34

Think about it: capitalism has brought so much prosperity to so many people.

Yet no country claims our national ideology is capitalism - none that I know of.

Americans can proudly claim they are capitalists. Well. First. Not so much. And then, it's not technically the American national ideology.

There are "Socialist states of...". There are "Islamic states of...". Then there is "Democratic republic of..."

What's funny is that countries that claim they are democratic are usually not democratic either. North Korea is called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. But that would be another question.

Why does no country ever claim capitalism as their state ideology?

Why is there no "Capitalist Republic of America"?

  • 45
    Capitalism is an economic system, not an ideology. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Mar 28 '18 at 0:14
  • 17
    Capitalism has brought so much prosperity to so many people and so many poverty to so many more. Exactly like socialism or islamism. Your question seems charged. – user14448 Mar 28 '18 at 7:33
  • 12
    Because, as with bad breath, ideology is always what the other person has, and capitalism is considered "natural" by those who are able to define the terms. – henning -- reinstate Monica Mar 28 '18 at 8:29
  • 3
    Calling capitalism an ideology is just wrong, though some people do use it that way (An-Caps, corporatists, some libertarians, etc). Even calling it a "system" is a stretch. Capitalism describes a tool. A free market is a highly efficient process for the management of fungible and replaceable goods (bread, paper, lug nuts, etc). Once you start trading things of subjective quality/value (human life, societal good, etc), you rapidly create a system that actively encourages dishonest and unethical behavior to manipulate those markets. Capitalism does not have any inherent morality or ethics. – Tal Mar 28 '18 at 13:24
  • 3
    @henning - there's also Zizek's beautiful "ideology is that which we do not know that we know." – millimoose Mar 28 '18 at 13:46
46

There's two kinds of antonyms: opposites (left and right) and present/absent (light and dark, where dark describes the absence of light).

Capitalism is basically the default economic system. It has both good and bad aspects to it. Even in total anarchy, you'll find Capitalism in some form. Nobody establishes Capitalism. The reason it is the default is that it tends to be self-leveling in managing supply and demand (i.e. market forces).

Communism, for contrast, is a political philosophy that says the government should control the economy, with the theory being that Capitalism is inherently unfair. The goal of Communism is, more or less, to use the power of government to remove Capitalism (in other words, create the absence of Capitalism). It does this by attempting to manage supply and demand with direct regulatory power (i.e. the state owns everything). This can, however, produce disastrous results.

Most modern states regulate Capitalism in some form. Those that want to aim more for the ideals espoused by Communism (i.e. Socialism), without the disastrous side effects, have states limit how much control they exert over various areas of the economy.

NOTE This is oversimplified for the sake of argument. The question pertains to why Capitalism isn't a political system. Don't get bogged down in the precise economic terms please.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Philipp Mar 29 '18 at 20:48
  • Note that communism was also an economic philosophy, claiming that capitalism is inherently inefficient while communism is perfectly efficient. You'll find few people trying to preach that today, though, unlike the "capitalism is unfair" aspect, even though they're kind of inseparable (Marx's theory of value etc.). – Luaan Mar 30 '18 at 8:33
  • You are making a confusion between capitalism (the private ownership of the means of production) and economic liberalism (A.K.A laissez-faire)! – Erwan Legrand Mar 30 '18 at 17:48
53

Why few/no countries claim capitalism as their ideology?

Why no country ever claims capitalism as their state ideology?

Capitalism is an economic system1,2, it's not an ideology per se (it could be treated as an ideology in a broader sense though).

Capitalism is also known as Free Market Economy2. So, the antonym of Capitalism should be Planned Economy3 or Command Economy4.

What's funny is that countries that claim they are democratic are usually not democratic either. North Korea is called the Democratic Republic of North Korea. But that would be another question.

This is because North Korea considers its system as democratic5,6.

For instance, communist Germany was known as German Democratic Republic (GDR)7. Chinese government also sees China as a democracy8.

Why there is no "Capitalist Republic of America"?

USA is a capitalistic and federal style democracy.

They could have named their country as the Federal Republic of America. But, they preferred to lionize their union (of states) and hence the name. That is the same reason why Russia is Russian Federation and not the Federal Republic of Russia.

Reference

  1. Capitalism - Wikipedia
  2. Capitalism - Encyclopaedia Britannica
  3. Planned economy
  4. Command Economy
  5. Why is North Korea called DPRK?
  6. Yes, There Are Elections in North Korea and Here's How They Work

  7. East Germany - Wikipedia

  8. Is democracy wrong for China? | Head to Head
  • 5
    Capitalism is as much an ideology as socialism, and communism is a socialist ideology, just like e.g. "laissez-faire" is a capitalistic ideology. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_ideology Your answer is directly contradicted by your sources. Saying "capitalism is not an ideology because it's an economic system" is like saying "monkeys are not animals because they are primates". – user5097 Mar 27 '18 at 10:14
  • 3
    @NajibIdrissi, it's not an ideology per se, but its treated as an ideology. For instance, Prince Phillip is not God, but he is still worshipped. express.co.uk/news/royal/439264/… – user17569 Mar 27 '18 at 10:23
  • 15
    Prince Phillip is not God -> citation needed. – Evargalo Mar 27 '18 at 13:17
  • 10
    Whoa there, I would be careful about equating capitalism with a free market. To me, a capitalist system does not necessarily require or lead to a free market. – pipe Mar 27 '18 at 15:11
  • 4
    There was no "communist Germany". If you can't grasp the difference between communism and socialism and between theory and practice you may want to read up on both. The closest to communism envisioned by Marx and Engels was the war communism in Russia in the 1920s. And presumably the inventors would have found that to be quite the corruption of their ideas. Besides, several Western democracies openly call themselves "representative". So false labeling isn't exactly monopolized by only one side or the other. – 0xC0000022L Mar 27 '18 at 21:14
12

Capitalism is not a form of government, or even a governmental ideology. It is an economic ideology.

Democracy is the governmental ideology behind most capitalist nations.

  • 1
    This answer would benefit from further explanation and references. – bytebuster Mar 27 '18 at 5:48
  • 15
    Democracy is the governmental ideology behind most capitalist nations. Citation needed. – user5097 Mar 27 '18 at 10:12
  • 4
    Most dictatorships "use" capitalism... – Mafii Mar 27 '18 at 15:19
  • 1
    It could also be argued that oligarchy is the governmental ideology behind most capitalist nations. I mean, there are elections in China, do you consider it a democracy? If not, then I think that you should avoid the phrase "Democracy is the governmental ideology behind most capitalist nations." – ANeves wants peace for Monica Mar 28 '18 at 14:02
8

Capitalism as we currently understand it in the modern sense is a political philosophy that requires the government to institute policies to create capitalist markets. For example, there is no way to create a joint-stock company without laws to establish them as legal entities and to regulate them. Read Debt: The First 5000 Years and specifically the part about the "Iron Law of Liberalism" for more details about the need for governments to create Capitalist Markets.

However, due to the fact that since the period of European Capitalist Colonialism (e.g. East India Company was a Joint-Stock Company) the dominant world system has been Capitalism. Since it was the default, there was no need call a country as such. Most socialist countries are called that in response to the default of Capitalism. Same thing with Islam, its not that their culture is more focus on religion but that those stats are established in response to previous secular rules. The Islamic Republic of Iran is called that in response to the more secular Shah that had been previously installed by the US & Britain. Afghanistan under Taliban rule was called "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" but that's after a secular Soviet invasion. Saudi Arabia's formal name on the other hand is "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" despite the fact that they are very religious because its not response to secular rule.

In a similar vein, when Bolivia changed its constitution in 2009 to give more power to its indigenous communities, it also changes it's formal name to the "Plurinational State of Bolivia" to recognize its multi-ethnic nature in contrast to previous domination by people with Spanish ancestry.

7

Out of 195 US recognized states, it seems there are these types, based solely on names:

  1. Republic
    • 81 use the word Republic.
    • 9 use the word Democratic, but all of those also use the word Republic
    • 2 use the word Socialist, but again all also use the word Republic, and 1 uses the word Democratic.
  2. Kingdoms
    • 18 use Kingdom
    • 3 use Principality
    • 1 uses Grand Duchy.
  3. Independent or cooperative
    • 3 use Commonwealth, which is ignorantly associated with Socialist at times, but is better understood as "once influenced by England".
    • 10 use some form of Federal, including 1 using Confederation, with 6 of them also using the word Republic.
    • 7 use the either Union or United, with 1 using Republic and 1 using Kingdom.
    • 9 use the word State.
    • 2 use the word Independent, both using the word State as well.
  4. Communist
    • 5 use the word People's, all of them also use Republic, and 3 of them also use the word Democratic.
  5. Religious
    • 4 use the word Islamic, with all of them using the word Republic again.
    • 1 uses the highly religious word Holy
  6. Unaffiliated
    • Most of the rest do not use any ideological words in their names.

If you look closely at any of those in the list above, there is no rhyme or reason why some of them would use the words they use in their official long names. There is no consistency in the use of these words in country names. Especially with the word Republic, some of these names do not accurately describe the the ideology of the state's government at all.

For example, take any of the Independent states under item 3. Many of them are quite capitalist, but the first thought for any of them when you see their names is probably "free from authoritarian government", not "capitalist". While at the same time, many of the Kingdoms are not the typical authoritarian types we'd imagine. Some of them are impeccably free, and some are more capitalist than others by a large degree.

But to actually answer your question, why do none of them use the word Capitalist? As others have said, capitalism is not viewed as much ideology as some of these other words. It's far more associated with economy rather than government, while many of the other words listed above are very much associated with government ideology. The word Capitalist comes from the word capital, as in money and property, and such was the limit of its use until 1850. Much of the modern meaning's early use was made by communist and socialist societal critics. These critics created ideology that centered around Socialism and Communism. Eventually, these ideologies bore new countries, and the names reflected that. Capitalism never bore a new country. It seems more of a default position. No revolution was fought and won over a communist state then reorganized and renamed as a capitalist state. Renaming "Capitalist Republic of ..." would make little sense. If the trend to use the word Capitalism as an ideology (perhaps defined mostly by minimal governmental interference), then maybe new states in the future will take the name, but it seems the Independent category already fills that need.

With all this in mind, it seems that naming countries descriptively is a failed practice. Perhaps naming a country is more of a populist effort. So even if a country did use the word Capitalist in its name, I wouldn't take it any more seriously than the word Republic.

  • 1
    Your list at the top is a good example of why Mr. Venn invented his Diagrams. – Oscar Bravo Mar 28 '18 at 11:56
  • 2
    First time I've ever seen a list of US-recognised states used to describe the extant nations in the world, outside of a US-specific political context, but I guess I should have known somebody would be doing so. UN-recognised states would be far more appropriate for your global audience. – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 28 '18 at 12:30
  • @lightness The names in that list are the names chosen by themselves, translated. The only difference you'll see is the UN list may contain a few more that the US doesn't recognize. Probably not that different. – 2578 Mar 28 '18 at 14:53
  • 10 differences at most en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states . I may rewrite, but it won't change this answer much, and surely not the conclusions. – 2578 Mar 28 '18 at 15:03
7

Short answer : because capitalism is a transversal marker and because most countries take for granted that they're capitalists. Why would you need to state that you're capitalistic when you feel like it's the default setting? (so much so that they sometimes don't even realize that they are -- just like you when you write "the US are not so much of a capitalistic country", which is hilarious).

So they focus on other aspects of their ideology: for example, within the world that relies on markets, they feel like their differences come from something else, such as their type of government (republic versus monarchy versus whatever) or within the muslim world they focus on their religious families (are we more sunnites or more hiites or etc.)

I would add that most countries switched to capitalism without realizing it. Capitalism as we know it is the result of moving away from manufactures (think of them as half-baked factories relying on large-scale craftsmanship and royal approval+funding). In countries such as France in happened alongside another big change which was more visible and more easily labelled (such as the Revolution and the institution of democracy as a Republic). It took over a century for people like Marx to pinpoint what actually happened, from a societal pespective; People like Adam Smith had analyzed very early the economical aspect of things but didn't see how much capitalism is intertweened in the philosophy and government system.

3

Apart from all the other answers, no nation should call itself "Capitalist Republic of ..." because there isn't currently any nation which is purely capitalistic. We mostly live in mixed economic systems, a mix of capitalistic and socialist rules, so we don't starve to death if we are poor or have to redistribute all our wealth if we are rich.

  • 2
    All of those "Democratic Republic of..." and "Socialist Republic of..." countries are mixed, too. One can identify by one's principles without being 100% pure (or even 10%; there's very little democracy in North Korea). – Jon of All Trades Mar 27 '18 at 14:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .