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The Capitalism Portal

Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, a price system, private property and the recognition of property rights, voluntary exchange and wage labor. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investments are determined by every owner of wealth, property or production ability in capital and financial markets whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.

Economists, historians, political economists and sociologists 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, state capitalism and welfare 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 and the role of intervention and regulation as well as the scope of state ownership vary across different models of capitalism. The extent to which different markets are free and the rules defining private property are matters of politics and policy. Most of the existing capitalist economies are mixed economies that 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 (the proletariat) 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. Constant economic growth is a characteristic tendency of capitalist economies.

Critics of capitalism argue that it concentrates power in the hands of a minority capitalist class that exists through the exploitation of the majority working class and their labor; prioritizes profit over social good, natural resources and the environment; is an engine of inequality, corruption and economic instabilities; and that many are not able to access its purported benefits and freedoms, such as freely investing. Supporters argue that it provides better products and innovation through competition, promotes pluralism and decentralization of power, disperses wealth to people who are able to invest in useful enterprises based on market demands, allows for a flexible incentive system where efficiency and sustainability are priorities to protect capital, creates strong economic growth, and yields productivity and prosperity that greatly benefit society. (Full article...)

Selected article

Norwich Market (also known as Norwich Provision Market) is an outdoor market consisting of around 200 stalls in central Norwich, England. Founded in the latter part of the 11th century to supply Norman merchants and settlers moving to the area following the Norman conquest of England, it replaced an earlier market a short distance away. It has been in operation on the present site for over 900 years.

By the 14th century, Norwich was one of the largest and most prosperous cities in England, and Norwich Market was a major trading hub. Control of, and income from, the market was ceded by the monarchy to the city of Norwich in 1341, from which time it provided a significant source of income for the local council. Freed from royal control, the market was reorganised to benefit the city as much as possible. Norwich and the surrounding region were devastated by plague and famine in the latter half of the 14th century, with the population falling by over 50%. Following the plague years, Norwich came under the control of local merchants and the economy was rebuilt. In the early 15th century, a Guildhall was built next to the market to serve as a centre for local government and law enforcement. The largest surviving mediaeval civic building in Britain outside London, it remained the seat of local government until 1938 and in use as a law court until 1985. (Full article...)

Selected biography

Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production.

Although Ford did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford. In doing so, Ford converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the twentieth century. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. As the owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with "Fordism": mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put dealerships throughout most of North America and in major cities on six continents. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation and arranged for his family to control the company permanently.

Ford was also widely known for his pacifism during the first years of World War I, and also for being the publisher of antisemitic texts such as the book The International Jew. (Full article...)

Selected quote

"I began asking myself whether our present form of capitalism is the best way to support American democracy in the long term. It didn't seem that way to me. I thought that the model corporation of the future should be largely owned by the people who work for it, not by banks or mutual funds or shareholders who might have inherited the stock from their parents and done nothing to earn it. Entrepreneurs and capitalists would always have a key place-if you risk your money by putting it behind Henry Ford you certainly ought to be able to enjoy the fruits of your investment. But there is enormous strength in proprietorship-people develop strong attachments to the things they own, especially if they can influence whether those things succeed or fail-and it seemed imprudent to let the ownership of a business rest with people and institutions that are not directly involved. Remedying this situation would have to be an evolutionary process, but as I imagined it, gradually, over two or three generations, a business would, by law, shift into the hands of employees."

Thomas J. Watson Jr. and Peter Petre, Father, Son & Co., 1990

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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 .. Milton Friedman

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