The shift to the left of the democrat party and the policies and programs being advocated by its Presidential candidates has rekindled the century old debate between capitalism and socialism. Although the debate was settled during the 20th century in favor of capitalism, it might be beneficial to revisit it.
What are capitalism and socialism? Capitalism and socialism are political and economic systems.
Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production and the distribution of goods and services is determined by the free market. The free market is comprised of individual people who exchange their skills and labor for the goods and services which the market produces. It is a free enterprise system; people working in voluntary cooperation with each other to determine what products are produced, and the prices of those goods and services.
Socialism is an economic system in which the means of production and the distribution of goods and services is determined by a central planning authority. There is no private ownership of property in socialism. All decisions concerning production, distribution and pricing are made by the government. In a socialist system the people rely upon the state for everything from food and housing to education and healthcare.
The initial justification of socialism was that it was a more efficient way to control the means of production. The experience of the 20th century has proven that wrong. Russia, Greece, Spain and most recently Venezuela, are just a few of the many countries that ruined their economies pursuing a socialist utopia. As an economic system socialism is an abysmal failure; poverty, despair and famine are its legacy, want, deprivation and tyranny are its guarantee. There is not an honest economist on the planet that would argue that socialism is the superior economic system.
Next the advocates of socialism argued that it was a more just and humane system. Again, the 20th century begs to differ. The biggest abusers and violators of human rights during the 20th century were the communist and socialist nations. Russia, China, North Korea and Cambodia alone murdered and starved over 100 million of their own people. Socialism consolidates the wealth and power in the hands of the ruling class and crushes the common man. The widest disparities between the rich and poor are in the socialist countries of the world. It is a system that entitles the few, at the expense of the many.
Despite this inconvenient truth of history, socialists are now telling us that we must embrace socialism to combat the existential threat of “climate change.” If we don’t surrender the economy to their rule the planet is destined for an ecological meltdown. Well, it’s been almost 50-years since the “global warming” alarm first sounded with its apocalyptic predictions. Have any of them come true? The polar icecap has not melted, 200 million people a year are not dying of starvation, and Manhattan is not under water. So, no! That’s not to say that human beings cannot adversely impact the environment, but the belief that we must surrender our economic freedom to a socialist state to save the planet is insane.
Most socialist begrudgingly acknowledge the historical failure of socialism but insist its failure is not due to a fundamental flaw in the system, but to the ineptitude of those who tried to implement it. However, this time they assure us they will succeed because they represent the new generation of democratic socialists who are more compassionate, enlightened and dedicated to the common good. They are totally sincere in this belief, which is why they are so extremely dangerous. They believe that the free market is too messy and disorganized, and that only woke socialism can bring it under control and guarantee social justice for all. But remember, the free market is the people, that’s you and me. Socialist believe that they have the right and responsibility to tell the rest of us how to live our lives, and the obligation to force their will upon us if we don’t comply. Socialism is not about economic prosperity, social justice or saving the planet. It’s about power.
The major criticism of capitalism is that it breeds corruption by giving the powerful and influential the ability to manipulate the system. There is an element of truth to that, but corruption is not an innate characteristic of capitalism. Corruption is an innate characteristic of human nature. All human beings are corrupt. We all single-mindedly pursue our own self-interest. Lord Acton put it best, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” People with power will abuse that power.
So how do you solve the problem of human corruption? By taking away the power from the people and consolidating it in the hands of a ruling class that’s absolutely guaranteed to abuse it? That’s the socialist’s solution. However, history teaches us that giving more power and authority to the government never works out for the benefit of the people.
Capitalism is superior to socialism because it is theologically sound. God did not create collectives, politburos, or bureaus for economic planning. God created individual human beings with an intellect, a conscience and the free-will to make our own decisions. We were not created to be subjects of the state or the servants of the ruling class. We are autonomous moral beings, the sovereigns and rulers of our own lives, endowed with the right to reach as far, and to rise as high as our talents, abilities and ambitions allow. Capitalism is the only economic system that gives the common man the opportunity to realize their potential in accordance with the divine design of the creator.
The verdict of history is clear; no economic system yet devised or discovered by man has provided more opportunity, created more wealth and prosperity, lifted more people out of poverty, and improved the lives of the common man more than capitalism.