Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Capitalism

"The fall of capitalism began when it made razor blades that would get dull in a month instead of those that would easily last 10 years at the same cost." -

"What kind of society isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system." - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"When I began to examine just how wealth is created, it seemed to me plain that it arises not from taking, but from giving. People get rich by giving rather than by taking, and this seemed to me to be a very important perception, because the reason for the crisis in capitalism today, it seems to me, is not its practical achievements, but rather the perception of its moral character." - George F Gilder

"It’s universally wrong to steal from your neighbor, but once you get the one-to-one level, and pit the individual against the multinational conglomerate, the federal bureaucracy, the modern plantation of agro-business, or the utility company, it becomes strictly a value judgment to decide exactly who is stealing from whom. One person’s crime is another person’s profit. Capitalism is license to steal; the government simply regulates who steals and how much." - Abbie Hoffman, fully Abbot Howard "Abbie" Hoffman

"Feminism can be but one of capitalism’s more advanced needs to rationalize." - Julia Kristeva

"Capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest." - Joseph Schumpeter

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery." - Winston Churchill, fully Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

"As nearly as I can see, all the new isms – Socialism, Communism, Fascism, and especially the late but not lamented Technocracy – outdo even Capitalism itself in their preoccupation with one thing: The distribution of more machine-made commodities to more people. They all proceed on the theory that if we can all keep warm and full, and all own a Ford and a radio, the good life will follow. Their programs differ only in ways to mobilize machines to this end. Though they despise each other, they are all, respect of this objective, as identically alike as peas in a pod. They are competitive apostles of a single creed: salvation by machinery." - Aldo Leopold

"Capitalism means the direction of industry by the owners of capital for their own pecuniary gain." -

"This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career." - Albert Einstein

"The problem with capitalism is that it best rewards the worst part of us: the ruthless, competitive, cunning, opportunistic, acquisitive drives, giving little reward and often much punishment – or at least much handicap – to honesty, compassion, fair play, many forms of hard work, love of justice, and a concern for those in need." - Michael Parenti

"If one wishes to advocate a free society - that is, capitalism - one must realize that its indispensable foundation is the principle of individual rights." - Ayn Rand, born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum

"Under full developed Capitalism civilization is always on the verge of revolution. We live as in a villa on Vesuvius." - George Bernard Shaw

"You know, the only trouble with capitalism is the capitalists. They’re too damn greedy." -

"The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda." - Martin Buber

"History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly, it is not a sufficient condition." -

"What kind of society isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system." -

"Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth." - Oystein Dahle, or Øystein Dahle

"In the development of both capitalism and communism, as we visualize them in the next fifty or a hundred years, the processes that encourage human alienation will continue. Both systems are developing into managerial societies, their inhabitants well fed, well clad, having their wishes satisfied, and not having wishes that cannot be satisfied. Men are increasingly automatons, who make machines which act like men and produce men who act like machines; there reason deteriorates while their intelligence rises, thus creating the dangerous situation of equipping man with the greatest material power without the wisdom to use it." - Erich Fromm, fully Erich Seligmann Fromm

"They talk about the failure of socialism but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America? " - Fidel Castro, fully Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz

"There are only two great economic systems in operation in the world today. If Capitalism in the spirit of Christian love can solve the problem of distribution and bring unemployment to an end, it will find itself spreading and recapturing the nations it has lost to its rival. But if Capitalism is permeated with selfishness it will gradually give way to Communism, Technocracy or some other form of Socialism." - Glenn Clark

"You know, the only trouble with capitalism is the capitalists. They’re too damn greedy." - Herbert Hoover, fully Herbert Clark Hoover

"In the usual (though certainly not in every) public decision on economic policy, the choice is between courses that are almost equally good or equally bad. It is the narrowest decisions that are most ardently debated. If the world is lucky enough to enjoy peace, it may even one day make the discovery, to the horror of doctrinaire free-enterprisers and doctrinaire planners alike, that what is called capitalism and what is called socialism are both capable of working quite well." - John Kenneth Galbraith, aka "Ken"

"The decadent international but individualistic capitalism in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war is not a success. It is not intelligent. It is not beautiful. It is not just. It is not virtuous. And it doesn't deliver the goods. " - John Maynard Keynes

"History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition." - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm, capitalism is that kind of a system. " - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"We have to define that word which good economists always try to avoid: capitalism is that form of private property economy in which innovations are carried out by means of borrowed money." - Joseph Schumpeter

"I felt it my duty…to inflict upon the reader…my paradoxical conclusion: capitalism is being killed by its achievements." - Joseph Schumpeter

"Gentlemen, a depression is for capitalism like a good, cold douche." - Joseph Schumpeter

"Fascism is capitalism in decay. " - Vladimir Lenin, fully Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

"The progressive historical role of capitalism may be summed up in two brief propositions: increase in the productive forces of social labour, and the socialisation of that labour. But both these facts manifest themselves in extremely diverse processes in different branches of the national economy. " - Vladimir Lenin, fully Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

"The genius of capitalism consists precisely in its lack of morality. Unless he is rich enough to hire his own choir, a capitalist is a fellow who, by definition, can ill afford to believe in anything other than the doctrine of the bottom line. Deprive a capitalist of his God-given right to lie and cheat and steal, and the poor sap stands a better than even chance of becoming one of the abominable wards of the state from whose grimy fingers the Reagan Administration hopes to snatch the ark of democracy." - Lewis H. Lapham

"Capitalism and socialism are two distinct patterns of social organization. Private control of the means of production and public control are contradictory notions and not merely contrary notions. There is no such thing as a mixed economy, a system that would stand midway between capitalism and socialism." - Ludwig von Mises, fully Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises

"A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society. Socialism is not an alternative to capitalism; it is an alternative to any system under which men can live as human beings." - Ludwig von Mises, fully Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises

"For it is an essential difference between capitalist and socialist production that under capitalism men provide for themselves, while under Socialism they are provided for." - Ludwig von Mises, fully Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises

"Under capitalism everybody is the architect of his own fortune." - Ludwig von Mises, fully Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises

"Liberalism and capitalism address themselves to the cool, well-balanced mind. They proceed by strict logic, eliminating any appeal to the emotions. Socialism, on the contrary, works on the emotions, tries to violate logical considerations by rousing a sense of personal interest and to stifle the voice of reason by awakening primitive instincts." - Ludwig von Mises, fully Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises

"A man who chooses between drinking a glass of milk and a glass of a solution of potassium cyanide does not choose between two beverages; he chooses between life and death. A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society. Socialism is not an alternative to capitalism; it is an alternative to any system under which men can live as human beings." - Ludwig von Mises, fully Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises

"It seems obvious to me now – though I have been slow, I must say, in coming to the conclusion – that the institution of private property is one of the main things that have given man that limited amount of free-and-equalness that Marx hoped to render infinite by abolishing this institution. Strangely enough Marx was the first to see this. He is the one who informed us, looking backwards, that the evolution of private capitalism with its free market had been a precondition for the evolution of all our democratic freedoms. It never occurred to him, looking forward, that if this was so, these other freedoms might disappear with the abolition of the free market." - Max Eastman, fully Max Forrester Eastman

"Since Judaism made Christianity possible and gave it the character of a religion essentially free from magic, it rendered an important service from the point of view of economic history. For the dominance of magic outside the sphere in which Christianity has prevailed in one of the most serious obstructions to the rationalization of economic life. Magic involves a stereotyping of technology and economic relations. When attempts were made in China to inaugurate the building of railroads and factories a conflict with geomancy ensued ... Similar is the relation to capitalism of the castes in India. Every new technical process which an Indian employs signifies for him first of all that he leaves his caste and falls into another, necessarily lower ... An additional fact is that every caste makes every other caste impure. In consequence, workmen who dare not accept a vessel filled with water from each other's hands, cannot be employed together in the same factory room. Obviously, capitalism could not develop in an economic group thus bound hand and foot by magical means." - Max Weber, formally Maximilian Carl Emil Weber

"The impulse to acquisition, pursuit of gain, of money, of the greatest possible amount of money, has in itself nothing to do with capitalism. This impulse exists and has existed among waiters, physicians, coachmen, artists, prostitutes, dishonest officials, soldiers, nobles, crusaders, gamblers, and beggars. One may say that it has been common to all sorts and conditions of men at all times and in all countries of the earth, wherever the objective possibility of it is or has been given. It should be taught in the kindergarten of cultural history that this naïve idea of capitalism must be given up once and for all." - Max Weber, formally Maximilian Carl Emil Weber

"Ecology's implications for capitalism are too momentous for the capitalist to contemplate. [The plutocrats] are more wedded to their wealth than to the Earth upon which they live, more concerned with the fate of their fortunes than with the fate of humanity. The present ecological crisis has been created by the few at the expense of the many. In other words, the struggle over environmentalism is part of the class struggle itself, a fact that seems to have escaped many environmentalists but is well understood by the plutocrats---which is why they are unsparing in their derision and denunciations of the 'eco-terrorists' and 'tree huggers.' " - Michael Parenti

"The goal of a good society is to structure social relations and institutions so that cooperative and generous impulses are rewarded, while antisocial ones are discouraged. The problem with capitalism is that it best rewards the worst part of us: ruthless, competitive, conniving, opportunistic, acquisitive drives, giving little reward and often much punishment -- or at least much handicap -- to honesty, compassion, fair play, many forms of hard work, love of justice, and a concern for those in need." - Michael Parenti

"The essence of capitalism is to turn nature into commodities and commodities into capital. The live green earth is transformed into dead gold bricks, with luxury items for the few and toxic slag heaps for the many. The glittering mansion overlooks a vast sprawl of shanty towns, wherein a desperate, demoralized humanity is kept in line with drugs, television, and armed force." - Michael Parenti

"I think a major reason why intellectuals tend to move towards collectivism is that the collectivist answer is a simple one. If there’s something wrong, pass a law and do something about it... The argument has always been made that the trouble with capitalism is that it’s materialistic, while collectivism can afford to pay attention to the nonmaterial. But the experience has been the opposite. There are no societies that have emphasized the purely material requisites of well-being as much as the collectivist…it is in the free societies that there has been a far greater development of the nonmaterial, spiritual, artistic aspects of well-being." - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"Why has there been so great a shift in the attitudes of the public [toward accepting free market ideas]? I’m sorry to confess that I do not believe it occurred because of the persuasive power of such books as Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom or Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged or our own Capitalism and Freedom. Such books certainly played a role, but I believe the major reason for the change is the extraordinary force of factual evidence.…The great hopes that had been placed in Russia and China by the collectivists and socialists turned into ashes.…Similarly, the hopes that were placed in Fabian socialism and the welfare state in Britain or the New Deal in the United States were disappointed. One major government program after another started with the very best aims and with noble objectives and turned out not to deliver the goods.…Ideas played their part. But they played their part not by producing a reaction against the spread of government but by determining the form that that reaction took. The role we play as intellectuals is not to persuade anybody but to keep options open and to provide alternative policies that can be adopted when people decide they have to make a change." - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"Industrial progress, mechanical improvement, all of the great wonders of the modern era have meant relatively little to the wealthy. The rich in Ancient Greece would have benefited hardly at all from modern plumbing : running servants replaced running water. Television and radio? The Patricians of Rome could enjoy the leading musicians and actors in their home, could have the leading actors as domestic retainers. Ready-to-wear clothing, supermarkets - all these and many other modern developments would have added little to their life. The great achievements of Western Capitalism have redounded primarily to the benefit of the ordinary person. These achievements have made available to the masses conveniences and amenities that were previously the exclusive prerogative of the rich and powerful." - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"It is a striking historical fact that the development of capitalism has been accompanied by a major reduction in the extent to which particular religious, racial, or social groups have operated under special handicaps in respect of their economic activities; have, as the saying goes, been discriminated against. The substitution of contract arrangements for status arrangements was the first step toward the freeing of the serfs in the Middle Ages. The preservation of Jews through the Middle Ages was possible because of the existence of a market sector in which they could operate and maintain themselves despite official persecution. Puritans and Quakers were able to migrate to the New World because they could accumulate the funds to do so in the market despite disabilities imposed on them in other aspects of their life." - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"To speak of 'limits to growth' under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be 'persuaded' to limit growth than a human being can be 'persuaded' to stop breathing. Attempts to 'green' capitalism, to make it 'ecological', are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth." - Murray Bookchin

"Socialism is nothing but the capitalism of the lower classes" - Oswald Spengler, fully Oswald Manuel Arnold Gottfried Spengler