- "...late capitalism is a pyramid racket on a global scale, the kind you do human sacrifices up on top of, manwhile getting the suckers to believe it's all gonna go on forever." Thomas Pynchon's novel Bleeding Edge, page 163.:::::
Capitalism may be narrowly defined as a category of economic systems in which important decisions are motivated largely by capital accumulation by individuals and firms through voluntary exchange and wage labor. David Harvey adopts a more encompassing definition of capitalism as a "social formation" in which "capital circulation and accumulation are hegemonic and dominant" in the "material, social and intelelctual bases of social life." (see p. 7 of Seventeen Contradictions)
When capitalism achieves greater efficiency it is largely a product of the information content carried by price signals, something largely missing in Soviet style planned economies.
Critiques of capitalism vary from fundamental denunciations of exploitation conceived in terms of the labor theory of value like those made by Marxists to complaints of deviations from an abstract or idealized capitalism made by liberals. Aaron James offers an example of the latter in his popular nonfiction book, Assholes: A Theory. On page 146 he describes "asshole capitalism" as characterized by three features:
- a) incentives - affirms expansive entitlements
- b) undermanagment - lacks system for moderating the worst behaviors
- c) destabilization - accumulation of people given to the worst behaviors undermines necessary cooperation
For all of capitalism's successes in productivity, it can still be indicted for a long list of tragic failures.
- Class Privilege
- Extreme Inequality: Approximately 8% of all global financial wealth of households is held in tax havens and three-quarters of that is unrecorded The Missing Wealth of Nations: Are Are and the U.S. Net Debtors or Net Creditors? Gabriel Zucman.
- Cultural Decline
- Disrespect for the past, such decisions made based solely on prices when some things have value that cannot be monetized, as with archaeological sites
- News Corrupted by Sensationalism. In 2011, a political scandal erupted in Britain when it was discovered that the News Corps' News of the World tabloid had been hacking the telephones of crime victims, celebrities and political figures on a massive scale. This shameful violation of journalistic ethics was driven capitalist competition between tabloids.
- Ethical/Spiritual Conviction Reduced to "Prosperity Gospel" Christianity
- Erosion of Academic Intergrity
- Low standards (falsified attendance records, grade inflation, job placement data inflation) at "For Profit" Institutions of Higher Education. Source: Kelly Field. "Faculty at For-Profits Allege Constant Pressure to Keep Students Enrolled." The Chronicle of Higher Education. May 13, 2011. A1, A10-A12.
- Deceptive Advertising in "For Profit Colleges"
- Erosion of Political and Journalistic Integrity
- Fake Herbal Supplements sold by GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart
- Systemic Fraudulent Mislabeling of seafood in the United States, with catfish substituted for Grouper and thresher shark substituted for swordfish and mahi mahi. Source: Elizabeth Rosenthal. "Some Foul Play At Fish Market" The New York Times. May 27, 2011. B1, B4. See Overfishing
- White Collar Crime. In 2010, Eastern Livestock Co., LLC left 734 livestock producers in 30 states holding bad checks totaling $130 milion. The firm was only bonded for $875,000. Source: Kim Watson-Potts. "Eastern Livestock Fails." Farm Journal. 46 December 2010.
- Tax Evasion. In 2013, it was revealed that a massive portion of the global economy was disguised in offshore accounts and companies to evade taxes.
- Loss of Freedom
- Corporate Censorship of consumer reviews.
- Corporate Management demands control over employee reproduction.
- Corporate Management demands control over employee urination and defecation.
- Private Sector Moral Police: Some Kentucky Pharmacies Restrict Access to Birth Control
- Refusal to Process Payments for Condoms Because of Reputational Risk (Yet JP Morgan Chase's Chase Paymentech risks its parent firm's reputation on women's rights by denying service.)
- Lobbying for anti-immigrant legislation at the state level by the Corrections Corporation of America.
- Map Quest If it doesn't know the answer it will still give you directions out into the middle of nowhere. Also it wants to sell you a hotel room.
- Amorality/Moral Indifference
- Gilead Sciences demands $1,000 per pill for Hep C Treatment...No wait, they demand $1,125 per pill.
- encouraging anti-social behavior Knee Defender
- Psychopathic cruelty of gestation crates
- Exploitation of the Vulnerable
- Auto Title Loans and Pay Day Loans
- Eviction by Rent-a-cop proposed in Illinois
- Just in Time Labor Exploitation of Part-Time Workers
- Tenancy Fees charged by letting agents in London to renters.
- Perverse Incentives
- Artificial Demand for domain names created by permission from ICANN to grant new internet suffixes as firms and individuals buy such "property" defensively. According to general counsel of the Association of National Advertisers Douglas Wood: "All that money is just wasted money because it's money thrown away to property rights that will never be used, never add to competition, never add to innovation, never do any of the things that ICANN is touting will be the great benefits of all these new top-level domains."
- Discouraging Creativity by restricting tinkering to protect property rights “The Tinkerers”: How Corporations Kill Creativity Alec Foege. Salon. December 30, 2012.
- Prices Unresponsive to Supply and Demand
- Giant Amazon fish 'locally extinct' Due to Overfishing (low price unchanged despite scarcity) Zoe Gough. BBC News.
- Threatening Health and Safety
- David Harvey. 2014. Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. Oxford: New York. p. 7.
- The Importance of Public Goods George Irvin
- If people offer to sell you their financial investment expertise, why aren't they using it to make themselves rich in the market?