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Week 3 Capitalism is an economic system in which the major portion of production and distribution is in private hands, operating under a profit or market system. Socialism is an economic system characterized by mainly having public ownership of property and a planned economy. Capitalism has gone through several stages: mercantile, industrial, financial, state welfare, and globalized. Four key features of capitalism are the existence of companies, profit motive, competition, and private property. In particular, natural resources and means of production are owned by the private sector. One basic defense of capitalism rests on a supposed natural moral right to property. Utilitarians deny the existence of such rights; other critics doubt that this right entitles one to have a system of property rules and regulations identical to the one we now have in the United States. A common utilitarian defense of capitalism is associated with the classical economic arguments of Adam Smith. Smith believed that human beings are acquisitive and that they have a natural propensity for trading. He insisted that when people are left free to pursue their own economic interests in a free market, they will, without intending it, produce the greatest good for all. Critics question the basic assumptions of capitalism (theoretical challenges) and whether it has delivered on its promises (operational challenges). Specifically, they raise the following questions: Can capitalism eliminate poverty and reduce inequality? Are humans basically economic creatures? Does capitalism breed oligopolies that thwart competition? Is competition valuable? Does capitalism exploit and alienate people? As the twenty-first century begins, our capitalist socioeconomic system faces a number of challenges. These include the decline of American manufacturing and the related problems of job outsourcing and our growing trade deficit, as well as an excessive concern with short-term performance. In addition, we must come to grips with our society’s changing attitudes toward work.
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