It was Karl Marx, the communist philosopher, who may have been the first to coin the term "capitalism" and he did not mean it as a compliment. Marx's view of capitalism was that a small cadre of wealthy exploiters controlled the means of production – society's "capital" – and that until this control was wrested away from this tiny exploitative group, the masses of society would remain impoverished and exploited.
There is actually a good deal of truth to this analysis. In modern Western cultures it is amply evident that a small group of intergenerational banking families have exercised "money power" to control society and generate ever more centralized global governance. A one-world order is apparently the goal and "capitalism" is the mechanism to realize it.
Capitalism, as it might be defined in the 21st century, has little to do with free markets or laissez faire economics. In a free-market society, there is a dearth of controlling, State regulation; the market itself regulates through competition. Modern capitalism is intensely regulated. Through "regulatory democracy," a small, elite group is able to sustain its power, using the levers provided by law and regulation to generate immense profits that further increase its dominance. This system is also known as mercantilism.
Modern capitalism has certain hallmarks. Power is concentrated at the top where a handful of elites control the financial and industrial entities that make society run. Politics – western-style democracy – is offered to the masses as a way to control the nation-state's larger destiny but in reality the politicians have no control over the elite that run things from the shadows.
A major signature of capitalist societies is the central bank, which in the modern day prints money-from-nothing, thus giving intergenerational familial elites enormous power. With a virtually unlimited source of capital, elites have generated enormously hierarchical societies that masquerade as egalitarian ones.
The goal of elite-oriented modern capitalism is one-world government. Modern capitalism is intensely legalistic and often militarily aggressive. It makes use of all the tools of authoritarianism to continually centralize the system. Its industrial policies are carried forth by a tightly knit group of multinational corporations that espouse the same goals of global governance as the smaller, exclusive, familial elite itself. This noxious combination of militarism, corporatism and mercantilism – all coordinated by a tiny elite wielding money power – lies at the unfortunate heart of 21st century capitalism.
It could be said that capitalism has little or nothing to do with a free-market economy and that Adam Smith's Invisible Hand – naturally governing the marketplace – is increasingly in abeyance as capitalist systems evolve towards market authoritarianism. Capitalism, more than any other "ism," cloaks itself in the mantle of competition and egalitarianism while espousing neither when it comes to its actual implementation.