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Capitalism generally refers to an economic system in which the means of production are mostly privately  owned and operated for profit and in which distribution, production and pricing of goods and services are determined in a largely free market. It is usually considered to involve the right of individuals and groups of individuals acting as "legal persons" or corporations to trade capital goods, labor and money (see finance and credit). Theories of capitalism first developed in the context of the Industrial Revolution and the Cold War and were meant to explain, justify or criticise the private ownership of capital; to explain the operation of capitalistic markets; and to guide the application or elimination of government regulation of property and markets. (See economics, political economy, laissez-faire.)
Capitalist economic practices became institutionalized in Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries, although some features of capitalist organization existed in the ancient world. Capitalism has emerged as the Western world's dominant economic system since the decline of feudalism, which eroded traditional political and religious restraints on capitalist exchange. Since the Industrial Revolution, capitalism gradually spread from Europe, particularly from Britain, across political and cultural frontiers. In the 19th and 20th centuries, capitalism provided the main, but not exclusive, means of industrialization throughout much of the world.
The concept of capitalism has limited analytic value, given the great variety of historical cases over which it is applied, varying in time, geography, politics and culture. Some economists have specified a variety of different types of capitalism, depending on specifics of concentration of economic power and wealth, and methods of capital accumulation (Scott 2005). During the last century capitalism has been contrasted with centrally planned economies. Most developed countries are usually regarded as capitalist, but some are also often called mixed economies due to government ownership and regulation of production, trade, commerce, taxation, money-supply, and physical infrastructure.
Socialism as an economic system
The term "socialism& amp;quot; is often used to refer to an economic system characterized by state ownership of the means of production and distribution. In the Soviet Union, state ownership of productive property was combined with central planning. Down to the workplace level, Soviet economic planners decided what goods and services were to be produced, how they were to be produced, in what quantities, and at what prices they were to be sold (see economy of the Soviet Union). Soviet economic planning was touted as an alternative to allowing prices and production to be determined by the market through supply and demand. Especially during the Great Depression, many socialists considered Soviet-style planning a remedy to what they saw as the inherent flaws of capitalism, such as monopolies, business cycles, unemployment, vast inequalities in the distribution of wealth, and the exploitation of workers.
In the West, some economists, including Nobel laureates Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, argued that central planners could never match the overall information inherent in the decision-making throughout a market economy. Nor could enterprise managers in Soviet-style socialist economies match the motivation of private profit-driven entrepreneurs in a market economy (see the economic calculation problem). For these reasons, they argued that socialist planned economies would eventually fail.
Following the stagnation of the Soviet economy in the 1970s and 1980s, a number of socialists began to accept some of the critiques of state planning from Western market economists. Polish economist Oskar Lange, for example, was an early proponent of "market socialism."