Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Debates about socialism vs. capitalism

It seems most of these, so far as I can see, founder on definition. If, in order to have socialism, you have to have state control of all the means of production, the case for it gets difficult. If on the other hand, you think that any increase in government involvement in the economic system is "socialism," then such "socialism" is far easier to defend. What we now call Medicare was attacked by Ronald Reagan in the ads he did for the American Medical Association as socialized medicine. I am sure Social Security was called Socialist Security by its foes. Obamacare regulated the insurance industry more it had been regulated before and is often called socialistic. But I have an Obamacare-based health plan, and every month I make a premium payment to one of those money-grubbing, capitalist, profit-making corporations, corporations whose very existence would be illegal in countries that have truly socialized medicine.

47 comments:

Joe Hinman said...

There are three major terms. Communist means primarily either USSR *(Stalinism) or some other existing communist government, such a Cuba or China,or Trotskism.


Socialist is a general term that could mean anything from Sweden to China.

Social democrat means democracy with a social safety net, the prime example is Sweden.

Hugo Pelland said...

Exactly Victor. Healthcare is a good, specific example that can be debated.

Yelling "Socialist!" or "Capitslist!" is not a very useful argument, and so is saying either approach is incompatible with a specific religion.

Joe Hinman said...

I can see how it would matter to adherents of a given faith if socialism was opposed to that faith or was incompatible with it. But such is not the case. Although specific applications of socialism or capitalism can be violations of Christian ethics.

Joe Hinman said...

Hygo you are right about using socialism or capitalism as a scare word, that is useless.

Dave Duffy said...

In The United States that is an accurate definition of the debate, because through our accepted economic system we have produced enough wealth where citizens can debate government spending and regulation (sometimes without being called a racist). Worldwide, the debate is an actual debate about economic systems. So, it depends which debate you are addressing.

"Yelling 'Socialist!' or 'Capitslist!' is not a very useful argument, and so is saying either approach is incompatible with a specific religion."

Hugo, this bazaar projection of yelling religious people is also not useful to the debate about government spending and the taxation on a man's labor to pay for that spending.

Barry Sanders, the runner up in the DNC corrupted race, called himself a socialist. What do you think that means? Is he an American type socialist, or a worldwide type socialist? I don't know enough about his ideas. I just know he was screwed by the DNC (oh, I'm sorry, the Russian exposed this corruption--forget I said anything).

Starhopper said...

On another thread, bmiller wrote, "there is nothing necessarily non-Christian in the ownership of private property and individual industriousness and achievement."

True indeed, but that has nothing to do with our current economic system, which most definitely does not reward "individual industriousness and achievement". The family farm is dead, assimilated into Big Agro. The small shopkeeper has been annihilated by Walmart and Home Depot (etc.). The independent bookstore has been buried by Amazon.com. The small software developer is routinely crushed by the 3 or 4 companies that basically own Silicon Valley.

I have no idea by what term we ought to call what we all live under today, but it sure as hell ain't capitalism. And it's not socialism either.

Among the books I have read over the decades that have had the biggest impact on me is The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador by Joseph Mulligan, S.J., which I have read again and again, times without number. Along with Pope Francis' Laudato si', this book has basically provided a framework for how I view current world events. If you are truly interested in learning about the state of today's world and not just wanting to spout off about your own opinions, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

One Brow said...

we have produced enough wealth where citizens can debate government spending and regulation (sometimes without being called a racist).

I rarely see people being called a racist for debating government spending and regulation, unless they bring in race through the back door.

Barry Sanders, the runner up in the DNC corrupted race, called himself a socialist.

Was that before or after he retired from the NFL?

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders, who was not a Democrat until he decided to run for the Presidency, did indeed get poor treatment from a party he had refused to join for decades. For some reason, Democrats want Democrats to represent their party.

Dave Duffy said...

Starhopper. Sorry to break into your conversation with miller:

"...our current economic system...does not reward 'individual industriousness and achievement'".

I disagree with this Starhopper. Whether you are a manager at Walmart or a foreman at an agribusiness, you recognize hard workers from the slackers and find a way to reward the workers. If you can't, then your business is doomed.

I wish I had your recall of books that influenced me, but I remember reading how giant corporations improved the lives of millions of people, from Andrew Carnegie's steel which kept rail tracks from impaling riders and allowed high-rise buildings, to Rockefeller's gas that wouldn't explode and burn your house down. These corporations enabled young men working in back-braking, near starvation, family farms to having living wages in dwellings with indoor plumbing--with the added benefit that the technology improved the lives of average people.

Of course, like you, it's one in a slew of books that I remember reading and am thankful for the free public (socalist?) library I had in my home town.

Hugo Pelland said...

Dave Duffy said...
"In The United States that is an accurate definition of the debate, [...]. So, it depends which debate you are addressing."
Victor's post is clearly about the USA.

" Hugo, this bazaar projection of yelling religious people is..."
It's really bizarre you would think I was referring to religions people as the ones yelling. I think the confusion was because of the latter part of the comment: "so is saying either approach is incompatible with a specific religion." which is a completely different point. So, to be clear, I was making 2 points:

1) Yelling "Socialist!" or "Capitalist!" is not a very useful argument. This means that if someone is debating a specific topic, such as the Medicare program Victor used in the post, it is not relevant to state 'That's Socialist!' as if that makes the idea wrong, nor is it relevant to state 'That's Capitalist!' for the same reason. Modern successful economies are all mostly Capitalist with various level of government involvement. Each action is to be judged on its on merit, or lack thereof.

2) Neither Socialism nor Capitalism, taken purely as economics' sets of principles, is incompatible with any religion, unless the religion itself is somehow explicitly against a system for whatever reason. But Christianity is the obvious focus here and I don't see the relevance as all kinds of opinions exist; more or less religious and more or less favorable of socialist measures.

"Barry Sanders, the runner up in the DNC corrupted race, called himself a socialist. What do you think that means? Is he an American type socialist, or a worldwide type socialist?"
It means democratic socialist, I think, which is essentially Capitalism but with solid regulations and some government-run services deemed essentials, such as schools and hospitals. I am personally strongly in favor of that approach as I am fine with paying more taxes so that the government can provide more services. Obviously, there are lots of pros & cons of course so that's a ridiculously short summary...

Dave Duffy said...

"I rarely see people being called a racist for debating government spending and regulation, unless they bring in race through the back door."

What does it mean to bring in race through the back door? Please explain.

I completely understand Democrats rejecting a socialist running in their party. They should say so, publicly, instead of in secret emails.

Dave Duffy said...

Hugo,

I appreciate your clarification on my interpretation of your comments.

Hugo Pelland said...

Cool!

bmiller said...

@Starhopper,

True indeed, but that has nothing to do with our current economic system, which most definitely does not reward "individual industriousness and achievement". The family farm is dead, assimilated into Big Agro. The small shopkeeper has been annihilated by Walmart and Home Depot (etc.). The independent bookstore has been buried by Amazon.com. The small software developer is routinely crushed by the 3 or 4 companies that basically own Silicon Valley.

I have no idea by what term we ought to call what we all live under today, but it sure as hell ain't capitalism. And it's not socialism either.


Are you lamenting the elimination of the independent family farm, the small shopkeeper, bookstore owner and SW developer only because larger businesses have made that line of work unprofitable? Do you want more of that or less?

Socialism would make those lines of work illegal with fines or jail time. So even if someone figured out a way to grow some boutique product that would sell enough to just support themselves, that would be illegal under socialism. In fact this is the way that a lot of monasteries support themselves today as well as a lot of smaller niche providers.

Starhopper said...

bmiller,

You are mistaking me for a socialist. I simply do not see "socialism" to be some kind of bogey man. So I am not anti-socialist. But I do agree with Dorothy Day (who was no socialist) that we currently live under a "filthy rotten system". I cannot call myself an anti-capitalist, because I do not believe that system exists anywhere in the world today.

bmiller said...

@Dave Duffy,

Of course, like you, it's one in a slew of books that I remember reading and am thankful for the free public (socalist?) library I had in my home town.

Ben Franklin must have been a socialist then since he started public libraries.:-)
Never took him for a Marxist.

Hugo Pelland said...

Starhopper said...
"There are no capitalist economies in the contemporary world, unless you bend the definition of "capitalism" to the point where it is no longer a meaningful term."

I don't know what you mean...

I see Capitalism as short for capital market economy where individuals are free to own properties, resources and trade with each other, within limits defined by governments. Let me look up a definition now...

[an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.]

Now too different, no?

Hugo Pelland said...

(Not too different)

Dave Duffy said...

B. Sarcastic Miller,

Of course old Benny was a Marxist. Why else would someone let a lightning bolt strike him to invent public literacy.

bmiller said...

Shocking! Just Shocking!

One Brow said...

Dave Duffy said...
I disagree with this Starhopper. Whether you are a manager at Walmart or a foreman at an agribusiness, you recognize hard workers from the slackers and find a way to reward the workers. If you can't, then your business is doomed.

The rewards you can Walmart associate or an farm hand are nto the sort that lift them into the next level of economic success.

These corporations enabled young men working in back-braking, near starvation, family farms to having living wages in dwellings with indoor plumbing--with the added benefit that the technology improved the lives of average people.

These corporations refused to pay workers living wages until forced to do so by the unions.

One Brow said...

Dave Duffy said...
What does it mean to bring in race through the back door? Please explain.

Comments that are tied into common stereotypes of races without explicitly mentioning race.

I completely understand Democrats rejecting a socialist running in their party. They should say so, publicly, instead of in secret emails.

Most of them did, by supporting Clintion.

Starhopper said...

"I don't know what you mean..."

To use a Marxist term ("not that there's anything wrong with that"), when the means of production are in the hands of a limited number of gigantic corporations that squeeze the life out of their smaller competition and dictate employment conditions to their workers who have little or no recourse against adverse policies, when industry lobbyists basically determine national policy, and when the beneficiaries of the law are the same people who make the laws...

Well, then we have a situation indistinguishable from state control of the means of production. It's not socialism, but it sure as heck ain't capitalism either.

Hugo Pelland said...

Well, that's the problem with unchecked Capitalism, but again, as pure economics term, it is still Capitalism that you're describing. Moreover, even though I agree things could be a lot better, it's still possible to start a company and succeed, it's still possible to earn and invest money in whatever way you choose, it's still possible to negotiate salaries, job conditions, locations, etc... Again, not great and definitely not for everyone, but Capitalism nonetheless.

Starhopper said...

Well Hugo, if what we live under today can legitimately be labeled "capitalism", then count me amongst the anti-capitalists. I will second Servant of God* Dorothy Day, when she calls it a "filthy, rotten system".

* That's actually her official title in the Catholic Church at present. It's the first step on the ladder to sainthood. Next comes "Blessed", and then finally "Saint".

Hugo Pelland said...

I think that actually makes sense, yes. We see a lot of perversion of Capitalism by not allowing a giant portion of the population to actually have the same chance as others, that it is far from the 'free for all' (in a positive sense) that it should be.

Starhopper said...

And on that note...

we have reached consensus!

Mark your calendars!!!

Hugo Pelland said...

haha

bmiller said...

Are you also then an "anti-socialist"?

Since the things you complained about would be worse. Instead of a small number of large entities in control, there would be the single largest entity in control with the power to punish those who would oppose it.

bmiller said...

From the Wikipedia article on Distributism

"Thomas Storck argues: "both socialism and capitalism are products of the European Enlightenment and are thus modernizing and anti-traditional forces. Further, some distributists argue that socialism is the logical conclusion of capitalism as capitalism's concentrated powers eventually capture the state, resulting in a form of socialism."

Sounds like 2 sides of the same coin.

The Enlightenment caused a lot of problems.

Hugo Pelland said...

For sure, full on Socialism, or Communism as we would call it at that point, is probably worse.

But I have to say 'probably' and not 'certainly', as there are possible scenarios in which Capitalism could be much worse, as the few private enterprise controlling everything would have less incentive than a single government who genuinely care about all its citizens.

Anyway, clearly, as that last quote you just posted points out, extremes are really problematic...

Starhopper said...

"Are you also then an "anti-socialist"?"

Depends on how you define socialism. As I wrote earlier, I myself have lived for a good portion of my adult life under what I consider to be socialist economies (in Germany and the United Kingdom), and found far less to criticize there than I have here in the USA. But if you mean by "socialism" something one would find in Cuba or Venezuela, then yes, I am an anti-socialist.

bmiller said...

As I wrote earlier, I myself have lived for a good portion of my adult life under what I consider to be socialist economies (in Germany and the United Kingdom), and found far less to criticize there than I have here in the USA.

Well, you were an American citizen living over there so you didn't have skin in the game either. That makes a difference. As does the rights our Constitution preserves.

bmiller said...

Some useful statistics:

German immigrants living in US
563,985
American immigrants living in Germany
117,730


UK immigrants living in US
696,896
American immigrants living in the UK
212,150

Starhopper said...

Interesting statistics. So there are:
0.14 German immigrants per square mile in the USA, and
0.18 UK immigrants per square mile in the USA

Meanwhile, there are:
0.85 American immigrants per square mile in Germany, and
2.27 American immigrants per square mile in the UK.

So obviously, immigration is far more popular from the US to Europe, than is immigration in the other direction.

(Thus showing you can prove whatever you want using statistics.)

bmiller said...

Americans are fatter so they take up more area.

bmiller said...

Present company excluded of course :-)

Dave Duffy said...

Thanks One Brow.

One Brow said...

Well, then we have a situation indistinguishable from state control of the means of production. It's not socialism, but it sure as heck ain't capitalism either.

I have heard "corporatism" thrown around.

Starhopper said...

Never heard that one, but it seems to encapsulate what we're living under today. You can almost say that government has become pretty much irrelevant in the face of an all-powerful corporate power bloc.

Look at the 2016 election. People complained about Clinton being in the hip pocket of the corporations and Wall Street (probably a fair assessment), but her opponent (the current president) turned out to be the ultimate toady to corporate interests, the people be damned. The politicians only appear to be making the decisions, but in actuality it is the corporations (dare we call them the oligarchs?) who are pulling the strings, through their money and lobbyists.

Meanwhile, we fools debate socialism vs capitalism, as though those terms actually meant anything any more. It's like pro wrestling - lots of Sturm und Drang, but no genuine competition. The outcome is predetermined and scripted.

Joe Hinman said...


Blogger bmiller said...
As I wrote earlier, I myself have lived for a good portion of my adult life under what I consider to be socialist economies (in Germany and the United Kingdom), and found far less to criticize there than I have here in the USA.

Well, you were an American citizen living over there so you didn't have skin in the game either. That makes a difference. As does the rights our Constitution preserves.

Rationalizing,also assuming socialism is monolithic like one example is all examples.

Hal said...

A brief but thoughtful exchange between a progress and a conservative:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/07/27/sen-elizabeth-warren-responds-to-our-invitation-to-discuss-policy-part-1/?utm_term=.33fedce9505f

Dave Duffy said...

There still is a place in America where guys like me can compete with large corporations. There are people who want to do business with guys they know and can trust. I make a good living knowing the weakness of big corporations.

There is a place for large corporations. My own example (if someone else wrote about this first, forgive my hubris): several hundred feet below the seawater is the rocky bottom of the ocean floor. Several hundred feet below that is a blob of toxic crude. Someone has to have the capital and technology to extract a few pounds of that toxic crude, refine it into gasoline, bring it to Central California and for about $2 (the rest is taxes) will propel my car down the highway at 70mph for about 30 miles. No way I can compete with that. I'm thankful for large corporations that can do that while providing some of the best paying blue collar jobs on earth. The taxes provide for the roads which enable that travel (currently being squandered by the government of California)

I'm also thankful not to be a One Brow, Hal, or Starhopper with their fatalistic, poor me, poor Clinton, if it wasn't for my union or government help I would be helpless. Trump's a jackass, but he gets guys like me far better than his critics.

bmiller said...

@Dave,

Are you saying that there may be a difference in political views if your livelihood depends on being being employed/payed by the government or not?

Dave Duffy said...

Miller,

That has nothing to do with what I was trying to say. That is a different debate.

Hugo Pelland said...

Dave, you're stating the obvious about what's great about the capital market.

But Trump is not helping any of that with trade wars, inadequate tax cuts, and dangerous deregulations.

Hugo Pelland said...

bmiller, in short, no. You know that right?
You're lumping two categories in one again.

One can be employed/dependant on the government and have any political position. Of course there are tendancies, such as cities versus rural regions, but nothing telling you right away what people's political views are. Always good to remember that.

One Brow said...

Dave Duffy said...

I'm also thankful not to be a One Brow, Hal, or Starhopper with their fatalistic, poor me, poor Clinton, if it wasn't for my union or government help I would be helpless. Trump's a jackass, but he gets guys like me far better than his critics.

You can stop playing identity politics now. It's only leading you to make stupid statements.