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.


  1. connornll


  2. citizen1111

    Thank you for bringing up united fruit!

  3. Kevin Burctoolla

    love this video best one ever.

  4. taschrant

    That was informative.

  5. Slade Sumners

    good video

  6. juliansfree

    We really need to get this argument out there. My views have been called neocolonialist before due to these confusions.

  7. Anonymous

    I believe the term
    capitalism has not lived up to its definition. Imperialism takes the blame it
    is easy to blame the winner of this fight. Capitalism must be redefined not the
    latter, Imperialism is a more realist static account of our global situation.
    Capitalism is trying to cleanse itself in this article, oh capitalisms profits
    are so innocent.

  8. Adam Fernandes

    I liked the little cartoon at the start of the video. Has the USA been imperialistic? Yes. I truly believe that Capitalism will live up to its definition. Currently, the USA is turning more and more Communistic, but after the next election, it should turn back to a true Capitalist state. 

  9. jcrescenzo

    Hey Jimmy this is the most ignorant comment about the free market and the simple solution is to get a dictionary. If you can read and you have a dictionary than understanding the difference between Capitalism and Imperialism is very simple to understand.

  10. jcrescenzo

    Socialism is Force. Hitler believed in Socialism so much that he forced his views onto individual citizens and he believed what he was doing was good for Germany. Milton Friedman explains this, by pointing out that even among evil dictators, the most dangerous, the most destructive – the most evil – were the ones who truly and honestly believed that what they were doing was for the good of their fellow humans.

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