Ultimately, the results of the interviews show that Americans do not understand the meanings of capitalism and its origins or how it has changed over time.
The answers of the interviews were varied, but there were several reoccurring themes. One, those that have flourished under capitalism, usually white people with some form of a college education, have a belief in the capitalist system and praise it for working in their favor. For those who believe capitalism to be a positive force, the definitions of the system are generally that is a natural and a good fit for society.
Furthermore, those that been disadvantaged under the capitalist system have a better understanding of the systems pitfalls. For example, African Americans noted how racism has prohibited them from flourishing under capitalism. Also, those with disabilities, who are unable to compete in the market also noted the pitfalls of capitalism as well. Interestingly, while they noted that the system was set up to have losers and winners, even those who acknowledged that capitalism did not work to the advantage of certain demographics did not necessarily believe that capitalism wasn’t natural or a good fit.
Of all the interviewees, both those that have succeeded and those that have not succeeded under capitalism, many of them were unable to give an explanation as to why it was the case that capitalism meant that some groups were disadvantaged or change their minds about the nature of capitalism. Answers such as “well, life isn’t fair” or “I can’t criticize it because I benefit from it” were common answers.
Interestingly, most people were not taught about capitalism in various stages of their education; yet most had an answer to what they believed capitalism was and its history. Many believe that capitalism emerged in Europe in various stages of history—with the writings of Adam Smith, etc—and came to the United States during the colonial period. Yet, many also just had no idea. Furthermore, many interviews also point to the idea that democracy and capitalism are naturally tied together and therefore, capitalism is a natural fit for the United States. There were also several mentions of the age of Carnegie and Rockefeller as being some type of a golden age of capitalism, and that capitalism has become more regulated since then and therefore more inefficient. This contradicts the popular notion amongst many of the interviewees that capitalism is unregulated. Ultimately, this points to the fact that Americans do not understand how capitalism operates or has operated.