Sunday, August 24, 2014


You may have heard a Bagger or a talk radio gasbag claim that the Constitution enshrines capitalism so I decided to use the OED to see when the word "capitalism" was first used.  Below are the results and it turn out that the word if not the concept was first used in 1833, 44 years after the enactment of the Constitution. 

capitalism, n.2

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Etymology:  < capital n.2 + -ism suffix, after capitalist n.
Compare French capitalisme ... (Show More)

  The possession of capital or wealth; an economic system in which private capital or wealth is used in the production or distribution of goods and prices are determined mainly in a free market; the dominance of private owners of capital and of production for profit. Cf. capitalist n., socialism n. 2.Sometimes used depreciatively.
Freq. with modifying term; for anarcho-, anti-, market, monopoly, popular, pro-, state, venture, welfare capitalism: see the first element.

1833   Standard 23 Apr.,   Whatever tended to paralyse British industry could not but produce corresponding injury to France; when the same tyranny of capitalism which first produced the disease would be at hand to inflame the symptoms by holding out promises of loans, &c.
1848   Caledonian Mercury 25 Sept.,   That sweeping tide of capitalism and money-loving which threatens our country with the horrors of a plutocracy.
1884   Pall Mall Gaz. 11 Sept. 6/1   A loophole for capitalism to creep in upon the primitive Christian communism.
1894   S. Gompers in J. Swinton Striking for Life 318   When the time comes, if it does come, for the displacement of the barbarity of capitalism to make way for humane conditions it will be accomplished by men whose heads are as cool as their hearts are warm.
1908   Polit. Sci. Q. 23 670   Socialism..will step into its heritage when capitalism..has created a thoroughly proletarized, class-conscious and revolutionary population.
1919   Amer. Jrnl. Sociol. 24 371   The beginnings of capitalism in England are to be traced to the thrifty manufacturing middle class.
1969   Listener 28 Aug. 267/1   Can capitalism..achieve the rate of growth that planning in a really publicly-owned economy has achieved?
1986   H. J. Maroney Feminism at Work in J. Mitchell & A. Oakley What is Feminism? 119   Kinship networks have also traditionally provided a support base for working-class struggles. Their steady disintegration in late capitalism thus has a mixed import for class-based politics.
2010   N.Y. Times (National ed.) 15 June a25/3   The rivalry between democratic capitalism and state capitalism is not like the rivalry between capitalism and communism.

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