Capitalism is a dirty word for all the wrong reasons.
Capitalism is synonymous with greed, theft and all that is wrong with the corporate domination of society. To most people is ‘obviously’ means the pursuit of a profit above all legal and moral considerations, at the expense of the environment and basic human rights.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Greed and exploitation are not unique to an economic mode of action. We must look deeper at the meaning of capitalism to see what it is and what it is not.
Capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production. This means that individuals or groups of individuals have the freedom to accumulate capital (i.e. money, equipment etc) and engage in entrepreneurial activity.
Contrast this with socialism, where the means of all production MUST be ‘owned’ by a collective of individuals (i.e. workers or even the general public). In other words, you are not free to accumulate capital and start a business that would be owned entirely by you.
Social cooperation between collectives of individuals, to own and manage the means of production, can free occur under capitalism (and indeed it has throughout history). In contrast, no individual is permitted to own the means of production within a socialist commonwealth.
Which system is compatible with liberty and a free society? The answer has always been capitalism.
To find out more, read: http://mises.org/books/capitalism_kelly.pdf