People regularly confuse capitalism with monopolism. Adam Smith was correct when he pointed out that money has to be free to send signals otherwise no one knows what to produce nor how much to produce. Smith also pointed out that unless governments act to intervene, the wealthy and powerful will form cabals to exploit everyone else. In the USA the government sells itself to the highest bidder and has done for centuries — hence Twain’s famous remark that “America has the best government money can buy.”
Europe has plenty of capitalism. But governments in Europe have, until recently, focused on mitigating the baleful effects of rampant corruption. Hence all the social goods and resulting social cohesion.
The big reason why the USA is so warped and why people in the USA are so unhappy and fearful all the time is simply because the USA was unintentionally founded on the principle that money is everything and everything else is nothing. De Toqueville noted this more than two centuries ago and nothing has changed since. This is because the USA has been populated by generations of peasants who left their native countries in order to seek more material wealth in the USA. This created the amazing economic dynamism of the USA but unfortunately led to a situation where there’s nothing whatsoever to counter-balance it.
Rich people in the USA “do culture” merely as a way of showing they can afford the price of a box at the opera. But few actually have any interest in arts, ideas, or anything beyond making even more money than they already have. No one planned it this way, but it’s the inevitable outcome of a nation filled with people who were desperately poor and above all else wanted financial security. Peasants don’t care about art or ideas; they care about tangible wealth. That is entirely understandable — being homeless and hungry is truly awful. The USA, however, is a totally unbalanced society as a result.
Add in the fact that all news media is sensation-driven in order to grab eyeballs and thereby boost ad revenues, and you get an economic model that drives endless fear. This has nothing whatsoever to do with “capitalism” per say but everything to do with a government that abdicated its social responsibilities nearly as soon as it was constituted back in the late 1700s.
I’ve just spent the last 9 months in Europe after 27 years in the USA. And I don’t want to go back.