Capitalism can be defined as a system under which industries, trade and the means of production are largely or wholly privately owned and operated for profit. Following the end of feudalism, it dominated the Western world, and thanks to imperialism this domination extended to the global economic system by the end of the 19th century. Entering the 21st century, it continues to reign unchallenged as the world’s pre-eminent economic doctrine.
The world’s richest person (Bill Gates) has a personal wealth of $78.7 billion. This is higher than the (nominal) GDP of 130 countries, including Uruguay (population 3.4m), Ecuador (population 15.9m), Bulgaria (population 7.2m) and Croatia (population 4.3m). Almost half the world’s population, over 3 billion people, live on less than $2.50 a day. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die EACH DAY due to poverty. They “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.” Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
The modern form capitalism has taken is complex, with close relationships and revolving doors between politics and the multinational corporations and banks that act as the main players commonplace. The necessity for relentless growth inevitably leads to the cutting of costs in ways that damage societies and local communities (outsourcing, lay-offs, etc.) as well as a massive global network of tax havens hiding trillions of dollars. It also aggravates poverty cycles in poor nations chosen as manufacturing bases, where their enormous power enables corporations to dictate extremely poor terms and salaries. The profit motive, therefore, is the fundamental principle underlying modern capitalism; the all-encompassing priority of corporate entities.