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- "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."
- –Winston Churchill
- "Always try to rub up against money, for if you rub against money long enough, some of it may rub off on you."
- –Damon Runyon
Historical Context Edit
In the black hole of history (i.e., before written records) humans established various complex economies that involved elements of labor, trade and investment. Things economic remained fairly primitive until the 14th Century AD, when the Great Famine (1315-1317) and Black Death (1348-1350) led to a collapse of the manorial system due to a labor shortage, first in England and then throughout Europe. The feudal lords needed serfs to keep their estates running, and so began to hire workers; meanwhile, in towns and cities where entire guilds had been wiped out, the advent of wages encouraged craftsmen to move there to work for money rather than mere subsistence. All of which laid the foundations for colonialism and mercantilism, the precursors to capitalism. It was Adam Smith who first argued that mercantilism was not a force for economic progress but a hindrance in a civilization where labor was the most important currency of exchange.
The ideas of theorists such as Smith were well timed, for the Industrial Revolution was just beginning and a new economic order of free markets and paid labor was erupting. It was apparent that colonialism wasn’t the gold mine that investors had hoped; rather, a new gold mine was found in the mechanization of industry. Industrial capitalists investing in new forms of production and transport were able to amass great individual wealth in a single lifetime, outpacing the landed nobility and international banking families. For the first time in civilization, commoners could become wealthy without being born into it … with empires built on the sweaty backs of thousands of other commoners willing to be paid for their labor.
Modern capitalism was the first system to benefit all levels of society; wages increased, aided by the formation of labor unions, and the standards of living in industrial nations increased exponentially with the glut of affordable products being mass-produced in factories. Despite hiccups such as the Great Depression and the 1970s Oil Crisis, which brought Keynesian-style government regulation to some economic endeavors, capitalism has become the new world order.