The Pyramid of Capitalism

A vintage poster from 1911 printed by the Industrial Worker, an American socialist publication, illustrating the Pyramid of Capitalism:

The Pyramid of Capitalism Poster


From The PBH NetworkHot On The Web
  1. TomYork says:

    Capitalism DOES NOT EXPLOIT the poor. In fact the poor benefit a great deal from increased living standards and increased wage.

    • laura says:

      you should check out the maquiladoras in juraez mexico. or read some anthropological studies of workers in Malaysia.

      • Anonymous says:

        Juarez, Mexico might have a capitalist state but its ran by drugs and the people who profit from them.

        • Anonymous says:

          That’s what capitalism is. A system ran completely by a business or businesses. So being run by drugs is still capitalism.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sometimes they do benefit, but not all the time. I’m writing a paper about this issue and I have done my research. I have to disagree with you.

    • Vicent Martinez says:

      They benefit when there’s regulations to ensure they benefit. Remove the regulations and laws protecting the worker, and you just have another version of aristocracy and serfdom. One just needs to look at American and European history during the 19th century to see the effects of unregulated capitalism on the worker. Ghettos of people living 15 to a room because the factories weren’t obligated to pay them a living wage, and so they didn’t. Rampant disease and mass polution because there weren’t any safety regulations. Con men selling snake oil to desperate mothers because there wasn’t any laws protecting the citizenry against charlatan profiteers. Industrial tycoons with legions of wage slaves (basically where your wages are so low that you simply cannot afford to find another job because the time it would take and loss of income would leave you destitute, homeless, and starving; you are effectively a slave). *That’s* capitalism. And that’s why it’s an abusive system that benefits a few. The increased living standards and better wages and healthier work conditions and all those other wonderful things many workers nowdays enjoy (but yet there are those who want to rabibly take us back to the 19th century conditions) were the result of legislations and movements to curb the effects of capitalism, not the result of capitalism itself.

  2. Bob says:

    “Capitalism DOES NOT EXPLOIT the poor. In fact the poor benefit a great deal from increased living standards and increased wage.”

    Says a capitalist

  3. Andrew says:

    Bob: Look at China. They’re Communist and yet their farmers haven’t benifited from the enormous wealth they’ve pulled in over the past few years.

    I also know a Russian immigrant who says Communisim doesn’t work.

  4. Bobsnob says:

    I also know an american who says capitalism doesn’t work.

  5. barag says:

    Russian communism ? American capitalism. But, both have had equal opportunities to fail, and have done so exceptionally.

  6. barag says:

    “Russian communism ? American capitalism”

    * Russian communism does not equal American capitalism.

  7. Kevin says:

    Andrew I think you mispelled something.

    Bob: Look at China. They’re CAPITALIST and yet their farmers haven’t benifited from the enormous wealth they’ve pulled in over the past few years.

    there I fixed it for you.

  8. kenya says:

    picture is mislabeled.
    That’s a picture for every single kind of government in the world. They’re all one and the same.

  9. Kathy says:

    doesn’t matter what -ism you choose, the pigs move into the house eventually. “No animal is to sleep in beds with sheets…”

  10. anne says:

    Images mixes up an economic structure with social and governing structures. Fail.

  11. Jesus says:

    Look at China. They’re CAPITALIST and their farmers HAVE benefitted from the enormous wealth they’ve pulled in over the past few years.

  12. Andy says:

    Capitalism that fuctions like corruption fails the people at the bottom (our current system)

    Communism that functions like corruption (china current system) fails the people at the bottom.

    The common thread is corruption. We must fight corruption in all its forms. Then capitism will work better. In order to do this we must have a government for the people by the people. Not one that gets sold to the highest bidder.

  13. Mike says:

    The main difference between communism and capitalism is that nobody can be more than anyone else in a communist society. For that very reason, as a former Romanian who escaped Ceaucescu back in the 80s told me, communism can never work because people simply don’t and won’t want to be equal. Some want to make more for themselves, and some really don’t care as long as they’re out of the rain and fed with some rags on their back. The stragglers of society deserve no free ride whatsoever from those who would work harder.

    Nobody has ever demonstrated, nor ever will demonstrate, a successful communist regime. The failings of both systems are rooted in corruption, and (as Andy says) are what needs to be fought against. It’s a pretty picture up at the top of the page, but it’s drawn by an exaggerating and blind fool.

  14. NS says:

    Under Capitalism, man exploits man. Under Communism, it’s vice versa.

  15. Julian says:

    “I do not mean for a moment that we ought not to think, and think hard, about improvements in our social and economic system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be mere moonshine unless we realize that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly.” — C. S. Lewis

  16. Helen says:

    ‘A Romanian from the 80’s told me…’
    Oh well, you obviously know what you’re talking about!

    Communism isn’t the only alternative to capitalism. And FYI there are no truely capitalist states anymore. So I guess it didn’t work either!

    In fact an American from the 60’s told me…

  17. compago says:

    note the “We Fool You” section is the (Tax Free with vast wealth) Abrahamic desert-myth God Religions. At least they help the poor, (in exchange for control)

  18. You says:

    You’re all missing the point with this communism talk.
    The folks who made this poster were anarcho-syndicalists.
    The IWW.

    Move beyond this binary political thought.

  19. This guy says:

    Socialism seems to work pretty well in Scandinavian countries. And that’s the only time the experiment in developed, democratic countries.

  20. pete says:

    Quite, communist countries are just “State Capitalism” anarchism all the way

  21. Ryan says:

    In capitalism man uses man, in socialism its the other way around.

  22. anthrodoc says:

    “Capitalism” (if it can be identified anywhere, just as “communism” as a type is hard to find) has only succeded (if you can call it that) by making sure that there is always someone at that bottom of that pyramid. Things have ‘succeeded” in the US for a large percentage of people, only because we could find cheap labor to take full advantage of in other parts of the world.

  23. Andrew says:

    Im sorry. China is a Socialist Republic and the farmers have definitely NOT benifited from their system although I am happy to hear that they’re government is giving more land rights to the farmers as well as their income being doubled.

  24. Bob Dobbs says:

    American capitalism has failed? How so..I am going to retire early with massive wealth by age 45…all built on my own from scratch….seems to work pretty well to me…

  25. Jeremy says:

    Yes, all the -isms end up being mere shells of their ideological selves. I hope we can all agree that their will always be those who haven’t benefited from the system, whether by lack of trying, or by missed opportunity. An individuals, success is gained by the aid of society and the benefits it provides (order, infrastructure, etc). If we admit that our success as an individual is not 100% based on our own efforts then we must also admit that, being a beneficiary, we are indebted to society. A portion of that debt is repaid by serving those less fortunate than ourselves. Another, by paying taxes to support the infrastructure and maintenance of order.

    If you interpret capitalism as every man for himself, then you misinterpret it, for what you are really speaking of is a lack of society, or perhaps anarchy. Capitalism depends on cooperation, interaction, and interdependence. When Bob Dobbs says “all built on my own from scratch” he is either delusional or in denial about the tremendous help that his upbringing and the role of society have played in his impressive success. No man is an island.

  26. Oh, hai says:

    Jeremy is a intelligent man.

  27. The CHZA says:

    This may have applied back when factory labor made the world go ’round but our economy is too complex for this stupid “RICH EXPLOIT POOR WORK POOR EXPLOITED POOR ANGRY POOR WILL SMASH” philosophy.

  28. JQ says:

    Corruption, powers closest brother, is, as stated by others, the only problem. Of this reason the only thing to debate is moral and ethics. Out of that discussion right and wrong is defined. While enforcing the right the wrong is denied, and here we have enforcers. These become corrupted by power, again and again.

  29. Jixer says:

    “You can’t fight city hall.” “Death and taxes.” “Don’t talk about politics or religion.” This is all the equivalent of enemy propaganda, rolling across the picket line. “Lay down, GI! Lay down, GI!”. We saw it all through the 20th Century. And now on the 21st Century, it’s time to stand up and realize, that we should NOT allow ourselves to be crammed into this rat maze. We should not SUBMIT to dehumanization. I don’t know about you, but I’m concerned with what’s happening in this world. I’m concerned with the structure. I’m concerned with the systems of control. Those that control my life, and those that seek to control it EVEN MORE! I want FREEDOM! That’s what I want, and that’s what YOU should want! It’s up to each and every one of us to turn loose of just some of the greed, the hatred, the envy, and yes, the insecurities, because that is the central mode of control, make us feel pathetic, small, so we’ll willingly give up our sovereignty, our liberty, our destiny. We have GOT to realize we’re being conditioned on a mass scale. Start challenging this corporate slave state! The 21st Century’s gonna be a new century! Not the century of slavery, not the century of lies and issues of no significance, of classism and statism, and all the rest of the modes of control… it’s gonna be the age of humankind, standing up for something PURE and something RIGHT! What a bunch of garbage, liberal, Democratic, conservative, Republican, it’s all there to control you, two sides of the same coin! Two management teams, bidding for control of the CEO job of Slavery Incorporated! The TRUTH is out there in front of you, but they lay out this buffet of LIES! I’m SICK of it, and I’M NOT GONNA TAKE A BITE OUT OF IT! DO YA GOT ME? Resistance is NOT futile, we’re gonna win this thing, humankind is too good, WE’RE NOT A BUNCH OF UNDERACHIEVERS, WE’RE GONNA STAND UP, AND WE’RE GONNA BE HUMAN BEINGS! WE’RE GONNA GET FIRED UP ABOUT THE REAL THINGS, THE THINGS THAT MATTER – CREATIVITY, AND THE *DYNAMIC* *HUMAN* *SPIRIT* THAT REFUSES TO *SUBMIT*! WELL THAT’S IT, that’s all I’ve got to say. It’s in your court now.” Alex Jones-The Waking Life

  30. Anonymous says:

    “This may have applied back when factory labor made the world go ’round but our economy is too complex for this stupid ‘RICH EXPLOIT POOR WORK POOR EXPLOITED POOR ANGRY POOR WILL SMASH’ philosophy.”

    Factory labor still makes the world go ’round, it’s just that it takes place in other countries.

  31. OhYouKnow says:

    My mother actully has this poster

  32. Masapena says:

    Hey! Can we just appreacite the propagandist genius of this poster and forget about it’s policy implications. This is one of the sweetest propaganda-thingies I’ve ever seen.

  33. A Smith says:

    Capitalism results in an unequal distribution of wealth.

    Communism results in an equal distribution of poverty.

    You choose.

  34. unknown says:

    From reading the comments I see some people have really bought into the whole American Dream with hook line and sinker.

    Though capitalism has it merits by promoting market competition which drives higher standards for living, and drives competitive pricing for commodities; however the down side is greed without measure. Perfect example is the Federal Trade Commission. Japanese companies are able to employ former American trade lawyers to defend their rights in the world trade disputes, subverting American companies which produce similar products. Though the Japanese products are cheaper to produce and therefore cheaper to the end user, the American company loses out because the American lawyers that once fought for them went to the highest bidder. Further examples can be found concerning internal business disputes who favour the larger American companies which produce their products abroad because of cheap labour, causing the American companies with domestic labour that produce more expensive alternatives to fail and layoff workers. Moreover this is the reason why doctors and health care in the US is only accessible to the moderately rich.

    Let’s face it, Communism failed, -and- Capitalism failed. Free Capitalism begets greed, and greed is what corrodes the fibre society. It’s a slow death, but we can now see in the current news the seed of it’s corruption.

    Unfortunately not everyone is moral, and that’s the problem. Entropy is the rule of the universe. The only way to curb greed induced by pure capitalism is a stronger government and a mix economy (like Canada). You would have less wars and starving kids if your Senate cared -less- about it’s presidential candidates’ previous war records or personal scandals, and concentrated more on which person has a definite and positive action plan to straighten the turmoil out.

    just making a comment.

  35. This is a true to life poster. Where Can I get one?

  36. bonecandy says:

    “Capitalism results in an unequal distribution of wealth.

    Communism results in an equal distribution of poverty.

    You choose.”

    I’ll choose neither, thanks. America isn’t completely capitalist right now anyway. We’re a mix! A mix of capitalism and socialism! Oh, and of course a dash of corruption :-/

  37. aether says:

    Look at China. They’re CAPITALIST and their communists HAVE NOT benefitted from the enormous wealth they’ve pulled in over the past few years.

  38. alphone says:

    I think we can all agree, after summarising and surmising upon the points heretofore established by commentators alike, that capitalism and its supporters needs to be viewed in the light of history and current events, allowing for new rhetoric and interpretations that history affords us in the fullness of time.

  39. ATLAS says:

    Anyone who doesn’t believe capitalism is better than socialism or communism should do themselves a favor and read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.

  40. hahaha wow says:

    I am guessing no one read the text in the top left… Industrial Unionism…talk about out of context responses.

    This is a pro union sign.

  41. Jeremy says:

    hahaha wow – why would you assume that? Have you ever entertained the idea that a conversation evolves? Perhaps this poster was a jumping off point for points to follow. And let’s be honest – what is a union if not an attempt by people to reign in the worst elements of capitalism?

  42. Peter says:

    I’ve seen farmers 30 years ago in China and farmers 2 years ago. I can tell you they have benefited tremendously. Unfortunately the distribution of wealth has benefited urban Chinese much more. Hopefully the proposed land reforms can curb the uneven distribution.

  43. Henry Ford says:

    Long live Capitalism!

  44. Donald says:

    @This guy

    “Socialism seems to work pretty well in Scandinavian countries. And that’s the only time the experiment in developed, democratic countries”

    Norway has a population of : 4,785,200
    Sweden : 9 234 209

    These are toy countries, with unrealistically manageable population sizes. Politicians aren’t strangers when a population is that small. Norway also has oil too which really makes it appear far more successful, but not every country lands with its bum in the butter.

    I have lived in Norway for 2.5 years. I can see why Scandinavia has the world’s highest suicide rates, and I attribute it to social (socialist) doctrine, not weather patterns (as they would have you believe).

    Socialism levels wages, but blindly. As an immigrant in Norway, leveled wages merely meant land owners (through inheritance) are another form of aristocracy. (Everyone earns (basically equally) peanuts in contrast to land value)

  45. terry says:

    Dont like capitalism? go live in the woods bish

  46. Stacy says:

    Given that only 9% of the US population like the direction the country is going in, where is the Revolution. Unlike 1776, 1789 or 1917, the current two-party dictatorship has everyone pacified into paralysis. If this was 1789, and AIG was holding a half-million-dollar fete in Orange County for its biggest sub-prime paper-writers, with the taxpayers footing the bill, Robespierre would be showing up about now with guillotine, and that whole AIG partying group would be minus their heads. *That* would curb the corporate appetite for greed in a second.

    For every executive that departs with millions after looting his sinking company, only the risk of a brutal death would have any impact on the ease with which they insult the American People. Right now they are giving all of us the big FINGER!, … as in, “Yes, we ripped you off and there’s nothing YOU can do about it!”

  47. Mike says:

    Helen, either your sarcasm is ridiculous or your lack of reading comprehension is too high. Either way, you did a great job of detracting from whatever point you think you had, which really wasn’t much of one. All I said was that communism doesn’t and can’t work due to human nature. I also said that the corruption in both systems is the real harm. That was obviously too much for you to mentally digest.

    (Hint 1: The Romanian fellow wasn’t from the 80s, he was born in 1973 and lived in Romania up until the late 80s. Of course, I can mention people from Slovakia, Ukraine, Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Russia and a few other places who all said the same thing as my Romanian friend, just not as succinctly.)

    (Hint 2 (for the rest of you): Please forgive Helen for her lack of reading comprehension.)

  48. Swift Johnson says:

    I there a such real thing as money? or it is just a symbol of the existing good and services available in the world at a given time. Since its known that these good and services are finite, how can we really justify the ambition to seek a disproportionately large share of these when most of the world goes without what we consider ‘basic essential needs’.

  49. Drew says:

    I’ve had some success introducing the following idea to people on “both sides” of the traditional (and thought-limiting) political spectrum:

    Tax land and abolish all other taxes. Make those who use land and natural resources pay the rent to the rest of humanity. Stop stealing the fruits of people’s labor at gunpoint, which is what the other taxes do.

    Moral reasoning: The Earth belongs to everyone. If you trace the ownership of nearly any bit of land back far enough, you’ll find someone taking it by violent force.

    Practical benefits: Increased equality without punishing success or discouraging investment. Natural incentive to build vertically instead of sprawling out, which is good for the environment. Expansion of services such as roads, sewers and bandwidth is paid for by the exact people who benefit from it, as these services increase the market value of their land. Disincentive to allow urban holdings to languish and become slums.

    That’s how I see people becoming free and prosperous. 🙂

  50. xavster says:

    At the end of the day, it’s just people… if they’re greedy in a capitalist society or a communist society… it’s PEOPLE.
    whatever -ism you choose, human nature will show in everyone of them.

  51. krizko says:

    Human nature is taught to you by your schools, and government. Who’s to say it is at all in human nature to be this way?

  52. Anonymous says:

    If greed is part of human nature, then so is generosity. If desire for control is part of human nature, then so is the will to destroy control. ETC ETC ETC.

    Fighting Capitalism doesn’t have to involve debate of who actually deserves the money and who doesn’t, but simply understanding the Capitalist system itself. That alone is disgusting enough. And don’t forget the Mutualists, they play a part in this… somewhere.

  53. myself says:

    This is truely capitalism.

  54. Capitalist says:

    Please, educate yourselves a little before blurting out nonsense.

    In capitalism, every man is entitled to his own life, liberty and property. This means that there can be no taxes in capitalism. If there are no taxes, how are the top four levels of this pyramid going to be funded?

    Don’t mistake corporate socialism with capitalism.

  55. Anonymous says:

    Am i taking crazy pills? Why is everyone and his brother comparing capitalism to communism? If you are going to make a relevant comparison, compare capitalism to socialism. Of course moderate capitalism wins if you compare it to extremem communism, just like socialism wins if you compare it to a laissez-faire system.

  56. Anonymous says:

    People against socialism and blindly for capitalism are FUCKING HILARIOUS. I’m not a socialist, I would prefer to takes what’s good from both and make something better, but anyone who just blindly proclaims they have the answer under one roof is a fucking lunatic.

  57. says:

    Pirámide del capitalismo…

    Una ilustración de 1747 sobre la pirámide del capitalismo…

  58. Capitalism says:

    Who the hell thinks America is capitalist? National socialist is a much more apt representation

  59. hefty says:

    who gives a shit what anything is called?

    take the best from all, and just do it.

    america does this to a good degree, then cries and gets angry when it realizes what its doing.

  60. freddie says:

    this is such a good picture. it is so exact. the money, the government, the religion, the military and the rich people is what capitalism is all about. and all the poor or middle class people have to deal with all that shit. FUCK CAPITALISM.

  61. Ender says:

    The Pyramid above does not depict Capitalism; it is a perfect picture of Mercantilism.

  62. TurdFace says:

    Because, after all, excess wealth, police states, theocracies, and authoritarian State rule only exist with free market economic systems.

  63. Anonymous says:

    TomYork, you are a jackass. In the Capitalist structure the means of production are owned by a small, generally idle, ruling class. The poor work the means of production and, as a result of the product of their labor being owned by the aforementioned ruling class, are only paid a small portion of their productive output. The vast majority of the wealth they create ends up in the hands of society’s elite (who produce nothing). Scarcity, among the working class, is maintained in order to coax them into laboring for the betterment of the wealthy and fighting unnecessary wars (among other forms of exploitation). Capitalism is a system by which blue-bloods rule this planet; so y’all can fuck off. I’ma buy me this fucking poster now, bitches.

  64. RogueMerc says:

    Not too bad. With a few minor rearrangements here and there and “capitalism” replaced with “statism” it would be far more accurate.

  65. […] courtesy Wikimedia Commons. The “Capitalist Pyramid” illustration at the top is a famous Industrial Workers of the World (Wobbly) poster from […]

  66. yigal laviv says:

    any way to print the piramide

  67. […] – Capytalism is dead: la piramide del capitalismo. […]

  68. Kelly Jacobs says:

    I used to work a minimum wage job- the only available today, at a place called Dollar General. Working my way through college. I didn’t get any government aid and my family is still to poor to help. My wisedom teeth got in bad shape and need to be filled. It took me two month’s worth of pay checks, the entire check, to get my teeth filled.
    By the time I could afford it the teeth had holes into the pulp. Food would actual jostle around in the tooth shell. They had to be pulled at a budget dentist. Meanwhile Dollar General makes millions upon millions in profit selling chinese goods.
    Tell me I am not explioted and I will tell you that you don’t know the meaning of the word.
    Today, I’m a writer. The money isn’t good but I’d rather be poor than worked to death for five bucks an hour after taxes dealing with a-hoel customers who want the moon on a silver platter and store robberies.
    Our nation need worker owned and operated manufacturing and an import embargo. Then we will have jobs. I am a communist and communim did not fail! The opressive government of the USSR failed, but not the communist economic model.

  69. Victor says:

    The problem is that..ok. In the capitalism we have corruption and poors and whatever..BUT HOW IN THE WORLD A LAZY DRAG WHO DON’T DO ANYTHING SHOULD HAVE THE SAME AS I HAVE IF I WORK LIKE A MULE???..thats the big problem.. I think everyone should have what he/she work’s for…So i think the best is the capitalism with its cons…

  70. Anonymous says:

    more like the pyramid of corporatism (gov’t and business working together)

  71. Hannah says:

    Essays like this are so important to broadening poeple’s horizons.

  72. Baron says:

    The debate above is full of dull assertions about ‘human nature,’ ‘capitalism,’ and ‘communism’.

    See what I did there.

  73. Of course the Rich Man exploites the poor man using their hunger and necesity to get rich, its like to say” You get rich and I get squash”..! the diference between what the poor produce and what he earns is what they say Plusworth (Plusvalia) that’s why come the acumulattion of capitals and/or profit (wealth), its a game thah never ever the poor (The Proletariat) its going to win no matter how hard the labor kill himself working, struggling by years and years, to survive, its THE VILE RAT RACE, puppets used and abused for life till your grave day, I must to add that all the laws are used to protect the rich man, even in front of justice the poor man its discriminated and totally ignored, if you rise your voice againts the “Powerfull” you loose, you never gonna win, anyplace, anytime generations after generations, everytime a poor child comes to the world its another SERVANT TO BE USED BY THE RICH MAN, Only I request God the serenity to handle things I can’t CHANGE, that’s why I LOVE GUNS AND ROSES “WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE” (USA)

    • Concerned says:

      This all stems from the old spice trading empire of europe in the 1400’s back then sending a ship to java was like mining on mars. If you came back with mars rocks the locals paid you a lot. Only now you are not going to mars. You have had hundreds of years to perfect you processes. You can sell us the stuff for less and expand in other areas (mars) yest you choose to rob the populace while paying them peanuts to dance your monkey dance. Capitalism can achieve some things in an expanding economy/society. Where we are now it breeds contempt from your blatant greed.

      • concerned says:

        The black death free’d serfs and created artisans/free labour in europe. lets pray you fucking leeches can let it go eh?

  74. […] vintage poster from 1911 printed by the Industrial Worker, an American socialist publication. Link Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted […]

  75. primal burn system…

    The Pyramid of Capitalism…

  76. Hi…

    really good post…

  77. get creative. write a headline that you…

    think will attract readers. and then test it here: advanced marketing institute’s headline analyzer will tell you just how emotional you’ve made your headline. and if you have a low score, you can tweak…

1 2
Hot On The Web