a term applied to systems with relatively little political intervention into the economy, and 'laissez-faire capitalism' has very little political intervention into the economy. Therefore, the U.S. is a predominantly capitalist system, but not purely so.


The main complaint with the definition given is that it has very little resemblance to the definition of capitalism. At least according to all the sources listed above, capitalism has been a dominant system since 15-1600 and includes mercantilism and state capitalism under its aegis - so clearly low gov intervention is not being considered a primary, let alone the primary, characteristic of the system. Even with the acknowledgement that "other definitions" are used, it makes no sense to me why such a relatively uncommon definition would be given precedence, and no real reasons have been given.

I disagree very strongly. The definition is not at all unusual, and it is the one that most economists use, implicitly or explicitly.

All of the sources listed state capitalism has been around since the fall of feudalism. It's not like they were selectively picked or anything - they're two very well known encyclopedias plus a book I picked up randomly since I didn't have a history of modern europe handy. I would assume that laissez faire is simply understood in economic literature, just like numbers are assumed to be integers when counting - not implying that other things aren't examples, just that laissez faire capitalism is cumbersome to say.

What has been said is that the new definition ought to be given to help "undo Lenin's work", and it seems to me that implies an ideological program. Redefinition of words to fulfil such is, if not propaganda in whatever sense we are using, at the very least spin doctoring and I sincerely hope nobody has any such intents.

One might suppose that Lenin's definitions are explicitly and paradigmatically ideological in a bad way, and that avoiding them for that reason, in favor of a more conceptually clear system that is in current use by professionals would be a more in the right direction, no? --Jimbo

An ideological classification might be replaced, sure, but an ideological definition should not. If one doesn't like what the word means one should simply avoid using it altogether. Trying to force a different meaning on top of the word is silly and confusing. Example: Buddhism and Shamanism are both pagan religions, even though they have little in common; should the word pagan be redefined?

However I honestly can't come up with any other way to read said sentiments (especially not with the strong misuse of imperialism above) and barring that do not understand why we would not use the word the same way other sources do.

The reasons for using this definition were given above. They have nothing to do with Lenin. -TS

You claimed that the current system of political distinctions was advanced by him and ought to be abolished because it implies false relationships. Looking back you applied that to imperialism rather than capitalism, but it's still suggests you have a strong agenda. I can find no reasons above other than "that's what capitalism" and "that's what capitalists mean by the term", but as stated other sources use the term differently, and presumably state capitalists do not mean the term in such a manner. If you have any others I would very much appreciate a bullet point recap, like:

  • Capitalism is taken to have been the dominant system since the fall of feudalism by Britannica, Encarta, and A History of Early Modern Europe, so this is probably standard usage;
  • Wikipedia uses standard English and so should use the standard meanings of words;
  • The definition given involves capitalism appearing much later and so can't be standard usage

Those systems are regarded as capitalistic precisely because they involve lesser degrees of political intervention in the economy than previously. I can explain this further if you like. There is absolutely no conflict between saying that capitalism is about freedom from political intervention, *and* in saying that it has been dominant since the fall of feudalism.


Sorry Jimbo, but that rewrite just makes things much worse. No one but you, me, and few other objectivists, libertarians, and others would recite that first paragraph with a straight face. I am a devout Friedmanite myself, and believe every word of that paragraph with every fiber of being, but it would be a serious breach of simple honesty to say that that's what most people--or even many people--believe capitalism is about. Let's face reality: capitalism is about private ownership of idustrial business, period. It has nothing whatsoever to do with individual rights, except the right to own a business. South Africa, for example, when whites could own property and blacks could not, was nonetheless unquestioningly a capitalist economy by any reasonable meaning of the term. The also applies to heavily regulated industries in the US like telecommunications, airline travel, and power distribution (even before some of these were deregulated). What makes them capitalist is not the lack of force, but the fact that their profits go to private owners, and those owners generally run things. --LDC

Yeah, yeah, I see your point. However, I do think it is necessary to put the word 'right' back in there somehow. And the separation of political and economic decision making is important, too. What we want to avoid is an unconceptual listing of inessential characteristics as the _sole_ definition.


Interesting to see the entry evolve, co-operatively. But I think it is a fundamental error to build the definition on a contrast between private decision-making and government intervention.

One of the first achievements of capitalism was to overcome Christian objections to unnatural propagation--that is, unrestricted gain, usury. A second was to destroy the power of merchant guilds, nongovernmental organizations that attempted to control trade.

Relatedly, the notion of private property or private enterprise requires clarification. Workmen owned their tools in the Middle Ages and made private decisions about seeking work, making contracts, and so on.

What makes it capitalism, then? Maybe capitalism involves the creation of class of producing-property owners whose business it is to BE property owners, whose decisions and activities center on this ownership.

And of course they don't hesitate to use governments to advance their interests.

Perhaps all of this is vaguely covered by the remark that a pure capitalist system has never existed. OK, but what would such a system be like--what is the word referring to, if it isn't referring to things that do exist?

A similar problem exists with centering attention on the private decisions that are based on market conditions.

What would a society be like if decisions about production were based purely on the pursuit of private gain under market conditions? One result--the most desirable from the point of view of the individual entrepreneur--would be the destruction of market constraints on his activity. In other words, the end of the market. As Smith noted, the Masters never gather together for a drink without plotting to control wages--or was it prices?

One has in Smith the view that competition puts limits on how far the individual can go towards killing the market. But also an awareness of the constant economic pressure towards doing just that. And under conditions of oligopoly--the conditions of most mature markets--the interaction of the dominant players tends to control prices without conspiracy. Tends, that is, to keep prices from falling.

In Smith, the kind of competition that matters is price competition. It is the market, and the source of the invisible hand. That kind of competition largely drops out of the picture in late capitalist economies such as that of the U.S. But no-one would argue that the U.S. is not a capitalist nation.

Lee Daniel Crocker proposes a sensible test of the definition: what a foreign-born person in his fourth year of English would need to know on first seeing the word capitalism in a newspaper. I have known twenty or thirty foreign-born people over the years and have found that most of them have a pretty good understanding of the word already. For them, it's the political economy that came to dominate Europe after the feudal era and was spread to other regions by colonial invasion and by trade.

Starting there, you can present different notions of how the thing works.


I happened to think this was a damned good aritlce before this "overhaul", and a pretty poor one now, but I'm willing to be convinced that the new structure might work. Alas, the clarity of the text was sacrificed for the new structure. Perhaps this struture might work, but first it has to be done in clear, understandable English prose. For one thing, why the bizarre labels (I.1, P.2) for senses of the word? Dictionaries get by with simple numbers, why can't we? Second, write the definitions clearly and understandably; this is all the more critical if the rest of the text depends on them. Then, each time the word is used in the text, it can reference which senses are meant. Perhaps some external reference for the definitions themselves would be appropriate? Or is this particular set of definitions just one author's personal theory? --Lee Daniel Crocker

Yeh, I'm glad someone else said this because I didn't want to be rude. I don't understand this article, I wonder how many other people do.

Fare: Sorry that you don't like it now. The article as it was was just spewing confusion around between the various meanings of "Capitalism". The current structure can certainly be improved upon, but at least, it is meant to dispel confusion rather than increase it. As for labels, keeping them a bit symbolic (P. for phenomenon, I. for ideology, S. for system) allows to easily add or remove a definition without having to relabel everything. Dictionaries don't dynamically evolve to add or remove definitions; Wikipedia does. I don't pretend that my list of definition is definitive, and actually, I already added I.5 and S.5 (historical definitions) to my original list, after reading comments in here (look for previous revisions of this page before I wroke it).


I am very tempted to add to this sentence:

Critics of capitalism claim that decision-making is made by relatively few rich individuals with little or no democratic accountability, implicitly rejecting the argument for the importance of the coordination of widely distributed knowledge; they don't reject this explicity because then they would need to invoke arguments, and they don't have any.

Anyway, I think this is a pretty good revision. I'm concerned there was some information in the old version that did not make it to the new one; however, reading the new one I had no sense that anything was being left out, so that's a good sign, I guess. - Tim

Fare: thanks for your appreciation. I merged your remark in a further revision, giving it a more neutral tone (classical liberals say that) to make it acceptable.

Josh Grosse: Sorry, that doesn't make it neutral or acceptable, any more than a sentence saying that capitalists are motivated entirely by hatred of humanity and satan-worship would be made acceptable by attributing it to political liberals. I am removing it, the intent is clearly as an insult to critics of capitalism. Out of curiosity, is anyone here motivated by writing a fair article rather than by showing how great/awful capitalism is? I know I'm not, but that's why I've mostly stayed away from the political articles.

Fare: yes, it makes it neutral and acceptable to say "A said B", if "A" did actually say "B", even though "B" may be something completely inaccurate, laden, false, evil, etc. If it is not clear whether A said B, it might be more neutral to say that "C said that A said B". So to take your example, it could be ok to say that some critics of capitalism pretend it is motivated by hatred of humanity, etc. As for fairness, anarcho-capitalists believe it is something to be best achieved by the balance of "egoist" individual forces, than by their "altruist" self-limitation.

Fare: Here's a story on "fairness": a gang of thugs wanted to rape a woman during two days. The woman refused, and asked the wise man of the village to render justice. The wise man said that between conflicting views, it was fair to take the middle path, so that the gang could rape the woman, but only for one day. My conclusion: fairness is not in middle paths. What's a fair account of nazism? of the holy inquisition? of aztec mass human sacrifices? Is it one that doesn't judge them right or wrong? or one that takes into account what people really did, said, and thought about them?

Fare, you are simply wrong here. An article can be entirely factual and still have an unbelievably bias, simply by appropriate organization and selection of material to include. For instance, if I wrote an article about fascism and said nothing but that so-and-so approved and that the trains ran on time, I would have written something entirely correct but very clearly pro-fascist. Likewise, attribution is part of an NPOV but is not the whole thing.

  • Some pro-capitalists claim that the reason this is not made explicit is because the anti-capitalists don't have any arguments.
  • Some anti-capitalists claim that the pro-capitalists are simply to wrapped up in self interest to recognize their arguments.
  • Some pro-capitalists claim that anti-capitalists wouldn't know an argument if it hit them on the head.
  • Some anti-capitalists claim that the pro-capitalists are morons.
  • Some pro-capitalists claim that it takes one to know one.
  • Some anti-capitalists invite the pro-capitalists to step outside and settle this.

This is ridiculous, isn't it? We should report the arguments of both sides, not the insults of both sides, and definitely not the insults of one side. I'll ask again: are you actually interested in writing a balanced article, or are you interested in exposing how much better one side is than the other? If the latter, I kindly suggest that you find a different section of wikipedia to work with, where you won't be tempted to proselytize.

Fare: such a conversation wouldn't be ridiculous if it actually reflected the debate. Only it doesn't. The latter ways of saying things (in revision 33, for instance) were quite neutral. As for balance, I repeat, it is only by confronting point of views, not by refraining from confronting them, that it will appear: someone tries something, and is corrected by someone else, until things settle down. One may try to replace explicit confrontation by trying to forecast its outcome, but only so much. Refraining altogether from expressing opinions doesn't lead to balanced articles, but to content-free articles.

There is more use for information than trying to persuade people to accept particular positions. I think the vast majority of wikipedia stands as a monument to how completely wrong you are in saying this.


This entry makes no sense now; it's descended into semantic absurdity. --TheCunctator

Agreed entirely. I vote we go back to version 20, which was both much clearer and considerably more neutral. In fact, I'm not just voting, I'm doing. Anyone who likes the revised version better is welcome to restore it, but please first make some attempt to make it understandable, and to remove all the pro-libertarianism. --Josh Grosse

I think this was a good move. I'll look at 20,21, etc., to see if there appears to be anything substantive that the rollback may have affected negatively. --Jimbo Wales

Fare: as for balance and clarity, this old version completely confuses the various meanings of "Capitalism", which is but a huge straw man argument against all proponents of capitalism. It also confuses who's who about economists, and gets things utterly wrong about Adam Smith. Its lack of well-defined subsections also increases the confusion, as well as the wild one-sided criticism. I stand by version 33.

Then (1) edit what you perceive as its facutal errors; (2) If you think it needs reorganizing, reorganize; (3) if there are any statements where the "loose" use of the ambiguous term actually makes the sentence wrong, clarify. If you can do that without making the article much longer, without introducing philosophically rigorous but not critically important distinctions that will just confuse a lay reader, and without significantly changing the tone one way or another, I think we'd like that. But pay attention to the audience: this is an encyclopedia, not a jorunal of philosophy. We don't want 20 pages of definitions, we want a simple, concise, answer to the question "what it capitalism" adequate for a high-schooler or foreigner who encounters the word somewhere. If you want to put the rigor somewhere else, that's fine too. --LDC

I agree with LDC here, and with Fare! I'm as big a proponent of capitalism as you're likely to find, but I think it's far more important to have a fair article that will not confuse the lay reader than to attempt to correct every misconception all at once. So, are there problems with the version-20 line of articles? Sure, but the other version was unreadable, especially for the lay person. --Jimbo Wales


How about just moving the new stuff into a new article, something like "Philosophical Arguments on Capitalism"? Then we might be able to simplify this page even further, so that it actually serves to answer the basic question "what is capitalism" to someone interested only in the basics, and lets the advocates fight it out somewhere else? --LDC

I would support such a move. Perhaps Larry has some grand plan for where such things should go. (Although, I hope that we can keep advocates focussed on fighting about how to fairly present the topic, than on fighting about capitalism itself: that's what Usenet is for. :-) ) --Jimbo Wales


I have no grand plans here, and I'd support "arguments for capitalism" and "arguments against capitalism" pages, or something like that. Those would probably spawn further pages for particular arguments. Whole books are written about particular types of arguments for and against capitalism... --LMS


Fare: Separate pages for arguments is great - that was what I planned to do, anyway. What I resent is the current one-sided arguments, that (in one case or the other) don't include any common reply. Arguments were rather short - just the gist of them. Indeed, references to books can be given. I also think it's a fraud to confuse the meanings of "Capitalism", and to dismiss any clarification as a matter of "semantic disputes". Furthermore, Adam Smith isn't the first modern theorist of Capitalism - he is famous, and has contributed a lot, but is neither the first, nor the least questioned, etc. - a historical figure, but no reference to give for an account of capitalist views. Finally, it's dishonest to freely mix pro-capitalist and anti-capitalist economists in a single unsorted list.


Fare: Why is it unfair to list capitalist and anti-capitalist economists together? I say so long as their work discusses capitalism they should be listed, irregardless of what their theories about capitalism were or what their evaluation of it was. Dividing them up by their ideas would be nice, but it isn't neccessary. Also, judging whether an economist is capitalist or anti-capitalist in some cases will end up as a very ideological decision. Certaintly Smith or Ricardo are capitalists, and Marx anti-capitalist, but I can imagine some Libertarians arguing that Keynes is not a capitalist, when many would say he is. -- Simon J Kissane


As I recall, there was a big discussion over whether libertarianism and classical liberalism are the same thing, with the rough conclusion that there is enough disagreement they should be kept separate. This page baldly asserts them to be synonyms. Surely that's a mistake.

Faré: They are the same thing indeed. It's just a terminology problem in the USA. See relevant pages where it's explained.

Well I'm in Australia and I don't agree they are the same thing. So it's not just in the USA. -- SJK

Faré: Cunctator, welfare-state liberalism is not pejorative, as far as I know. The word new liberalism was used a lot in the 1930s, but I haven't heard of anyone claiming to be a "new liberal" in the last 30 years.