Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What is Capitalism?

Capitalism means different things to different people. Some people think it's practically a synonym for cold hearted evil. A friend once said he though you could define capitalism as system in which the rich get richer and poor get poorer. So a society where the only economic activity is government taking stuff from its citizens would be a great example of capitalism.

Of course this isn't what I think it is, but I shouldn't think of it as any system that has only nice outcomes. Microsoft's behaviour at the height of its evil was mostly a perfectly fine capitalist company, at least things like giving stuff away for free and buying other companies were. The extent to which it used its money to buy government favours it wasn't capitalist. All of these activities may be equally scummy, but they're not equally capitalist.

Bob Mugabe will never be a good capitalist no matter how much money he has, and Bill Gates will always be a great one even if he gives away every last cent.

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