Capitalism in Context

Author’s note: This is my first article in a while and due to depression it has been difficult to get myself to write. However, today I will be writing something I have wanted to for quite a while. I hope you enjoy this article and I will be publishing a list of further readings in case you like the ideas and history being discussed.

Socioeconomic systems are not static and despite the efforts of intellectuals, pundits, and professor’s attempts to define systems such as capitalism, socialism and fascism, it is very difficult to get a static definition. I hate to tell you this dear reader, but the definition of ideology, economic systems, and even systems of government, are rarely the same across two different countries let alone continents. Capitalism is no different. Now I think it is very important to separate systems of government from socioeconomic systems from the start. For example, a republic is different from a democracy. A democracy however, is also varied. The democracy of Athens is different then the supposed democracy of the United States. Liberalism is not static either. Classical liberalism in the style of John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Rawls are different then the liberalism of someone like Teddy Roosevelt. Capitalism, of the kind we see most of today, is closely related to classical liberalism of the British variety.

It is important to understand that markets, existed before the common versions of capitalism we saw practiced by the colonist from the different European powers. Each country had their own idiosyncrisies. For example, Great Britain and France were very different in terms of their approaches to feudalism. The development of Capitalism was only possible due to the circumstances in Europe at the time. Specifically, it required the situation in Great Britain. The classical liberal definition of what made land useful or developed, was the key. Land was only improved if the person who owned it was able to use the land to make a living for themselves. This meant that the Native Americans were in the way of this in many cases. This inspired many a colonist and the creation of colonies. Understand that without these colonies, the standards of living that were popularized by the enlightenment would have torn Europe apart further. The enclosure movement in Great Britain was one good example of the need to make land, profitable. Unlike France, Great Britain was a land of farmers and less industry than its neighbor.

Feudal lords might be losing out but the transfer of power was simply going to a different vocation of powerful men. This would always depend on where we were talking about. For instance, the Dutch were well known for having a large population of merchants who sold luxury items to traders from the main continent. The entire market of some large ports would be dedicated to selling these items. The need for land improvement, was often the thing that made capitalism special. The desire to grow and the need for constant consumption and profit creation, required more and more land. It also meant specific criteria for what made the land useful. If you weren’t making profit or weren’t farming it for your local white community, it wasn’t useful.

To be continued

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