Social Question

FlutherBug's avatar

What does it mean to be a capitalist?

Asked by FlutherBug (1103points) October 3rd, 2016

What is capitalism?

and what does it mean to be a “Capitalist”?


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18 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

From what I get is that you believe in the free market ,and privatization of everything is the answer to everything.
No matter what.

FlutherBug's avatar


What do you mean believe in the free market? Sorry if it’s a stupid question.

Pretty much like what you work for should be yours?

Kropotkin's avatar

I was going to try summarising some Marxian economics, since Marx pretty much popularised the term “capitalism”. But Marxian concepts are so precisely defined that they’re too difficult to summarise without getting them wrong, and the overall theoretical framework and how the concepts work together is pretty convoluted.

I’ll just leave this.

Also recommend reading The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Putting individual wealth first. Every thing works itself out magically.

FlutherBug's avatar


Hm I like that answer

SmashTheState's avatar

As @Kropotkin indicated, the actual definition of capitalism is complex, but a simplified version (which ignores certain extended definitions of “capital”) is: an economic and social system in which the means of production is privately owned, creating an owning class and a working class which is defining by their respective access to the means of production. The owning class controls the means of production by the use of violent coercion, and the working class must labour under terms and conditions dictated by the owning class or starve.

Capitalism was created for the explicit purpose of aggregating and concentrating wealth into few enough hands that large capital projects such as factories, dams, and highways could be created. It is by nature and by intent monopolist and coercive.

ucme's avatar

Prejudiced against big letters

CWOTUS's avatar

I was going to leave this question alone, but it seems that you’re really looking for an answer – and getting the usual bad ones. So I’ll let Robert A. Heinlein answer it:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

SmashTheState's avatar

Maybe you’d better let a rather more intelligent and thoughtful man, Mikhail Bakunin, answer instead:

“We see that the richest property owners are precisely those who work the least or who do not work at all. It is evident to anyone who is not blind about this matter that productive labor creates wealth and yields the producers only misery, and it is only non-productive, exploiting labor that yields property. What is property, what is capital in their present form? For the capitalist and the property owner they mean the power and the right, guaranteed by the State, to live without working. And since neither property nor capital produces anything when not fertilized by labor—that means the power and the right to live by exploiting the work of someone else. The right to exploit the work of those who possess neither property nor capital and who thus are forced to sell their productive power to the lucky owners of both.”

flutherother's avatar

In Paradise ( if it exists) there are no capitalists and no one owns anything.

Cruiser's avatar

A capitalist is one who participates in an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. What is central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets and almost always without violent coercion which why the term “free market” is the hallmark of capitalistic markets.

In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment are chiefly determined by the owners of the factors of production in financial and capital markets, and prices and the distribution of goods. The key and often one that is often overlooked, is capitalist markets are mainly determined by competition in the market of which the average consumer is the one who votes with their wallet for products they want or need to consume. This is what will determine what the producers will want to produce or they will be unable to make a profit then lose money and go out of business…no violence or coercion needed.

FlutherBug's avatar

Thank you for the answers everyone!

SmashTheState's avatar

@Cruiser Voluntary? Maybe in the same sense that “Your money or your life” is a free choice.

“The worker’s liberty is only a theoretical freedom, lacking any means for its possible realization. Consequently it is only a fictitious liberty, an utter falsehood. The truth is that the whole life of the worker is simply a continuous and dismaying succession of terms of serfdom—voluntary from the juridical point of view but compulsory from an economic sense—broken up by momentarily brief interludes of freedom accompanied by starvation; in other words, it is real slavery.”Mikhail Bakunin

Cruiser's avatar

@SmashTheState I can’t imagine that where you live is any different where I live as far as the freedom to work where you choose and for who you want to. I also am very aware of the different perspectives we each have on this subject. I advocate for myself and my employees to have a good company to work for and a decent paying job. I am not forcing anyone to work here let alone work for me. You advocate for the homeless and poor and it is my opinion you do these fine people a disservice when you promote propaganda such as “Your money or your life” and “The owning class controls the means of production by the use of violent coercion” to service the narrative of the down on your luck as not having a choice in the matter.

Kropotkin's avatar

Capitalists will resort to a lot of self-serving rationalisations and justifications for their status and for capitalism itself.

I was going to avoid simplifications, but here it is.

Capitalism is a system in which the very means to life and material well-being is controlled and owned by small class of owners. Those who aren’t these owners—they have to work for a wage (or face the social stigma of receiving state benefits and/or destitution).

Here’s the trick: The sum of all wages earned by workers is never enough to buy back all that workers produce. Where does this “surplus” go? I once asked a Libertarian™ this question, and she literally couldn’t comprehend it no matter how I rephrased it or explained it. Go figure.

And how on Earth is this relationship between owners and wage labourers a “voluntary” one when there are practically no alternative options available, and not working means social stigma or destitution? And no—some individual rags to riches stories aren’t relevant. The class division is systemic: We can’t all be capitalists.

But there’s a more important point. Why should the means to produce be the preserve of a relatively small class of individuals at all? There’s no real justification for that—it’s a vestige of history (a bloody, murderous and coercive history that required massive amounts of state violence, and forced transfer of wealth and resources).

If we were to start completely from scratch, if we simply landed on Earth as it is with all the systems of production, distribution, and resource extraction in place as they are now—we wouldn’t apportion 90% of it all to 1% of the population (Here’s a clue: such a skewed distribution would require massive amounts of force and coercion). That would seem insane, and grossly unfair. Yet, it is exactly what we have.

We mostly accept this form of economic organisation because we’re born into it, and don’t know any better. It feels natural. It feels like there’s no better way—and indeed, there is a whole industry that’s developed simply to reinforce, indoctrinate into, and justify capitalism.

SmashTheState's avatar

@Cruiser Anything you choose to pay your workers is noblesse oglige. In other words, they rely on your goodwill and sense of generosity in order to exist. If you choose not to pay them, they have no choices; they either find another boss willing to give them access to the means of production, or they starve. You are a slave owner who treats his slaves in a way he regards as fair – but they remain slaves. And the slaves may have rather different notions of what constitutes “fair.”

Cruiser's avatar

Again @SmashTheState You are feeding your narrative with nonsense words like “slave” and ” noblesse oglige” which does not apply here as I negotiate wages with my employees on a person by person basis and all of my employees are paid above the poverty level so there is no legal way for them to bring entitlements into the equation. We both reach a number deemed fair and I make sure the other payroll deductions required by Federal law are attended to. If need be, they come to me when they desire a raise but that is very rare because they get nice bonuses…even the guy pushing a broom. All my employees have a choice to come to work or not…a slave does not have that choice. I also know with certainty, that my company is not an anomaly….there are hundreds of thousands of companies like mine that provide good jobs with fair wages. That is the beauty of supply and demand for qualified workers…they can get paid what the market will bear and sometimes a little more. Slave do not get that option.

The only thing close to a slave here is me and the contract I signed to pay the old owner gobs of cash for the next 9.5 years. I still have a choice in the matter to pay him or not pay him and say goodbye to everything I own it I choose that route. I am as free as a bird and so are my employees. A slave is someone who has no choice in the matter and if he thinks he does, he/she more than likely will pay for that choice with their life.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Like me, a Market Fundamentalist.

Ohh, @SmashTheState

You’re so adorable.

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