: [H]ow was capitalism founded on liberal principles? Seems to me it was founded on conservative principles: keeping wealth and power in the hands of the wealthy and powerful.
You eternalize capitalism.
The 'wealthy and poweful' have, in fact, not always been the same class. Once they were the feudal monarchs who chained the peasant to the land, directly sucking up his surplus-labor.
The nascent bourgeoisie united themselves and the peasant masses under the liberal banner of freedom: freedom for peasants to work their own land, freedom for the bourgeoisie to develop industry (and capitalism) THUS freedom for the capitalists to gain hegemony over the peasants (because the socialized labor of the capitalist industry bankrupts the subsistence labor of the isolated peasant in due time) and, after the peasnts have lost their little plots of land to usurers and banks (if not bourgeois legislation for enclosure which speeds up the process), the 'freedom' of peasants from the land, i.e. the 'freedom' to sell the only thing they have left, their labor-power.
That, in a nutshell, is the liberal process of 'freedom.'
So! We see how the bourgeoisie originally had a progressive historical mission---to abolish feudalism. We can also see, soon after, how the bourgeoisie consolidated its gains and turned on its former ally as it insured its class hegemony. One day it's freedom for all, the next it's freedom only for those who can keep their private holdings safe from the rapacious tentacles of large-scale capitalists. The NEW 'wealthy and powerful' free the peasant from the land, indirectly sucking up his surplus-labor as a result of that 'freeing.'
The small capitalists always perish by the very thing they risk their lives to protect: capital.