Capitalist Countries: Definition & List

Capitalism is a powerful ideology in the world today. In this lesson, we’re going to explore some of the major capitalist countries and see how they each define this concept.
Capitalism. For a period in the 20th century, there were few words as politically powerful. While many people alive today don’t remember too much of the Cold War, the United States spent nearly 40 years aggressively defending this concept against opposing ideologies. So, what is it? A capitalist economy is one in which the means of production are controlled by private businesses. Basically, individual citizens run the economy, while the government has no role in production or prices.
Instead, prices are set by the free market, in which value is determined by supply and demand, or the relationship between private producers and private consumers. Traditionally, this has been seen as an important part of American democracy, representing the ability of anyone to control their own economic fate. To Americans across the last century, it was an idea worth fighting for.
Capitalist Nations
So where can capitalism be found today? The most honest answer is: everywhere. We live in an increasingly globalized economy, which is based on an international free market since there is no single government with the authority to control means of production or value of commodities for the world.
So the international economy is basically capitalist and nearly every nation in the world today practices some form of capitalism on the global scale. However, not all of these nations practice capitalism on the domestic scale. Traditionally, capitalism was associated with Western Europe, where the terms and ideas we associate with capitalism were first developed.
Ever since the Cold War, though, the real champion of capitalism has been the United States, one of the most strictly capitalist nations in the world today. Many Americans remain devoted to the ideologies and institutions of capitalism, especially private property, seeing it as an integral part of the American democratic experience.
While the USA may well be one of the world’s most capitalist nations, even the USA is not 100% committed to capitalism. After all, some government regulation of private businesses is allowed. This is important to remember. Capitalism comes in various shapes and sizes. Every country has its own model.
The Nordic Model
We mentioned that Europe was once traditionally associated with pure capitalism, so what happened? In the 20th century, many Northern European nations switched to the Nordic model of capitalism, which many Americans tend to confuse with socialism.
In this model, citizens pay very high tax rates but also receive abundant social welfare programs from the government, including universal healthcare. The government is heavily involved in social issues, hence the tendency to mistake this for socialism, but the basic economic structure is still capitalist, with the vast majority of industries controlled by private business and a free market.
The Nordic Model is most prominent in the nations of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, but it’s set a precedent that’s being adopted to some degree across most of Europe. Even Great Britain and Germany, traditionally very strongly capitalist nations, have transitioned into a more socially active system. In North America, Canada is the closest to the Nordic model, providing universal healthcare and other government welfare services to its citizens.
Mixed Economies
Other nations around the world have embraced capitalism to a lesser degree, while also developing socialist, Marxist, or communist economic practices. We call this a mixed economy. One of the biggest examples of this can be found in India. Here, a free market economy stands as the basis for most businesses, but there are some industries that are entirely owned and controlled by the government. For example, Indian Railways is the nation’s premier company in charge of railroad transportation. It is entirely owned and operated by the government. That’s what socialism actually means, not just that the government is involved in welfare.
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