America’s Definition of Freedom

Ian is in his mid-fifties and co-owns a construction business. He is married and has three kids in some level of college. He has his general studies associate’s degree, and while he used to want to go back to school, he has lost that desire; but encourages his kids to complete their bachelor’s.

What is capitalism to you?

Capitalism is what allows me to make a decent living and pay for all three of my kids to go to college. 

What role do you see capitalism in your daily life?

Capitalism is a big part of my life because the economy is. I work for a business that is hired to build homes. People would not have the ability to spend their money to design and build a house if it would not for the freedom that allows people to spend their money on what and how they want. 

How do you think capitalism has changed over time?

The ability to spend money has gotten faster with new technology, although I still think checks are safer than sending your money out over the web. There are also a lot more self-started businesses and more ways to start businesses on your own than there were thirty years ago.

What do you think of other economic systems other than capitalism?

I think that other economic systems lack the freedom to make decisions about what to do with the money that you earned. I know that there is a whole debate about socialism and how better equality comes with socialism, but our reliance on the government grows. While it seems like that is not a big deal in the beginning, I see the definition of freedom in America changing from more government involvement in a socialist society.

How do you see people’s views of capitalism being generationally different?

The needs of capitalism shift based on what the needs of the people are at the time. Money and beliefs held different values in the past. Capitalism had to have some effect on changes in the economies of the past but how people use their money had and still has a larger effect on capitalism.


Ian seems to have realistically positive views on capitalism. He also discusses how people spend their money and the importance of them being able to spend their earned money how they wish is important to the continuing flow of the economy. Overall I think that he does believe that capitalism is the best choice of economic system for America. 

Freedom for us Regular People

Shay is in her mid-twenties and she just graduated with a bachelor’s in art. She currently has a part-time job at a coffee shop and is pursuing starting her own business.

Do you think that capitalism is beneficial to your life?

I feel inclined to say yes, I don’t really know s*** about other economic systems. But like, I want to start my own shop and I think that that is a positive for capitalism because I can do that. There is a freedom that comes with capitalism for us regular people.

How do you think that capitalism impacts the economy?

As long as everyone participates in the economy I’d say it helps keep money moving. I don’t have any specifics because capitalism and the economy are the same thing for me.

How do you think that capitalism interacts with the media?

One of capitalism’s biggest resources is the media. People put so much money and thought into advertisement that it’s no wonder that it became a whole job field, but the media is, I’d say essential now for businesses to thrive. So you have the whole field of people working in advertisement that is a part of the economy, but then there’s the effect of good advertisement which increases sales which keeps capitalism moving.

What are positive/negative aspects of capitalism?

The biggest positive is the amount of freedom it allows for people to pave their own way in the world. I can’t say if the changes in prices are positive or negative, because like capitalism helps with the economy balancing on its own (ish.) But also the fact that everything in the economy is connected and influence each other, I could see one wrong move really taking the economy down, and I don’t want to deal with a Depression.

What do you think of other economic systems other than capitalism?

Like I said I don’t know much about other economic systems. The only one I have some knowledge on is socialism, and the only thing I can really remember I think is that the government would be in charge of the economy, and I don’t trust the government (or even one single group) to be in charge of the entire f****** economy. (She also added in later “I don’t like monopolies, they feel rude”)


Overall, Shay seems to have semi-solid beliefs from what she knows about capitalism, but was not afraid to show her uncertainty in her knowledge during the interview. It was also just really interesting to interview Shay partially because she is a good friend who I don’t have many serious conversations with, but because after she answered almost all of the questions she would say “hang on” and google something about capitalism to try and see if it would change what she thought or in her words “google is more reliable than my brain.”

The Middle Ground

“Lou” is a 33-year-old single father of two daughters, he works as a manager at a retail chain store. He was born and raised in Baltimore and has a bachelor’s degree in business.  

Can you define capitalism?

Capitalism is an economic system that lets private corporations control our economy.

How would you explain your feelings on or relationship with capitalism?

I don’t really think I have a specific relationship with capitalism, I haven’t known any other system. I have mixed feelings about it because I think that in theory it is better in comparison to other economic systems. But it lacks certain levels of stability and I have seen the struggles that that lack of stability can bring to people who are in lower economic classes. I tend to feel that somedays I can lean one way more than the other but for the most part I hang in the middle.

Do your views on capitalism match with what your parents’ thought are on capitalism?

I would say that they have a more cynical view than I do. They are the reason that I am wary of the stability of capitalism. Growing up we were barely living paycheck to paycheck, and now a few decades later they are consistently bringing up some issues that they have found with our economy. They have also explicitly told me how they do not believe in the idea that if you work hard, you can make a good like for yourself, which is definitely where I have different thoughts.

What are your thoughts on the idea of being able to make something of yourself if you work hard enough?

I do believe in the concept; I do think that there is a limit to how much you can achieve by working hard depending on the opportunities you are provided. But I had more opportunities than my parents did when they were my age and I honestly believe that having experienced the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck as a child and seeing the stress it caused my parents, it is something that I wanted to work hard to not have my own children have that experience. Which is something I definitely feel I have done.

What advice would you give your daughters when they are older about living in a capitalist economy?

I actually have started, I think teaching them would be a better term, teaching them about the benefits of working hard, but also making sure that they are aware of the financial decisions that they make and that they also work hard on building a savings, if only for emergencies. And while now the financial decisions I am helping my nine-year-old is make is that maybe it would be better to buy two different dolls instead of the same one even though (he quotes his daughter) “She is just so cool and cute and what more do I need?” I am hoping that one day when it comes to bigger decisions, she will be able to make the best choice for herself, her situation, and her future.


From the different interviews, I have conducted before I personally feel that “Lou’s” feelings on capitalism really do reflect the middle ground that many people stand on when it comes to capitalism. While he does not think he has a relationship with capitalism, I would say he does based on what he told me about his childhood (which I was told more of off the record) and how he hopes to help his children not feel that they have to learn about making money for survival, but for them to learn to make smart financial decisions in their future. I also had other questions planned than the last two but while we were talking I was interested in topics that he mentioned, like his children’s futures, and how he seemed to be able to see both sides of living in a capitalist economy.

An Unsure Member

EP is a 39-year-old construction worker for a small company. He is an immigrant who came to the country when he was 19 and has been a part of the American working class since then. He considers himself financially secure and comfortable in his current economic status.

When asked to define capitalism, EP described it as “money, buying and selling” but he admits that he isn’t very familiar with any formal definition of capitalism.

EP was then asked if he considered capitalism as a natural system and replied “I’m not sure, maybe, I know that there are rich people who earn their way, but, I don’t know, there are probably people who don’t.”

He was asked if he ever considered a different economic system. He explained that he never thought of another system, “it’s not something I think about, I know communism exists but I know that it’s not good, it has hurt my family.” EP explains that he isn’t necessarily interested in thinking in another system and that he would rather work in the system they are in.

Afterward, he was asked how he saw capitalism in his daily life. He said that he especially sees it at work, explaining that “I go to work every day and do what I do to earn money. I guess that’s what it is in my life.” He adds that he might also consider actions like purchasing things or working with his cryptocurrency wallet part of capitalism.

He was then asked how he thought capitalism was preserved and replied that he didn’t know. Expanding on that he described that “I don’t know how something like that would work. It works on its own, doesn’t it? Maybe people with money keep it going?”

Following that EP was asked what he thought about the system as a whole. His response was mixed and expressed that he benefitted from the system but he understood that it wasn’t perfect. He further explained “I know that there are bad things to it but I can’t complain, I live fine and better than I used to. There are people who don’t deserve what they have but I live good and it’s getting better for me.”

Throughout the interview, EP expressed that he wasn’t completely in tune with what capitalism is and at various points explained that he doesn’t have a complete answer for many of the questions. He was unsure of many of his answers to more technical questions but was more comfortable connecting the concept of capitalism to his own experiences.

He never directly gave a positive or negative description of capitalism and even when asked if liked it as a system he seemed unsure because he benefited from the system and is quite comfortable. However, he also says that he has lived through what would be considered the negative aspects of capitalism.

This conversation was interesting. EP’s perspective was unsure but was insightful as a perspective from someone that is a part of the working class. It is notable how EP doesn’t know how to consolidate the positive and negative of the system but overall is happy with his current situation.

A System for the Rich


My last interviewee is a white male in his late 20s (I will be referring to him as J). He has a high school education with some college education. He has a full-time job at a grocery store, working for the prepared foods section. I asked J a series of six questions to reveal his understanding of the history of capitalism. Among some of his answers, a common theme reveals what he knows about the history of capitalism.


Where do you see capitalism in action?

I’ve seen it in rich people getting really rich, with oil and railroads. People who are able capitalize on the opportunities in our country in the past and present. They wouldn’t have gotten rich if they were in a country that didn’t have capitalism as an economic system.

How do you think capitalism interacts with our economy?

More money in our economy is centered around a few wealthy people as opposed to having the money spread out throughout the country.

How do you see yourself in a capitalist society?

I see myself as a pawn in the corporate world because my type of role in society is expendable but a necessary piece to move along the economy.

What do you think of other economic systems other than capitalism?

I think people toss the words like socialism and communism around without understanding the what those ideas actually mean. If they don’t like something they accuse it as socialism so they don’t have to talk about it anymore; an attempt to make something out to be evil.

How do you see people’s views of capitalism being generationally different?

Leaders and current events of different time periods will determine how people during that time perceive their views of capitalism and the economy.

What do you think are some positive aspects of capitalism? What are some negative aspects?

I think the competition that comes from capitalism. You get the best product from people and companies trying to outdo each other. Fluctuations in the costs of goods can negatively impact our society.


J’s answers did not surprise me since I know him pretty well. While it took him some time to think about the questions compared to my other two interviewees, there is a clear answer to his understanding of the history of capitalism. J focused on the rich in some of his answers. He sees capitalism as a system where the rich keep getting richer and the poor get poorer. He specifically pointed out oil and railroads as examples of areas where the wealthy thrive. He sees that capitalism has not changed much over the course of our country. There is just a change in how and where the wealthy get their money. This understanding is present in his other answers as well. He sees himself as a “pawn” in society, especially when it comes to his job within a corporation. He sees that he is only there to make the CEOs richer. J’s understanding is that the history of capitalism is just a cycle of “pawns” working to make the rich richer while they remain poor.

50 Years of Work and Nothing to Show

The interviewee, referred to as BR, is a sixty-six-year-old man who works in a Purina cat-litter factory as a forklift driver. From far rural VA, BR has experience working on a dairy farm, several factories, and even owned his own business in lawn care. BR dropped out of high school to join the military to support his family when he was 17 years old after the family farm took a turn for the worse, and so his second job was driving trucks in Korea. He tried to build himself up with a successful business in lawn care, but the 2008 recession drove the business into the ground. His experience with capitalism throughout his life caused his perspective to change regarding the market and the system of labor. His disillusionment with capitalism provides a remarkably different outlook than the perspective of the previous interviewees, who were either college students or recent college graduates.

How do you define capitalism? 

How do I define capitalism? Easy. Capitalism is s**t, boy. It’s a dog-eat-dog system where cutthroat can’t even begin to describe the things someone will do to get an upper hand over somebody else. I’ve done it, but do I regret it? No, you have to play the system to survive in the system. Capitalism is individualism at its finest, let me tell you that. Nobody matters but yourself. 

How do you think capitalism impacts the economy? 

What do you mean how does capitalism impact the economy? That’s a stupid question, girl, capitalism is the only thing that impacts the economy. The economy is run on the system, and the system controls the end product. I learned one thing working at places like BJ’s or Purina, you are a cog in a great machine that pumps out money for people that aren’t you. The biggest machine of them all isn’t the government, it isn’t the economy, it’s what drives both of those things and that a theory, the theory of capitalism that somehow we adopted. 

How do you see yourself in a capitalistic economy? 

I tried to play the economy as an entrepreneur, but the system failed me. I had a very successful business mowing lawns and landscaping in Tennessee, catering to the rich. The 2008 Recession hit me hard, that no good Bush’s bad regulation caught up in the end. I used to see myself as an innovator, a man of business who was going to take the world by storm. Instead, I ended up jobless and almost homeless because of the system. Now I know I am just a cog in the machine like I said. 

What differentiates capitalism from other economic systems in your opinion? 

I wish I could answer that question. I don’t know much about any other economic systems; I was in Korea during the end of the Cold War, and that was about the end of my relationship with “commies.” I could not give a s**t what other economic systems there are because this is the one I have to deal with. 

How did your parents view capitalism? Does it differ from you? 

My parents were adults during the Great Depression, and that does a number on you. My mama used to save plastic baggies and rinse them out with water so that we could use them again. Stuff like that. Economic hardship does things to you. For a bunch of coal miners from Clintwood, [Virginia], you had to do everything you could to scrape by. The economic system wasn’t a concern. My parents dropped out of high school too, married real young. They didn’t see the bigger picture, they just saw the price for food and gas and knew they needed to cut corners to feed everyone. With that in mind, of course, my parents’ view of capitalism is different. I’d be offended if it wasn’t. 

Has capitalism been positive or detrimental to your life? 

I’d say detrimental, but I have food on the table and a roof over my head. It took forever to get here, but I am thankful for what I do have. But off the record? Officially detrimental. I lost my business, I almost lost my home, I’ve struggled to feed myself and my kids, and I have seen the way that the system has treated my kids. Poverty is harmful, and capitalism breeds it. So I guess that’s what I have to say on the matter.


BR is both cynical and realistic when it comes to his understanding of capitalism. Given what I knew of his experiences in the workforce, I was unsure which way he would go in regards to resenting or exalting capitalism. Instead, there is a gruff condemnation of the way that “the system,” as he calls it repeatedly, is run and how it is distributed. Dealing with poverty in both childhood and adulthood gives a different perspective to the fluctuations of the market and how it can impact your daily life personally. BR gives a detailed account of why he has to accept capitalism for what it is because it is the American economic system but bemoans the downfall of his business and the difficulties of working as someone without a high school diploma. BR says that he sees the “bigger picture” better than most Americans and that trying to keep up with the constant changes and influences feels nearly impossible. This perspective of capitalism, shaped by decades of hard manual labor and struggle, truly believes that our economy can only be run through capitalism. BR’s illuminating interview brought up several points regarding the cyclic nature of poverty and economic oppression, and he seems to feel that there is nothing he can do to change his status. Although it is a bit of a bleak outlook on capitalism, his past experiences warrant his doubts.

“It is a Scam”


LB is 24 and lives very comfortable. He is a software engineer for a large company and from what I know is finically independent. LB grew up in a middle-class family and his parents covered the cost of college leaving him with no debts. Also, LB found a job immediately out of college and has only moved up the ladder of success.

How do you define Capitalism?

“I believe capitalism is system in which companies and corporations set their own prices and wages for employees.” When asked it they believe America has historically been a Capitalistic country they responded, “I mean yeah … I think Capitalism is what our country is build off of. I believe it’s always been this way, but I also believe we have become too Capitalistic.” I asked the interviewee to elaborate on this, “There was a point when Capitalism worked in America. Everyone could get a job and afford a house, but now it’s becoming more and more difficult for people to be self-sustainable. I know a lot of people who have degrees in Computer Science or Economics, and they can’t find jobs and have to rely on their parents for financial support.”

How do you think your parents view Capitalism in comparison to you?

“I was just talking with my parents about this the other day. I think they use to admire it. My dad was reminiscing about how cheap everything used to be and there were so many opinions when it came to products, but now he has a much more cynical view. I think he is worried about me and how I am going to be able to afford to live and buy a house. My mother seems to still hold onto this American dream type Capitalism, were anything is possible when you work hard enough.” When asked why they have these two opposing views he answered, “I think it is because my father works health care so he has seen how expensive medicine has become because of greed and maybe even seen how people can’t afford treatment. My mother is an executive director of a company, so he is far removed from the financial burden people experience.”

What do you think are some positive aspects of capitalism? What are negative aspects?

“There are not many positive aspects, but I guess one would be it’s supposed to promote competition and companies strive to be the best and deliver better products than an economic system without capitalism. Negative aspects, and the biggest one for me, is cooperate greed makes everything expensive. I believe a lot of the time prices are inflated for no reason, but to increase profit margins. I think that capitalism is a system which is meant to keep the poor poor and rich rich.” I then asked if they believed its ways been this way, “No, I think it was originally created to just promote competition and make sure there was a product for everyone, but now it is a scam.”

What do you think of other economic systems other than Capitalism?

“I don’t know a whole lot about other economic systems. I know there are a lot of people who like Socialism, but again I don’t know a lot about it other than Bernie is one and it could offer free health care and college. But I also know Capitalism is a system which no longer works on its own and needs so sort of government involvement.”

Do you like Capitalism?

“No. At one point I might have said yes, but now that a few companies own everything it has lost all meaning. There is no more competition anymore and companies no longer need to work to be the best they just put out an expensive good product and a cheaper not so good product and call it a day.” I then asked if their opinion would be different if it was still the same as when their parents were growing up.  “Probably, but its hard to say. I think I might have been indifferent towards it instead of hating it.”


Originally, I interviewed this person because I believed they would give a pro capitalist stance because of the positions they are in and passing comments in the past, but I was wrong the interviewee clearly has a cynical view of Capitalism. Multiple time throughout the interview they would start getting loud while talking about why they did not like Capitalism, but they made it very clear before, during, and after the interview that they do not know much about economics, Capitalism, or other economic systems. However, I think this is particularly interesting because it shows that despite not knowing a better alternative people can still be critical and believe that there is a better way that we have not deployed yet. Also, I found it interesting how they kept comparing capitalism to how it was to how it is now. This is what led me to ask my last question of the interview to see if they just longed for the old days of Capitalism. Finally, he brought up this American dream type Capitalism. This was the first I hear someone mention Capitalism this way, and he made it very clear that this form of Capitalism is not longer achievable for the common people.

An Office Manager’s Perspective

Today I interviewed a 44-year-old, married woman who is an office manager for an insurance agency. She has never attended college but prides herself on making it this far in her career without a degree. She works hard at her job and tries to be a good leader for her team. When asked what she would like for people to know about her she replied, “I hate politics, the gym, and bacon!” These are the highlights from our interesting conversation.

What does capitalism mean to you?

“It’s a free market. You’re free to start businesses, trade, sell, and earn as much as you want (taxed of course) without the government or a higher power orchestrating what happens out there in the market. It’s the land of opportunity, or whatever that quote is.”

What is your role in capitalism?

“I buy things and pay bills which supports other businesses. I work for an agency who exchanges my time and sanity for a set wage every year so that I can continue to spend my money.”

Do you think that capitalism is beneficial to your life?

“I like the idea of uncapped potential. I mean, if you have lots of excess, you should share with those who are less fortunate, but I don’t like the idea of the government determining how much I should share on top of taxes. What’s the point of working your butt off if you don’t get to enjoy the rewards?”

Are you comparing capitalism with socialism as an alternative?

“Yeah. Don’t you share everything in socialism? Universal healthcare, education, and housing? Everyone pays for everyone to have access to those things. It sounds nice in theory, especially if you’re poor, but it sounds expensive as well.”

How do you think that capitalism impacts the economy?

“The economy depends on people spending and investing their money. Jobs and businesses depend on it as well.”

 How do you think capitalism has changed over time?

“It’s gotten easier to business with technology, I think. You can transfer money with a click of a button or a swipe of a credit card now. I don’t know how to write checks anymore! People seem to be more philanthropic now too. Lots of small businesses and big corporations all competing for your money. Insurance has definitely changed a lot in that aspect. “

How so?

“Insurance used to be small and local. It was a lot more personable. Now they can’t compete with these large companies who fluctuate rates based on the market and your credit score, and they have complicated algorithms to assess risk to get more money out of its customers. “

How do you think that capitalism interacts with the media?

“Like advertising? It’s crazy how much people spend to advertise and market their businesses. It works though! My employer spends a ton of money on marketing to bring in new policies every year. There is a lot of research that goes into how to grab people’s attention and get their buy in on what you’re selling in just a few seconds.”


Since my interviewee has worked in the business world for most of her adult life, she has a pretty good grasp on the motivations of capitalism. Her concept of what socialism entails is a bit fuzzier. When she thinks about capitalism over time, she compared it to a time before the internet when she had to write checks to pay for transactions instead of the bigger and longer picture, which I thought was interesting. The internet has come up in one of my previous interviews as well. Is the creation of the internet the pivotal moment when everything in our capitalist histories changed? The world seemed to be so much larger to me before the internet came and connected us all.

“… what’s not to like?”

My last interviewee I connected with is a college educated man born and raised in Virginia. Born in 1966, he attended a 4-year university and received a degree for marketing from the school’s college of business. Now, the interviewee is a Territory Manager for a nationally known insurance agency, specifically focusing on business insurance. These questions were ones that had come up in conversations before, so I generally knew what opinions would be shared, but it was interesting to hear from another person who had a business background. 

I started with the question that I have started all of my past interviews with: How do you define capitalism? (*interviewee yawns*) I would say it’s like a free market and being able to do what you want to do to have the freedom to make the money you want to make without any restrictions. Right off the bat, this is a pretty similar answer to the past interviews that I have had. This interviewee has the basic principles of capitalism down, but I was interested to see if there were any more opinions that would come out later in the interview. (I also have to laugh that this interview started out with a yawn!)

Next, I asked: Do you like capitalism? Yeah, what’s not to like? … it allows open market for almost anybody to make money in the way that they want to. It’s not all about the money, but it is also about the money… and the opportunity of making money. Capitalism is pretty much me telling myself how to live my life and having no one else tell me that, so yeah, I like it. I feel like this is an opinion that could be shared by people who are employed, in the middle class, college-educated, home owning, etc. crowd. This interviewee was someone who very obviously benefits from a capitalist system and therefore has more positive opinions than some others might. He hits the principle that at its root, capitalism is all about money. 

Following, I asked whether or not he believed that capitalism is inherent to society? (going even further, I asked whether or not he thought that it was specifically related to American society.) The interviewee stated, I think that countries are bound to have some form of economic principles, whatever they may be, and I happen to think that capitalism works for the most part. I think that America was basically founded on capitalist principles… I don’t know if it was for sure but the fact that we were under British rule and we found our way out of that was because we didn’t want to be under their thumb and wanted freedom… we found capitalism through that, I think. This was a question I had never asked in an interview before, but I think it was a productive one. I’m not really sure if I think a clear answer came out from this question, but I think it was good to add in the specifically related to America part… I think he was able to foundational he trace the beginnings of capitalism in our society, which is something that we’ve been doing throughout our readings and discussions this semester.

I then asked, What role do you see capitalism in your daily life? Responding, In my personal life, I think being able to buy the house I wanted to buy, being able to invest money into companies that I want to and not ones that others tell me to, to buy the car I wanted to, to give my kids an education… In my work life, I think all of my independent agents wanted to start and run their own companies, so that’s what they did to be able to work for themselves. They wanted to make as much or as little money as they wanted and wanted to do it themselves… there is no better example than an independent insurance agent that represents capitalism. My interviewee works for a very large, national insurance agency, and works with people from around the east coast to figure out how to best serve his customers. A lot of the people he works with have started their own agencies, which is an example of capitalism at work; a person seeking their own way of making money through their own means. 

Next, I asked: What are positive/negative aspects of capitalism? The interviewee listed off some points for positive with negative points following and then providing commentary: positives: you can do what you want, you can start your own business, you can make as much/little money as you want, you can mold your own future. Those are the biggest positives. The market also takes care of itself and things ebb and flow based on what people want… Just look at the gas prices during the pandemic and now and how wide things have swayed. There are some negatives too though… I think there is a lot of greed in capitalist society. I also think capitalism can cause a divide between the “haves and the have nots,” kind of like socioeconomic divides. I think this question relates to the question of whether or not this person likes capitalism. I would take his answer as yes, and these positives mentioned are why. He first said, “you can do what you want,” which is only so true; he can do what he wants because he was college-educated and is in the upper middle class and had opportunity from the get-go with the family that he was born into… not everyone is so lucky. The points about making your own money and starting your own business go along similarly; some people have privilege from the start and others do not. He seemed less sure about his negative points; he connects greed (which I would connect to consumerism) to capitalism and socioeconomic divides that can be connected to capitalism, but doesn’t necessarily experience that monetary divide, so this is not as strong as a negative as it could be for some people.

A question that has come up a lot in conversations in the past is, What do you think of other economic systems besides capitalism? He responded first discussing ideas that link to politics and stated: I don’t care for the way places like North Korea work… people do not have the same opportunities; you are just put into buckets and that’s what you have to do. Media is controlled and therefore everything is controlled. I don’t think there is as much room for people to do what they want to do or create their own path… economic forms other than capitalism can be suppressive. The interviewee then turned to talk about more economic systems, Thinking about socialism, I think of Bernie Sanders, he wants an environment where people are more equal and get the same access to things like healthcare, education, and stuff like that. That is what I think about when I think about socialism. There are certain parts of it that I don’t mind, but there has to be a means to pay for those benefits, and you can’t expect the government to pay for everything or else taxes would be through the roof. In my mind with socialism, you get all of the free stuff and pay more taxes for it, or with capitalism you pay for it yourself and people can do what they want and work hard for it. There are links to politics within this argument as well which is a whole another story… I think that it was interesting that my interviewee connected media to capitalism despite not being asked about it; the way things are portrayed have everything to do with marketing and business, so of course media controlled states could have the possibility of having different, and more controlled, economic systems. He also related the economic and political sides of capitalism when talking about American political figure Bernie Sanders and his closer-to-socialist ideas than the average American politician. This interviewee seems to be in the system that would do the most to benefit him (parts of capitalism), and not what would benefit each person and community as a whole (parts of socialism). 

A question that intrigues me each interview is, How is your parents view of capitalism different than yours? He responded, I don’t really think it is too different to be honest with you. I think my dad would define it the same way that I did… I think that generationally the more liberal values that are at play now and are way more common… and that more conservative views were more prevalent when they were younger that were closer to the purest capitalism. I think there has been a shift in values, and therefore a shift in ideas about economic systems like capitalism (and socialism). This question also brings in the relationship between politics and economics that definitely exists in our society. I personally don’t think that one could function to its full potential without the other. 

Overall, I would say that this interviewee has an okay idea of role that capitalism plays in their life and community, but I don’t feel as though they had a true understanding of the deep roots of capitalism in American society. That wasn’t necessarily something I asked about, but I was able to realize through the questions that I asked that those would not be the most relevant in this interview. I thought it was interesting that so much of this interview was centered around the relationship between politics and economics, when most of the other interviews have just been focused on just the economic side of capitalism. It was interesting to hear another interviewee talk about their perspective through a business lens and how capitalism influences the way that they do their work and live their life. I share some of these same views, but feel as though I am much more community-minded and focused at this point in my life; perhaps this will change as I leave college and step into the working world, but for now I am figuring out where my beliefs lie in this system. 

It’s Difficult to Define and Difficult to Defy

The interviewee is in her early twenties working at a startup company in Manhattan. She remarked, “that is such a loaded question,” in response to being asked to define capitalism. She described capitalism as “a system that assumes people want a lot of money.” The interviewee is a self-proclaimed artist who took on a full-time job at a company that sells a marketing product. Her thoughts on capitalism reflect someone who is self-aware of being caught up in hustle culture but whose aspirations to create films push her to continue working.

“I think younger people are warier of capitalism than older generations,” she stated. “The red scare and the cold war had everyone afraid of communism, so older people tend to think more highly of capitalism.” Though the interviewee claimed to be of a generation more critical of capitalism, she also added, “I’m good at making money, I think there are a lot of stupid people who are good at making money though.” She likes to disassociate herself with a crowd only interested in profit as she observed, “some people see making money as success.” However, she has a different way of defining success, she sees it as doing what you love, but she is aware that under capitalism, “you have to play by the rules.” She explained that working hard now and saving is how she will start her film career and get away from working for money in the future.

The interviewee has aspirations of ascending beyond the need to work for a living, but currently, she is discontent with her job. “I like my coworkers, but I hate what I do,” she remarked. “I feel guilty,” she added regarding her company. “I don’t like selling something that promotes hyper-consumerism.” She often worries about the repercussions of her job, “I don’t like selling something that subconsciously gets people to buy things they don’t need, it’s a waste of money and bad for the environment.” She continued on her concern for the environmental impacts of consumerism, “we market for products designed to break, and then people have to buy more things.” The drive of her company to market items for a profit often overlooks the repercussions of mass production and consumption. She feels her position in this system, while a tragedy of circumstance, is aiding the rise of consumerist culture.

The interviewee worries about whether the practices at the company where she works are ethical or justifiable, “many companies will put profit over almost anything if they can get away with it.” When asked if there was a better system, she responded, “As much as I question capitalism, there are no other systems that seem to work as well at such a large scale.” She also mentioned how, though many people see capitalism as a system of equal opportunity, this idea is far from the truth. She emphasized her fortune, “I got pretty lucky, I was born in an area with a good public education system and got to go to college. Not everyone gets that.”

Though the interviewee questions the moral implications of capitalism, there is no escape from her nine to five until she can reach her goal of becoming an independent filmmaker. And even then, “capitalism,” she sighed, “is not that simple.”