What’s Capitalism

Vocabulary

Capitalism is a simple enough concept but the associated baggage of its myriad connotations makes the word pretty useless in discussions with people with differing ideological stances, and with people who don’t bother with meaning and content. We can do better.

For any productive discussion, we should have a shared definition of the terms we use. If we are uncertain of the shared meaning of a word, it is best not to use it or even enter into a discussion involving the word or concept.[1]

So let’s take a few moments to define the word first and then get on with the discussion. The definition does not have to be definitive or universally acceptable. It just has to serve the purposes of the discussion. If you don’t accept that definition, it’s not the end of the world; it’s just the end of this discussion.

Capitalism is a combination of (1) private property, (2) free markets, (3) voluntary trade, & (4) institutions which legally enforce contracts. Continue reading