Capitalism and Socialism, Some Faults

Here’s what’s wrong with socialism:

Socialism fails to reward individual initiative. When people find that they are not rewarded for harder work, they quit trying. In the end the result is a country where everyone is the same: nobody is motivated and everyone is poor. There is no opportunity to rise above poverty in the official economy. Look at Cuba.

Socialism fails to reward individual initiative.

Here’s what’s wrong with capitalism:

The richest are rewarded with ever-increasing power and wealth, because they have ways of further enriching themselves not available to others, while everyone else finds their wealth and wellbeing either stagnant or declining. The poor have very little opportunity to rise from poverty, no matter how hard they try.

Capitalism creates inequality.

It would seem then that a political system that avoided these socialist and capitalist extremes would more closely approximate the ideal of adequate wealth for everyone than either of these. Other things being equal, which they are not, capitalism provides a generally higher standard of living.

“Equality” is of central importance in such discussions, and carries with it the danger of being misinterpreted. Only hard-core socialists believe in an equality where every person has the same wealth. This is a bankrupt idea that historically has been a resounding failure, with Cuba as the best example at present.

Equality is of central importance.

The only meaningful definition of equality today means equality of opportunity. Ideally, no one should be denied the opportunity to achieve his or her best by the accidents of birth, wealth, or social environment. But that’s what happens to racial and cultural minorities who live in poor neighborhoods, where they are exposed to more crime, weaker schools, more disease and pollution, and less opportunity for employment. These are all factors that the society at large should address. Not to do so does not just affect the poor, it makes the entire society weaker and poorer, with extra social costs that must be covered in other ways.

It is worth noting that both socialism and capitalism are designed to deal only with material wealth. In neither case are personal freedom, spiritual health, artistic expression, or other elements that are important to people part of the equation. In both cases, the poor cannot be said to be free, because the lives of the poor are restricted by the necessity to scramble for the essentials for living, with very little remaining for a satisfying life.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I agree with equality of opportunity. The problem is good jobs are gold dust while lousy jobs are common, but also need to be done. Social class rather than merit have been used to sort people into their respective slots, and getting anyone in society to surrender their secure class position to uncertain competition meets most people’s resistance.

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  2. Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs.

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  3. I agree that the free rider problem constitutes something of an Achilles heel for certain varieties of socialism, e.g., free access communism. The labor voucher model, which many socialists who are skeptical of free access advocate, doesn’t really address the problem either.

    The best method for remunerating labor equitably, that I’ve come across in socialist theoretical literature, is the effort rating system devised by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel. It’s definitely worth checking into.

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