Portal:Capitalism
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Portal:Capitalism
Portal:Capitalism

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 owners 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 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. 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; is anti-democratic; 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 from Gentlemans Walk.jpg
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

Richard Cantillon (1680s - ) was an Irish-French economist and author of Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général (Essay on the Nature of Trade in General), a book considered by William Stanley Jevons to be the "cradle of political economy". Although little information exists on Cantillon's life, it is known that he became a successful banker and merchant at an early age. His success was largely derived from the political and business connections he made through his family and through an early employer, James Brydges. During the late 1710s and early 1720s, Cantillon speculated in, and later helped fund, John Law's Mississippi Company, from which he acquired great wealth. However, his success came at a cost to his debtors, who pursued him with lawsuits, criminal charges, and even murder plots until his death in 1734.

Essai is considered the first complete treatise on economics, with numerous contributions to the science. These contributions include: his cause and effect methodology, monetary theories, his conception of the entrepreneur as a risk-bearer, and the development of spatial economics. Cantillon's Essai had significant influence on the early development of political economy, including the works of Adam Smith, Anne Turgot, Jean-Baptiste Say, Frédéric Bastiat and François Quesnay. (Full article...)

Selected quote

" A glance at the occupational statistics of any country of mixed religious composition brings to light with remarkable frequency a situation which has several times provoked discussion in the Catholic press and literature, and in Catholic congresses in Germany, namely, the fact that business leaders and owners of, as well as the higher grades of skilled labor, and even more the higher technically and commercially trained personnel of modern enterprises, are overwhelmingly Protestant. This is true not only in cases where the difference in religion coincides with one of nationality, and thus of cultural development, as in Eastern Germany between Germans and Poles. The same thing is shown in the figures of religious affiliation almost wherever capitalism, at the time of its great expansion, has had a free hand to alter the social distribution of the population in accordance with its needs, and to determine its occupational structure. The more freedom it has had, the more clearly is the effect shown. It is true that the greater relative participation of Protestants in the ownership of capital, in management, and the upper ranks of labor in great modern industrial and commercial enterprises, may in part be explained in terms of historical circumstances, which extend far back into the past, and in which religious affiliation is not a cause of the economic conditions, but to a certain extent appears to be a result of them. Participation in the above economic functions usually involves some previous ownership of capital, and generally an expensive education; often both. These are today largely dependent on the possession of inherited wealth, or at least on a certain degree of material well being. A number of those sections of the old Empire which were most highly developed economically and most favored by natural resources and situation, in particular a majority of the wealthy towns went over to Protestantism in the sixteenth century. The results of that circumstance favor the Protestants even today in their struggle for economic existence. There arises thus the historical question: why were the districts of highest economic development at the same time particularly favorable to a revolution in the Church? The answer is by no means so simple as one might think. "
-- Max Weber (1864 – 1920)
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism , 1905

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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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