09.30.2009 0

Barstool Economist: Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism

  • On: 10/14/2009 09:13:28
  • In: Economy

  • Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism

    By Justin Williams

    While the debates rage on with health care, cap-and-trade, and the overall role of government in the average American’s life, economic societal terms like “capitalism,” “socialism,” and “communism” often get careless bandied. Many on the right feel like America is on the move towards “socialism” and many on the left believe that “capitalism” is the root of all social ills.

    The only way to set the record straight is to understand the precise definitions of these terms and how are they being used in today’s rhetoric.

    Capitalism has been blamed for the Great Depression and the current financial crisis. It is often portrayed by the left as being full of greedy rich people who can control the nation with their wealth.

    The truth is, capitalism is simply private property as the means of production. In other words, an individual owns his or her land, and that individual owns all that is produced from it. The individual is then allowed to trade with other individuals who have used their private property to produce something of value.

    Of course, this works not only for land, but for labor, as well, as an individual owns the production of his or her labor privately.

    Socialism, on the other hand, is the term that is often used by the right to describe Barack Obama’s current policies, along with what is considered to be the economic system of Europe. Most Americans see it as a system of government with high taxes and massive government programs.

    But the truth is, socialism is what Marx considered to be the final stage before Communism. Its definition is state ownership of the means of production. That means the government must own an industry, making all workers government employees. This is what has been seen in the Soviet Union and is currently applied in North Korea.
    And last but not least, communism is the stage where the “state of man” changes and the state is no longer needed to enforce communal living. In other words, its envisions a utopian system where communal property serves as the means of production.

    This is what most people consider when they think of the Soviet Union and China. But, in fact, this was only their end goal. The idea of a communist society is so far-fetched that it has never even came close to manifesting itself. Instead, the propaganda mills of Stalin and Mao made people believe that they were instituting communism once they realized that it was not appearing after socialism.

    Many on the left today want what they envision as socialism-lite. They tell the average American, it will be much like France or Italy. But the truth is, socialism is the abolition of private property by whatever means necessary – and by whatever moniker it is peddled.

    Put in more individualistic terms, that means the proponents of socialism want to prevent Americans from owning the key materials that make “the American Dream” possible. They would prefer for those items to be state-owned and rationed to individuals “from each according to his ability; to each according to his needs.”

    So the next time the left calls for more government intervention, — or, in fact, the right wants purer capitalism– Americans must ask themselves: what is their own end goal? If it is to give the government control over every industry, and, in fact, individual, then socialism is the clear choice. If, on the other hand, it is to allow Americans to reap the fruit of their own labors, then capitalism is preferable option.

    In either case, the definitions must be as clear as the alternatives. For, as Mark Twain observed, a difference in terminology is the difference between “lightening bugs and lightening bolts.”

    Justin Williams is the Senior Commentary Editor of ALG News and, as always, accepts questions or comments at [email protected]


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