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Capitalism is an economic system and a mode of production in which trade, industries, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned. Such private firms and proprietorships are usually operated for profit, but may be operated as private nonprofit organizations. Central characteristics of capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labour and, in some situations, fully competitive markets. In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged.

The degree of competition, role of intervention and regulation, and scope of state ownership varies across different models of capitalism. Economists, political economists, and historians have taken different perspectives in their analysis of capitalism and recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire or free market capitalism, corporatism, crony capitalism, welfare capitalism, "third way" social democracy and state capitalism. Each model has employed varying degrees of dependency on free markets, public ownership, obstacles to free competition, and inclusion of state-sanctioned social policies.

The extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, is a matter of politics and policy. Many states have a mixed economy, which combines elements of both capitalism and centrally planned economies. Capitalism has existed under many forms of government, in many different times, places, and cultures. Following the demise of feudalism, mixed capitalist systems became dominant in the Western world and continue to spread.

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.

Selected biography

Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (German: [ˈluːtvɪç fɔn ˈmiːzəs]; 29 September 1881 – 10 October 1973) was a philosopher, Austrian School economist, sociologist, and classical liberal. Mises wrote and lectured extensively on behalf of classical liberalism. He became a prominent figure in the Austrian School of economic thought and is best known for his work on praxeology, a study of human choice and action. Fearing a Nazi takeover of Switzerland, where he was living at the time, Mises emigrated to the United States in 1940. Mises' thought has exerted significant influence on the libertarian movement in the United States since the mid-20th century. The Ludwig von Mises Institute was founded in the United States to continue his teachings.

Selected quote

The task of creating a suitable framework for the beneficial working of competition had however, not yet been carried very far when states everywhere turned from it to that of supplanting competition by a different and irreconcilable principle. The question was no longer one of making competition work and of supplementing it but of displacing it altogether. It is important to be quite clear about this: the modern movement for planning is a movement against competition as such, a new flag under which all the old enemies of competition have rallied. And although all sorts of interests are now trying to reestablish under this flag privileges which the liberal era swept away, it is socialist propaganda for planning which has restored to respectability among liberal-minded people opposition to competition and which has effectively lulled the healthy suspicion which any attempt to smother competition used to arouse. What in effect unites the socialists of the Left and the Right is this common hostility to competition and their common desire to replace it by a directed economy. Though the terms "capitalism" and "socialism" are still generally used to describe the past and the future forms of society, they conceal rather than elucidate the nature of the transition through which we are passing.

Yet, though all the changes we are observing tend in the direction of a comprehensive central direction of economic activity, the universal struggle against competition promises to produce in the first instance something in many respects even worse, a state of affairs which can statisfy neither planners nor liberals: a sort of syndicalist or "corporative" organization of industry, in which competition is more or less suppressed but planning is left in the hands of the independent monopolies of the separate industries. This is the inevitable first result of a situation in which the people are united in their hostility to competition but agree on little else. By destroying competition in industry after industry, this policy puts the consumer at the mercy of the joint monopolist action of capitalists and workers in the best organized industries. Yet, although this is a state of affairs which in wide fields has already existed for some time, and although much of the muddled (and most of the interested) agitation for planning aims at it, it is not a state which is likely to persist or can be rationally justified. Such independent planning by industrial monopolies would, in fact, produce effects opposite to those at which the argument for planning aims. Once this stage is reached, the only alternative to a return to competition is the control of the monopolies by the state-a control which, if it is to be made effective, must become progressively more complete and more detailed. It is this stage we are rapidly approaching. When, shortly before the war, a weekly magazine pointed out that there were many signs that British leaders, at least, were growing accustomed to thinking in terms of national development by controlled monopolies, this was probably a true estimate of the position as it then existed. Since then this process has been greatly accelerated by the war, and its grave defects and dangers will become increasingly obvious as times goes on.

— Frederick Hayek (1899 – 1992)
The Road to Serfdom , 1944

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