Capitalism, as defined by our good friend Webster, is an economic system whereby private individuals deploy capital in industry - with the hopes of making a return on their investment. These concepts of (1) private property and (2) capital that can be deployed or allocated at the discretion of its owner are what make a system capitalistic.
Accordingly, a capitalist is someone who exists within this system, and who makes decisions regarding their own resources (time, money, property) in order to benefit their own self-interests. The question we're currently pondering is whether these descriptions adequately describe the majority of Americans today.
Is it accurate to say that most Americans today have a strong concept, understanding, and respect for private property? How could they when ours is a government that takes - by force - more than a third of the profits resulting from private production? In some cases this number is significantly higher than half. Do Americans really appreciate the deployment of private capital when they've elected a president - not once, but now twice - who contends that "you didn't build that"?
Likewise, can we honestly say that the majority of Americans make decisions based on their own self-interests? Consider for a moment the massive number of Americans who choose each year to enter college rather than stepping immediately into a well-paying blue collar job.
Many of these Americans, as a result of their decision, end up borrowing large sums of money in order to get an "education," and will spend the majority of their adult lives paying back their borrowings with interest. What's more, upon graduation roughly half won't be able to find work with compensation commensurate with their newfound qualifications - 20% won't be able to find any work at all.
Is it really true that these people are making decisions to benefit themselves - acting as capitalists? Or is it more appropriate to say that they are going with the crowd; that they're going to college because they've been told the must? Are they just going along to get along?
And it doesn't stop at higher education. After all, a capitalist is a person who makes decisions to benefit their own self-interest. There's an interesting point here: capitalists don't simply think about ways to benefit themselves; being a capitalist requires action.
How many of us have wonderful new ideas we never execute? Plans for new businesses that we never see through? How about ideas for inventions that we never design or build?
And why not? Isn't it true that in most cases - if we're honest with ourselves - it's because we're too scared to take the risk? Aren't we simply too satisfied with the status quo to take the risks required to improve our stations in life?
Among other much more obvious definitions, a child has been characterized (again by Webster) as someone strongly influenced by another person or simply by circumstances. In other words, a child is someone whose decisions are guided by outside factors as opposed to their own will and desires.
So are we really a society of capitalists? Or are children running the show?