Definitions of Capitalism
an economic system characterized by private ownership of the means of production and free trade, with no government intervention in either.
The theoretical definition, aka laissez faire, capitalism as ideal or model, like "democracy" or "equality."
an economic system characterized by mainly private ownership of the means of production and more or less free trade.
The descriptive definition, aka the economics definition, a technical operational definition.
a resource usage system based on de jure private ownership of the means of production.
The legal definition
, focusing on the legal fiction rather than actual control by government. Used in ideology map
having ownership of capital
The original definition, used by novelist William Thackeray in 1854, derived from "capitalist."
an economic system characterized by accumulation of capital in the hands of the few.
A socialist definition, aka the 19th century definition, still used by some leftists.
an economic system characterized by wage slavery (employment) and collusion between wealthy capitalists and the State.
The Marxist definition, used by many leftists, especially communists.
the economic system currently existent in the US, Germany, Japan, and various other countries.
The naive definition, aka actually existing capitalism, more accurately known as a mixed economy.
Compare with the definitions of socialism.
Sometimes these definitions are combined in a self-contradictory manner. For example, (1) and (7) are often combined in a package deal. Cf: Roderick Long's comments in his essay on Rothbard's "Left and Right": Forty Years Later.