Voluntary trade between market participants at negotiated prices is not even close to the same thing as forced trade at forced prices where one person has a major power advantage (usually military dominance). In other words, capitalism is NOT imperialism.
Check out this video:
Some of my favorite lines from Dr. Stephen Davies:
Are capitalism and imperialism variations of the same thing?
In fact they are contradictory and opposed systems
What is capitalism?
Capitalism is the system of free exchange of goods and services between individuals on a voluntary basis under the rule of law and in a system of private property rights.
What is the contrast?
Imperialism is a system of relations based on power. Essentially it is a system in which certain groups of privileged people in one part of the world are able to extract unearned income from people in other parts of the world through the use of exploitative power relations.
What enforces imperialism?
The key to this is the use of political power, ultimately military power, to establish economic relationships which are involuntary and exploitative.
There is a pair of great illustrations that show the different relationships.
He uses the Netherlands (in Indonesia), England (in India), the U.S. (in the Caribbean and Central America) to illustrate:
You have a group of privileged people backed by the military power of the state establishing trade relationships with people in another part of the world which were not voluntary and were highly exploitative.
Not only are they not the same, they are opposites. From the conclusion:
Capitalism and Imperialism are not complementary, but contradictory and hostile systems of political, economic and social organization. Where one of them flourishes, the other has to decline.
Check out the video for more.
One of many lessons implied from the video is don’t blame capitalism for the damage caused by exploitative and ruthless empires.
Dr. Davies doesn’t develop the idea, but imperialism would lead to corruption and favoritism in the imperialist country.
The economic opportunities of everyone who is not part of the privileged group would shrink. Times are good if you are part of the “in” group. You’re one of the “outs”? Tough.