Capitalism is based upon the ideas of the economist John Smith. Smith wrote in his book, The Wealth of Nations, about an economy free of government intervention. Each citizen can pursue his own best interest within the economy. In turn, the society would benefit without government becoming involved. The French term laissez faire, meaning "let them do", is generally used to describe Smith's capitalistic system. Smiths ideas are usually broken down into four basic ideas.
The first being that an individual should be responsible for his own prosperity. By doing so, he is lilley to be more productive and contribute more wealth and commodities into the economy. Second, the individual should be the one to decide how his resources are utilized. This also includes deciding how his profits from owning these items are used. If an individual has the freedom to spend his wealth on what he not only needs, but also on what he wants, he will strive to produce more revenue. Third, a society that has economic freedom creates competition.
Competition leads to a market where buyers and sellers can enter and exit as they please, commonly known as a free-market economy. This promotes growth in the specific market, as well as growth in the overall economy. The fourth and final idea is that the government should not be involved in the economy. Smith felt that the government should be limited to providing defense against foreign countries, while allowing it's citizens to control the economy. He did state that the government should make the rules, and decide if and when those rules are broken. Karl Marx could be considered completely opposite of Smith.
Known as the father of communism, Marx felt that a society whose economy was under complete government control would be the most prosperous. Communism was built around the belief of a classless society where the citizens collectively owned all resources. Workers would produce t the best of their ability and were paid upon their specific needs. In reality, today's communist societies contrast Marx's basic ideas and concepts.
The government tends to place it's needs before the needs of it's citizens. As a result, shortages in consumer goods are common. The government not only sets the prices of all consumer goods, but also the wages. Unlike Marx's communist ideas today's communist government's do not have a single class but three distinct classes, the government, preferred professional, and the common man. In a socialist economy the government controls the industry that most benefit it. Banks, transportation, and utilities are all examples of this.
Unlike a communist society the workers in a socialist government are allowed to choose their own occupation. Some countries will even allow private ownership of less necessary business and resources. What goods are produced and distributed are based upon government goals. The idea behind a socialist economy is that of a society in which there is no poverty. Health care and other vital services are provided to all, and strong economic growth.