Capitalism Is NOT Imperialism
Many people believe capitalism and imperialism are the same thing, or at least closely related. Professor Stephen Davies explains that this is not the case. While capitalism is based on voluntary exchange that benefits all parties involved, imperialism is based on exploitation and the exercise of political power, generally backed by a military force.
We can see that capitalism and imperialism differ by looking at the history of empires in the world and examining trade patterns. Empires have existed for the whole of human history, long before the development of capitalism. Imperialism has led to the impoverishment of people and bears the blame for terrible famines, especially during the Victorian period in India. Under capitalism, we would expect to see global free trade between many countries, not just from world powers to less-developed countries, but also between less-developed countries. This does not happen under imperialism.
While capitalism and imperialism have been closely linked in the minds of many, the truth is that the two systems are at odds with one another. Where one system flourishes, the other cannot. Many negative things, such as political corruption, the exploitation of the poor, and mass famines, have been blamed on capitalism, but that blame is misplaced. Real capitalism should work to improve circumstances for the poor by voluntary exchange, but imperialism hurts the poor by political or military domination that enables countries or government-backed businesses to profit at others’ expense.
Imperialism as a Special Stage of Capitalism [article]: A chapter from Vladimir Lenin’s pamphlet Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, critiquing imperialism as a direct outgrowth of the capitalist system
State Imperialism and Capitalism [article]: Economist Joseph Schumpeter’s response to Lenin on the relationship between capitalism and imperialism, arguing that imperialism has feudal, pre-capitalist roots
Imperialism: Crash Course World History (video): A rapid-fire, hilarious crash course on European imperialism
The Case for Free Trade, Not Imperialism (video): Economist Walter Block makes the Austrian/Anarcho-Capitalist case for free trade and against imperialism
Desert Island Game (game, beginner): Can you learn something about trade and cooperation by being marooned on a desert island?
Trade Ruler (game, advanced): As the Supreme Ruler of an island, you want the country to prosper. By engaging in international trade, you can achieve this goal.