Overall, the interviews show a lack of understanding of what capitalism truly is or its origins. Most did not learn about capitalism in any depth in primary or high school. Of my three interviewees, two attended private school and one public school, and none of them had more than a rudimentary understanding of capitalism or how it functions, which shows that education across the board has failed in this area of history and economics.
I admit that before I began this class, I am not sure I would have been able to give an adequate answer to “what is your definition of capitalism.” Like myself, a number of people associated capitalism mainly with Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, the “robber barons” of the late nineteenth century. Although with these examples it is apparent that when taken to the extreme, unfettered capitalism leads to exploitation, as Carnegie and Rockefeller so well illustrate, people tend to not want a different economic system. Communism and socialism were the most common answer to other economic systems, though very few believed that they would be beneficial or successful, as history has shown. This relates to the fact that the majority of people interviewed see capitalism and democracy as naturally linked.
It is apparent how prevalent the “myth” of the self-made man, the entrepreneurial spirit that capitalism and democracy combine to make possible, continues to be in society today. Many people mention that capitalism often benefits those people with better resources and access to information, than it does less fortunate people, and although they see this as a problem, it is often justified as the nature of capitalism.
I found it interesting that a number of interviewees claimed that they did not have any experience with capitalism, when in truth, any consumer in the American market has interacted with capitalism. This shows that people generally do not have a full understanding of the United States’ economic system.