There are many different types of economies – communism, socialism, capitalism and democratic socialism. We tend to use the terms concretely, which necessarily introduces inaccuracies and, as such, they serve as excuses not to think and to hold economic beliefs that discourage explorations of the mismatch between theory and practice. Do you know exactly how they differ? Read on.
By Lorimer Wilson, editor of munKNEE.com
Socialism has re-entered the public discourse over the past several years, in part due to the high profile candidacy of socialist Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, as well as the surprise victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America organization, in the Democratic primary in New York’s 14 Congressional District. Source
According to a news report from Axios, over 40 socialists have won in primary elections this year, and the membership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has grown from 7,000 members to 50,000 since 2016. This increased visibility of socialism and the prevalence of candidates who in one way or the other are associated with the socialist label makes it important to understand how this concept is understood by average Americans.
Communism and socialism are economic and political structures that promote equality and seek to eliminate social classes. The two are interchangeable in some ways, but different in others. Source
In a communist society:
- the working class owns everything, and everyone works toward the same communal goal.
- There are no wealthy or poor people — all are equal, and the community distributes what it produces based only on need. Nothing is obtained by working more than what is required.
- Communism frequently results in low production, mass poverty and limited advancement. Poverty spread so widely in the Soviet Union in the 1980s that its citizens revolted. Source
In a capitalist society:
- limitations don’t exist and reward comes to those who go beyond the minimum.
- owners are allowed to keep the excess production they earn and competition occurs naturally, which fosters advancement.
- a sharp divide is created between the wealthiest citizens and the poorest with the wealthiest owning the majority of the nation’s resources. Source
In a socialist society:
- there’s a mix of both.
- The government operates the system to help all, but there is opportunity for private property and private wealth. A socialist government could control all of the means of production or it could, for example, use taxes to redistribute resources among the population.
In a fascist society:
- there is a dictator with complete power,
- forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism,
- regimenting all industry, commerce, etc.,
- and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
- Unlike communism, fascism is opposed to state ownership of capital and economic equality is not a principle or goal.
- During the 1930s and WWII, communism and fascism represented the extreme left and right, respectively, in European politics. Hitler justified both Nazi anti-Semitism and dictatorship largely on the basis of his working to fight-off communism.
The socialistic system, as established almost 100 years ago in the Soviet Union, was intended as an egalitarian society run by representatives of the people in the best interests of all.
- Those powers imply suppression of the rights and aspirations of individuals who are perceived as not going along with what is believed as the good of the society at the time.
In the capitalist system, personal freedoms – in particular, protection of private property, freedom of enterprise and freedom of expression – are essential; people should be free in pursuing their economic interests. The government’s role should be solely in guaranteeing safety and equal freedoms for everyone.
- The concept is that the good of the society as a whole is achieved optimally if people are free from government coercion in pursuing their personal goals, be it economic, ideological, scientific, religious, philanthropic, or any other activity. Government should not be involved in any of these activities.
Critics point out that the free market system leads to wealth disparity, and then the supposed equality of individuals becomes a fiction, as wealthy people have abundant resources to coerce others, including the government apparatus supposed to protect equality. As a result, the social divide widens, as rich become richer and poor become poorer.
A democratic socialist system is a mix of socialism and capitalism where democratic control of sectors of society and economy is sought in order to avoid the pitfalls of an unregulated market. Such a system has higher tax rates in order to redistribute wealth to the average citizen so things like universal healthcare appear. Under social democracy regulations are also often put in to make the workplaces for workers safer.
The term socialist has been thrown around quite a bit in the past few years. Not since the cold war has the term garnered so much attention in the press and from politicians but when you look at countries who actually have a socialist economic structure, you can see some similarities to the United States – but there are some really stark differences. Below, you will see some of the most socialistic nations in the world today:
- New Zealand
Canada, for example, has mostly a free market economy, but has a very extensive welfare system that includes free health and medical care (paid for through taxes). Canadians remain more open-minded and liberal than Americans, and Canada is ranked as one of the best top five countries to live in by the United Nations and the Human Development Index (HDI) rankings.
|Sep 4-12||Sep 3-8|
|1. Equality – equal standing for everybody, all equal in rights, equal in distribution||23||12|
|2. Government ownership or control, government ownership of utilities, everything controlled by the government, state control of business||17||34|
|3. Benefits and services – social services free, medicine for all||10||2|
|4. Modified communism, communism||6||6|
|5. Talking to people, being social, social media, getting along with people||6||—|
|6. Restriction of freedom – people told what to do||3||1|
|7. Liberal government – reform government, liberalism in politics||2||1|
|8. Cooperative plan||1||1|
|9. Derogatory opinions (non-specific)||6||2|
Previous Gallup research has shown that socialism as a concept is viewed positively by less than a majority of Americans (37% in a late July, early August survey) and that these attitudes have not changed materially since 2010. However, 57% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents view socialism positively, particularly telling in light of the 47% of Democrats who view capitalism positively. Republicans are, unsurprisingly, much less positive about socialism (16% view the term positively).
|Equality – equal standing for everybody, all equal in rights, equal in distribution||26||23|
|Government ownership or control, government ownership of utilities, everything controlled by the government, state control of business||13||23|
|Benefits and services – social services free, medicine for all||13||7|
|Modified communism, communism||4||7|
|Talking to people, being social, social media, getting along with people||6||5|
|Restriction of freedom – people told what to do||1||5|
|Liberal government – reform government, liberalism in politics||2||1|
|Derogatory opinions (non-specific)||2||11|
|GALLUP, September 4-12, 2018|
Republicans, who are overwhelmingly negative about socialism, tend to skew toward seeing socialism as government control of the economy and in derogatory terms, while Democrats, a majority of whom are positive about socialism, are more likely to view it as government provision of services.
Although young Americans are in general more positive about socialism as a concept than those who are older, there are few significant differences by age group in self-reported understanding of the term. Source
A Humorous Look At Capitalism, Communism, Socialism and Fascism
1. TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM; You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.
- AMERICAN CAPITALISM; You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.
- FRENCH CAPITALISM; You have two cows. You go on strike, organize a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.
- GERMAN CAPITALISM; You have 2 cows. You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month and milk themselves.
- JAPANESE CAPITALISM; You have 2 cows. You redesign them so they are 1/10 the size of an ordinary cow, and produce the milk of 20 cows. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called cowkimon and market them worldwide.
- ITALIAN CAPITALISM; You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You decide to have lunch.
- SWISS CAPITALISM; You have 5,000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.
- CHINESE CAPITALISM; You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.
- RUSSIAN CAPITALISM; You have 2 cows. You count them and learn that you have 5 cows. You count them again and learn that you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn that you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of Vodka.
- INDIAN CAPITALISM; You have two cows. You worship them.
- BRITISH CAPITALISM; You have two cows. Both are mad.
- IRAQI CAPITALISM; Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. Nobody believes you, so they bomb the crap out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows but at least you are now a Democracy.
- AUSTRALIAN CAPITALISM; You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.
- NEW ZEALAND CAPITALISM; You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.
- GREEK CAPITALISM; You have two cows borrowed from French and German banks. You eat both of them. The banks call to collect their milk, but you cannot deliver so you call the IMF. The IMF loans you two cows. You eat both of them. The banks and the IMF call to collect their cows/milk. You are out getting a haircut.
2. COMMUNISM; You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.
3. SOCIALISM; You have 2 cows. You give one to your neighbor.
4. FASCISM; You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.
5. NAZISM: You have 2 cows. The government takes both and shoots you.