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quotations about capitalism

Capitalism cartoon

Capitalism is based on self-interest and self-esteem; it holds integrity and trustworthiness as cardinal virtues and makes them pay off in the marketplace, thus demanding that men survive by means of virtue, not vices. It is this superlatively moral system that the welfare statists propose to improve upon by means of preventative law, snooping bureaucrats, and the chronic goad of fear.

ALAN GREENSPAN, The Assault on Integrity

The forces of a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU, New York Times Magazine, Sept. 7, 1958

Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other right.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, speech to Congress, Dec. 3, 1861

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

KARL MARX, The Communist Manifesto

The revolution eats its own. Capitalism recreates itself.


Predatory capitalism created a complex industrial system and an advanced technology; it permitted a considerable extension of democratic practice and fostered certain liberal values, but within limits that are now being pressed and must be overcome. It is not a fit system for the mid-twentieth century.

NOAM CHOMSKY, Language and Freedom

Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth -- the soil and the labourer.

KARL MARK, Capital

America's abundance was created not by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America's industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages, and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance -- and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.

AYN RAND, Capitalism: The Unknown Deal

The things you own end up owning you.


Fact is Our Lord knew all about the power of money: He gave capitalism a tiny niche in His scheme of things. He gave it a chance. He even provided a first instalment of funds. Can you beat that? It's so magnificent. God despises nothing. After all, if the deal had come off, Judas would probably have endowed sanatoriums, hospitals, public libraries or laboratories.

GEORGES BERNANOS, The Diary of a Country Priest

The brilliant creative core of capitalism ... is the story the entrepreneurs and capital investors tell themselves about the future. How they intend to alter it, what they expect to gain in return, where they will raise the capital to accomplish their vision. Many of their stories turn out to be flawed or mistaken, of course, but the capacity to envision a set of future events and then act to fulfill them is a central source of capitalism's strength and its dominance of society.

WILLIAM GREIDER, The Soul of Capitalism

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, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed.

MOHANDAS GANDHI, Harijan, Jul. 28, 1940

Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.

KARL MARX, Capital

If capitalism persists for several more centuries, as seems to be highly likely, then from the vantage point of the future, capitalism may be seen as the system responsible for the transformation of the human condition from one of mass subsistence to mass prosperity.

VICTOR D. LIPPIT, Capitalism

The growth of world prosperity is not a "miracle" or any of the other mystifying terms we customarily apply to countries that have succeeded economically and socially. Schools are not built, nor are incomes generated, by sheer luck, like a bolt from the blue. These things happen when people begin to think along new lines and work hard to bring their ideas to fruition. But people do that everywhere, and there is no reason why certain people in certain places during certain periods in history should be intrinsically smarter or more capable than others. What makes the difference is whether the environment permits and encourages ideas and work, or instead puts obstacles in their way. That depends on whether people are free to explore their way ahead, to own property, to invest for the long term, to conclude private agreements, and to trade with others. In short, it depends on whether or not the countries have capitalism.

JOHAN NORBERG, In Defense of Global Capitalism

The core dynamic of the capitalist system is the accumulation process, a process in which a portion of the profits reaped through the sale of goods and services is reinvested, swelling the capital stock, incorporating new technologies in the process, and permitting larger sales and profits in the future.

VICTOR D. LIPPIT, Capitalism

The hour of capitalism's greatest triumph is its hour of crisis. The fall of the Berlin Wall ended more than a century of political competition between capitalism and communism. Capitalism stands alone as the only feasible way to rationally organize a modern economy. At this moment in history, no responsible nation has a choice. As a result, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, Third World and former communist nations have balanced their budgets, cut subsidies, welcomed foreign investment, and dropped their tariff barriers. Their efforts have been repaid with bitter disappointment.

HERNANDO DE SOTO, The Mystery of Capital

Because the free market system is so weak politically, the forms of capitalism that are experienced in many countries are very far from the ideal. They are a corrupted version, in which powerful interests prevent competition from playing its natural, healthy role.

RAGHURAM G. RAJAN, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists

Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "Freedom in Society"

Modern capitalism needs men who cooperate smoothly and in large numbers; who want to consume more and more; and whose tastes are standardized and can be easily influenced and anticipated ... what is the outcome? Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow man and from nature.

ERICH FROMM, quoted in Wisdom for the Soul

If capitalism begins as the practical idealism of the aspiring bourgeoisie, it ends ... as an orgy of materialism.

TALCOTT PARSONS, foreward, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Capitalism places every man in competition with his fellows for a share of the available wealth. A few people accumulate big piles, but most do not. The sense of community falls victim to this struggle.

DONALD BARTHELME, "The Rise of Capitalism"

Waste is the highest virtue one can achieve in advanced capitalist society.

HARUKI MURAKAMI, Dance, Dance, Dance

In a capitalist society, all human relationships are voluntary. Men are free to cooperate or not, to deal with one another or not, as their own individual judgments, convictions and interests dictate.

AYN RAND, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

The most efficient way of rendering the poor harmless is to teach them to want to imitate the rich.

CARLOS RUIZ ZAFON, The Shadow of the Wind

Until the Great Depression, most economists clung to a vision of capitalism as a perfect or nearly perfect system. That vision wasn’t sustainable in the face of mass unemployment, but as memories of the Depression faded, economists fell back in love with the old, idealized vision of an economy in which rational individuals interact in perfect markets.

PAUL KRUGMAN, "How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?" New York Times, Sep. 2, 2009

Capitalism shares moral ambiguity with democracy. Both systems empower individuals. Both tolerate the application of personal values to life choices individual decision by individual decision from the bottom of society up, and neither imposes a theology, ideology, or agenda of social engineering from the top of society down. Neither moral capitalism nor democracy contemplates final outcomes for people because they are only procedures for the expression of personal power. They have open architecture and innumerable feedback loops built into their system dynamics, and they are most compatible one with the other for both rest on the same fundamental principle of respect for human autonomy and dignity.

STEPHEN YOUNG, Moral Capitalism: Reconciling Private Interest with the Public Good

Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners.

VLADIMIR LENIN, The State and Revolution

Capitalism is like Japanese Knotweed: nothing kills it off. If there were only two people left on the planet, one of them would find a way of making money out of the other.


The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.


We live in a capitalist system; anyone who believes they are above this system or purer than this system, even while shopping at the cute organic market across the street or taking a hiking vacation to Guatemala, is certifiable.

KATY LEDERER, "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Capitalist", Gelf Magazine, January 19, 2009

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Read Bertrand Russell's essay: Capitalism and the Wage System


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