What is Anti-Capitalism?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

Anti-capitalism is something of a catchall term used to describe or label a number of economic, political, and philosophical movements that are in one way or another opposed to some or all of the basic tenets of capitalism. These can be fairly revolutionary ideas, or especially conservative beliefs that oppose capitalism on grounds of morality, social injustice, and religious reasons. Anti-capitalism often takes the form of either wishing to completely abolish capitalism and change to a different form of economic theory, or to simply change or regulate certain aspects of capitalism to fix what is viewed as broken within capitalism.

Capitalism is, basically, the idea that the means of production and business should be privately owned and held by individual citizens rather than controlled or owned by the state or the public in general. Defenders of capitalism promote the idea that this allows individuals to own and operate businesses freely, and in the United States the ideas of freedom and capitalism are often intermingled when discussing the issue. Anti-capitalism typically holds that this freedom can be taken to excess and that individual ownership of businesses can easily lead to abuse, as the system promotes selfishness and greed.

Communism and socialism tend to be the most common forms of anti-capitalism discussed or proposed by critics of capitalism. While the two ideas often differ somewhat, the general idea is that the means of production and business should be owned publicly and not by private individuals. This is typically seen as government ownership and regulation of business, though it could also mean a public trust that represents the people and operates business. This type of anti-capitalism is often accompanied by ideas regarding the “redistribution of wealth” from the wealthy few to the many in poverty.

Various countries in different locations and times have tried communism and socialism, to varying degrees of effectiveness. While communism seeks to address injustices in ownership of wealth, it often still gives a great deal of power and wealth to the government. This has often replaced one form of wealthy upper class, with another, rather than putting the money and power into the hands of the people as communist philosophy suggests. Socialism is a form of anti-capitalism that functions much like communism, but is often more involved in social concerns such as public education and health care.

Some socialist arguments look to only modify capitalism to allow for private businesses in some sectors, but publicly operated businesses in other fields. There are also a number of anti-capitalism supporters who use religion or morality as the basis for their arguments. Christian, Hebrew, and Muslim texts all provide arguments against the practice of usury, which many people argue forms the backbone of the banking industry which charges interest on loans. While some people argue that usury refers to excessive interest, others feel that usury describes any practice of lending money to make a profit. Secular arguments are also made for the morality of a select few having vast amounts of money, while others are homeless or go hungry.

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