Capitalism. What, exactly, is it? Is it a process of running an economy? Or is it a philosophy, or a set of beliefs? And what, if anything, is the "opposite" of capitalism?
My take on popular American culture is that capitalism is regarded as both a way to run an economy and as a philosophy. I also think that, in popular American culture, the opposite of capitalism is communism. Socialism is the soft-form of communism, but it is still viewed as a form of stealing: stealing from those who have worked hard in order to give to those who do not work hard.
I also think that the specter of The Cold War is embedded deeply in American culture. And, since major social experiences typically live on for generations, our culture will carry the shadow of the Cold War for many decades into the future. The shadow of The Cold War provides us with the belief that "Communism and socialism are the enemies of Christianity and the enemies of capitalism, therefore capitalism is a Christian virtue."
This causes many Christians to view capitalism in a very uncritical way. After all, God clearly does not want us to have a communist or socialist society, therefore God must want us to have a capitalist society.
It might surprise some people to hear that I'm actually in favor of capitalism. I'm also in favor of socialist values and I don't think that the two are mutually exclusive.
But I don't believe in free-market, laissez-faire capitalism. I don't believe in the capitalist mantra that allowing capital and labor to flow into and out of sectors according to the laws of supply and demand will result in the greatest social good. I also don't believe in "trickle-down". As I say these things, I also acknowledge that the question of "How should an economy be regulated?" is a difficult one with no easy answers.
And, if I believe in socialism, I'd much rather that the socialism was embedded in our value system of how we want our society to behave. What I mean by that is that my dream is a society where there is a broad consensus that governments, communities and individuals will work to "love their neighbor".
In sum, I believe that capitalism can be used as an operating system to further an objective (philosophy) of "the greater good" or "loving one's neighbor". Using a capitalist operating system doesn't necessarily mean having to follow a survival-of-the-fittest philosophy. And pursuing a philosophy of "pursuit of the greater good" in our society doesn't necessarily have to mean top-down direction and, as far as I am concerned, it certainly doesn't imply iron-fisted totalitarianism.
I'm imagining at least one person saying that pursuing an approach of "loving one's neighbor" is not something that can be legislated, that it requires a conversion experience. I agree. But I am talking here about a Christian approach to the economy. But I also think that, to a large extent, European Socialism does embody more of a social consensus to love one's neighbor and to look out for the poor. I do believe that, however much empathy an American individual might have for those who are down on their luck, that as a society we believe in and embrace the pursuit of profits as the greatest social and spiritual good that we can collectively pursue.