To most of us, socialism conjures up many images. These range from modern American politicians, to the Social Democracy nations of Scandinavia, to communist countries such as modern-day North Korea, and then to the most famous socialist in history…Karl Marx. Undoubtedly, with so many images created by the word socialism, it’s hard to know who owns the definition of the term.
Although Marxian socialism as practiced in communist countries is probably the most famous example, Marx is hardly the last word. Throughout history, the concept of socialism has had many adherents dating back to ancient Greece and the philosopher Plato.
Over the past 200 years there have been many socialist thinkers that not only differed in impact from Marx, they also differed in their ideas about free-markets and democracy. When one looks at leaders such as John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell, and Clement Attlee, one discovers thinkers who looked at socialism as something to be used in combination with both capitalism and democracy. These leaders were influential in the evolution of Social Democracy. At times, some advocates for Social Democracy call themselves Democratic Socialists.
What makes the practice and rhetoric of Marxian socialism different is its emphasis that capitalism is exploitive. In addition, the rigid way that communism has been practiced is another way it’s differed from other forms of socialism. Although its been proven since the fall of the Soviet Union that Marxian communism is weak economically, there are many who still adhere to the Marxian premise that capitalism creates exploitation.
Therefore, although the economic premise of Marxism is problematic, the influence of Marx historically and on contemporary culture looms large. Although many people may not describe themselves as Marxists, they may agree with Marx’s theory that capitalist culture is exploitive. As a result, on many issues that address social change, a common way to challenge tradition is to claim that a certain practice is exploitive. And yes, exploitation does exist in many areas and needs to be addressed. However, it’s fair to say that the levels of exploitation some claim exist, are not always apparent to all.
Obviously, socialism and capitalism can co-exist. As many know, the products and ideas of a capitalist system enhance the creative way we lead our lives. On a daily basis, we express our freedom and make decisions about how to live based on our interactions with a free-market. Therefore, in light of these positive aspects, its obvious capitalism’s not as exploitive as some claim. Where aspects of socialism have a role in modern life is in ensuring a social safety net, regulating marketplaces to ensure equality of opportunity, and upholding common environmental standards. This ability to rely on free-market capitalism to provide most of the goods and services of society, while also ensuring a moderate level of government services for infrastructure, security, human services and defense, is the hallmark of the most successful and least radical form of socialism…Social Democracy. Most democracies, including America, have aspects of Social Democracy
In modern America there’s now a strong push for what some envision as more Social Democracy. Interestingly though, the rhetoric these advocates use is sometimes similar to the rhetoric Marxian socialists use. This is shown when they infer that both capitalists and capitalism are exploitive and greedy. Hopefully, when people nowadays advocate for more Social Democracy, they’ll realize that demonizing capitalism often turns many practical people off. In reality, the ideal of Social Democracy is often best achieved by first acknowledging the useful role that capitalism plays in modern life.
47 thoughts on “The Different Types Of Socialism”
“In economics, capital consists of assets that can enhance one’s power to perform economically useful work.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_(economics) “Useful work” tends to signify profits, a Return On Investment (ROI), Anybody who uses resources (assets) in some manner as to increase the store of capital, may be construed to be a capitalist. By that definition, the vast majority of Americans are not capitalists, however much they may pretend to be adherents of capitalism as an economic mode. Piketty (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_in_the_Twenty-First_Century) well demonstrated how this works and its effects in a multi-generational aspect. Pretty much anybody who has assets and income in excess of their current needs is either a capitalist or is somebody who is diminishing those assets either through inflation or some other form of attrition. Socialism imputes that at least some means of production and societally relevant processes need be managed centrally for the larger benefit of the populace. The underlying premise is that allowance for individual or familial benefit is generally necessary for creativity and growth, since humans are biologically programmed to further their own and their relatives benefit, unrestricted or unregulated such activity inevitably creates a hierarchical society which is in the long run unstable and prone to boom and bust, revolution and retrenchment cycles. (See Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century) So, yes, it appears that “pure” (if ever there was such) capitalism or socialism is dysfunctional, some blend is necessary. Probably, human nature being as it is (evolutionarily constructed), some blend of socialism and capitalism will always be requisite, and the set point between the two will be fluctuant according to the memes of the times.
Hey Charlton, thx so much for the in-depth comment + the thought-provoking links!
Yeah, in terms of an economically pure system, attempts at either pure socialism or pure capitalism often run astray due to the nature of the human condition. Obviously, the situation in Venezuela gives one pause about seeking a pure socialism. In addition, the lack of regulations that were prevalent in 19th century capitalist countries likewise gave impetus to move away from pure capitalism.
And yes, in a technical sense, the majority of Americans are not capitalists since they lack the amount of capital necessary to engage in the multiplier effects that are open to the wealthy. However…having said that, its clear that many Americans enjoy living in what they perceive as a capitalist system since they enjoy the relative freedom that it offers in terms of the products to purchase, the freedom to travel, + the chance at upward mobility, etc.
In reading about people like Clement Attlee, the famously non-dogmatic British Prime Minister who was a practical advocate of Social Democracy, I find it amazing that more progressives would not look to him more as opposed to revolutionaries like Che Guevara. A fascinating article in The New Yorker pointed out how people like Attlee deserved far more praise + interest than revolutionaries who often pursued violent means of making change.
Take Care Charlton!
I believe that capitalism and socialism can exist together with the right balance. Politicians in my opinion are the biggest problem in this factor. That is that most cronie capitalism is subsidized by the government that definitely do not need it and at the same time bankrupt the social programs that have been put into place like social security.
These are the companies that get exemptions to use bad labor practices or destroy the environment for personal gain. When done right, Capitalism raises all boats in the harbor regardless of size, or simply put, raises the standard of living for everyone in society directly, or indirectly. Capitalism would do well to get back to its roots where the “mom and pop” businesses of the world when they were the backbone that made the country so great. Corporations would do well to treat employees well and with dignity but let’s not lose ourselves in a Marxist trait that says labor should own business. There is something called a “co-op” that already accounts for this environment if you choose to work in it. Otherwise, let’s not forget that it’s the entrepreneur that:
1. Has the gift of an idea to be used that people have a desire for. Intellectual rights.
2. Most entrepreneurs do not inherit a silver spoon and therefore, have to take out a substantial amount of monetary risk that needs to succeed moving forward. The business man filed bankruptcy more than anyone else.
3. This person is responsible to make sure their investors are paid or lose everything.
None of these weigh on the laborer as risk or liability and therefore, do not equate to equal pay that most socialist complain about.
I also feel socialism in some forms are also needed for elderly, disabled and areas that improve our communities quality of living. It should never be meant to be enabling the population. Again, politicians give socialism a bad name by bankrupting social security and Medicare. Now they want to control 1/5th of the economy with Medicare for All? Does this not concern most people? The VA system for all or worse is what this will amount to. My other concern is health is a big part of ours and our families livelihood. Are we willing to depend on our government for this given their track record?
Ultimately, they can co exist, but it’s up to us to monitor and manage the extremes in which our government implements these two different ideologies into our communities.
Hi Jeff…great to hear from ya + thx so much for the excellent points!
As you say, striking the balance between capitalism + socialism without veering too far in either direction is the key. And as you point out, the way to strike that balance involves careful analysis based on what is best for America. You aptly point out, as others have, how crony capitalism can give a bad name to large business all the while draining government dollars away from an earned entitlement such as social security. After all, if family-owned small business is sometimes unable to be subsidized by the government, then it only makes sense that large + successful corporations should not be able to take advantage of political connections.
Your breakdown as to why entrepreneurship needs to be respected is informative! On a point by point basis you show how capitalism, by rewarding hard work + initiative, produces a culture that raises the living standards of all.
And as you say, the entrepreneur, by often putting in extremely long hours + often going into debt to finance a dream based on their intellectual property, should be respected as they work hard to establish market share, pay back investors, + grow their business.
I totally agree with your point that the business owner needs to show adequate respect to the workers. And in relation to that, I totally agree that respect can be shown without falling into the Marxist trap of demanding that labor should own the business. After all, business models such as “co-ops” provide for a middle ground to be met between capitalist reality + more socialist ideals.
As for providing socialist aspects for the elderly + disabled, I totally agree. And yes, there’s irony now shown by American politicians advocating for a single-payer healthcare system when countries in Europe that used to have single-payer, now have a blend of basic government healthcare mixed in with free-market healthcare.
Ultimately Jeff, the whole question of how to mix capitalism with socialism is a question of balance. And I think that you have a very balanced approach to the topic.
Thx for stopping by!
Centrally planned socialist economies tend to collapse because no planner (or planning team) can allocate resources in the most efficient manner – either because of inadequate information due to the complexity of the situation or because of corrupt self serving deals. The “invisible hand” of the free market, driven by general self interest of its participants, will always allocate resources better, the larger the market, the greater its participants, the better the decisions, for all.
But therein is the inherent contradiction – self serving or self interest, they sometimes tend to be the same and will lead to horrifying anti-social distortions benefiting some over others and resulting in the almost ridiculous inequalities we face today.
The best one can hope for is a level playing field in the market. At one time in history, before the era of industrial capitalism, there was greater equality between the economic actors, especially in America and the time of the Jeffersonian yeoman farmer. Relative equals met in the marketplace and conducted business. And the beauty of this is as most everyone’s needs are met when one or the other fell into troubles, the others were there to assist and get them back on their feet as productive members of the community. The key point was no one was compelled to do anything, one was obliged to do so and act out of a sense of community.
These are the traits we need to rediscover – respect, community, and charity. And we need to find them within ourselves and within each of us. No “system” can deliver that. Socialism has proven to be a failure (I know as I sit here in the middle of Eastern Europe, liberated from Soviet rule 30 years now, writing this), and Capitalism has only fed our worse behaviors towards our fellow humans and, for that matter, towards everything that doesn’t yield an immediate profit.
Hey PJ…thx so much for taking time out from your travels to offer some very valid insights into the debate!
As you say, the Marxist ideal of planning an economy from “the top down” has proven to be inadequate at best, + hopelessly + brutally tyrannical at the worst. As Bertrand Russell complained of after his visit with Lenin in the Soviet Union, he feared that the so-called scientific aspects of Marxism were wanting. In addition, Russell feared that communism had the potential to become a religion. And as many have said, communism has probably proven to be much more tyrannical of a religion than the various traditional religions. Some thinkers have speculated that since communism tries to create a kind of utopia on earth, that it leads to a dogma more intense than traditional religions. After all, traditional spiritual religions offer hope for an after-life, or spiritual understanding of the complexities of life. Communism tends to negate these points of view.
In addition, an inherent contradiction of communism was the dictum that the workers would be in control. As pointed out by the Russian revolutionary Bakunin, once a worker becomes a manager, they lose sight somewhat of the worker + the workers paradise therefore could not materialize. Therefore, Bakunin became disenchanted with communism + predicted that the communists could become more brutal than the Czar that they fought against.
PJ…your point about how the marketplace allocates resources has been proven out time + again through history. And yes, you are so correct to note that coercing people to engage in a sense of respectful community + charity in much the way they did in the pre-industrial era, needs to be regained. After all, I agree with you that as presently practiced, the amount of inequality in our current system has led to much instability. Obviously, this high level of inequality is somewhat due to high-tech finance deregulation, combined with remnants of crony capitalism + monopoly power.
As for working to create a more humane society, it’d be good for us to look to the gentler socialism of the Attlee, Russell, Stuart-Mill type + try to apply it to the more modern world. This type of Social Democracy mindset, whereby capitalism, through the invisible hand of markets, is able to provide the products of society while government services provide a social safety net + equalizing aspects, has worked well in many nations.
The main difficulty with the gentler socialism of Social Democracy is that its hard to find a balance. It seems that to many advocates of socialism, that Social Democracy does not go far enough. And therefore, the swings of the pendulum towards more + more socialism tend to grow.
Thx again PJ for adding to the dialogue. Enjoy your time in Europe!
I really don’t think any aspect of Socialism works – it is too much of a blinded, top down approach at heart (if it even has such, which is its main issue, everywhere it has been established it has de-humanized those it purports to support).
Socialism is a false progressivism – as noted, for the sake of others it ends up brutalizing them. It is never about the individual, who is ground down into nothingness for an illusionary society that, because of its de-humanization, can never be achieved.
On an evolutionary trajectory, it is the individual who is ascendant. Today he or she is corrupted by ego based self centeredness, but the answers are right in front of us. One need not be religious to value the core tenet of the Christian faith at its essence – love one’s neighbor. This philosophy supports the individual in all his or her diversity, the dignity of the person is preserved and respect is the guiding principle for all aspects of our lives. Pretty simple concept. As Mr Rogers so aptly said (and not incidentally too, but with real purpose) “won’t you be my neighbor?”
(One issue to consider in this ideal is what is the optimum number of people as organized together – how many of us can come together and still have the feeling of neighborliness? But that may actually be another topic…)
Thx for the dialogue PJ!
As for the individual being ascendant, I agree. Although aspects of Social Democracy definitely seem eternal, the idea of a totally planned socialism often does degenerate into the false progressivism you talk of. And yes, the illusory utopian ideals of total socialism become kind of like an unattainable oasis mirage on the desert insofar as its often pointed to as the ultimate goal, yet never reached.
In line with that, the individual sovereignty philosophy of Locke, is something that can be looked at nowadays as a way to counter-balance the move towards a total socialism. Locke’s philosophy, whereby free-will is exalted, seems to be something worth looking at more these days. As you say, the main problem with individualism is the egoism. However, it seems that Locke can fit well within a Social Democracy framework.
As for the Christian tenet of love one’s neighbor, you are totally correct. Perhaps we can truly respect others + their diversity more if we’re allowed to live a bit more as individuals more. That way, the ideal so simply put forth by both Christians, as well as Mr Rogers, could come more to light.
As for the optimum of people to create neighborliness, thats a difficult question. Basically, it all starts with the individual. 🙂
To bring the discussion back on track, it is my believe that the individual is the basis of society and the free market best allocates resources for our use. Still, two things must prevail, the individual must be responsible and respectful and treat all with the dignity deserved. And a fair market must be allowed to work for those things that are “marketable”.
The issue is some things are not market based, and healthcare is a prime example. No one, when faced with urgent healthcare needs, will consider the alternative of buying a car. It’s not heart surgery or a Porsche.
So back to a socialistic solution for these things society deems outside the marketplace?
Yes..regarding healthcare, aspects of Social Democracy, as put forth by thinkers such as John Stuart Mill + Bertrand Russell, + practiced by Clement Atlee, can co-exist with a free-market.
Having said that though, although I’m a firm believer in a basic government healthcare for all, I think that its good to have some market-based healthcare features mixed in. Although some American politicians are clamoring now for a total single-payer healthcare system, its worth noting that many countries in Europe that used to have a single-payer healthcare, such as England + France, have now incorporated capitalist features into healthcare to improve choice, etc.
As with everything…its a question of balance. By the way, wasn’t that the name of a famous album from years ago?
I agree with you. In practice it takes great wisdom and moral values and selfless courage to apply a balance between the two extremes.
Thank you so much! Yes, the eternal question of balance between the extremes is always difficult.
Take Care Crosslife Spaces + nice to hear from you again!
Overall, we as a country need to be careful how we proceed. With the incredible debt and deficit always looming over future generation heads we need consider the fall out when we can’t kick the can down the road anymore. America is not immune to economics.
Great point Jeff!
Although there’s a strong push with MMT-Modern Monetary Theory, to downplay debt as a problem, the fact is that once debt reaches around 100% of GDP, it becomes more + more unstable. Depending on whose numbers one looks at, America’s total debt is around 80% of GDP.
Therefore, we technically can’t just “write-off” billions of debt without consequence. Countries can still default on debt. And to do so usually creates many problems.
Great topic Perry. Our economic system is really a question of values. What are our aesthetic, moral, social, and of course, monetary values? These vary widely depending on geography and culture. However, there are many, many, commonalities that have provided generous sharing of art, culture and of course commerce.
Among those commonalities are logic and reasoning. Importantly, our values give commerce its worth, not the other way around. Yet we see this logic gap in so many ways. What is the return on investment in public schools? What is an endangered species worth, in tourism or in tusks? Is there greater value in public safety or individual liberty?
Global populations are right now enjoying unprecedented health and welfare. No mistake, abject poverty and injustice exist, and the disparity of wealth is abhorrent. Yet on average, more people on the planet have a better quality of life than ever in human history and most definitely, capitalism and the power of trade has brought this about.
Back to the question, what are our or values? Social standing and individual worth have traditionally meant material wealth and or political/military strength. A few, more temperate cultures, instead value wisdom, spirituality and enlightenment. What, if anything, is any of this worth in the context of all existence? That is the question many of the philosophers you mention and some of our founding fathers, were concerned with.
That brings us back to what kind of system (obviously man made), could help us as a species pursue our destiny (once we figure out what that is)?
As you and your readers point out, a sort of conscious capitalism is in order. Stimulate innovation and avoid stagnation. Give incentive without devolving into greed and corruption, meeting the needs of our dependents without totalitarianism.
To provide for the general defense, promote the general welfare, is in the pre-amble of our constitution. Where it falls apart is in the next bit; “and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”. Some read this as manifestly selfish, “to ourselves” and “our posterity”, thus excluding all who are not our own or similar to us.
The selfish nature of any system is inextricable. Self-interest is key to survival. No one would argue against self-preservation unless they are practicing martyrs. The huge logic gap here is, we are talking about managing unprecedented wealth, not about desperate survival. We have out grown (most of us anyway) the cave and we need to start seeing bigger possibilities for species and our planet.
All living things leverage their surroundings to their advantage, this could be described a profit. It is disingenuous to label all such arrangements as exploitive or parasitic. Many natural systems are actually synergistic, where host and guest both benefit. Most people would prefer a synergistic or symbiotic relationship over a one sided relationship.
How do we manage the abundant wealth brought about by technology? Some groups will want to stay in the caves of “safe” political thinking. Currently, the word socialism is used as a pejorative to lump a great many complex topics deemed too risky politically. Labeling healthcare, education, care for the environment and consumer rights as part of a socialist agenda. Saying markets are exploitive or that social responsibility is a totalitarian regime, is staying in the cave of ‘safe’ political thinking.
The Business Roundtable, a liberal business policy advisory group, recently re-defined the purpose of a corporation as being responsible to all stake holders, the customers, the workers, the environment and the communities impacted by their business.
”While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders”.
To which the more conservative leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce responded,
“We commend the Business Roundtable for updating its Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. We agree wholeheartedly with the renewed focus. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports every effort to preserve, strengthen, and expand the American dream, and put it within the reach of every child, family, worker, and entrepreneur. We will continue to work alongside all members of the business community to create economic growth and prosperity for all Americans”.
While all of this sounds frighteningly socialistic, It also sounds fair and in keeping with our founding fathers aspirations for a more just and equitable society in pursuit of a more perfect union.
The best way to achieve equality of opportunity is to assure equality in representation when forming the law and equality in treatment under the law.
To be fair and still be competitive, is to assure the system is, inclusive (fair representation), transparent, and reviewable (aka fair elections).
Thanks as always for an engaging topic TE
Hey Tom…thx for joining the discussion + bringing many points to the table!
Yes, what you’re saying seems to be echoing what many others have said here + elsewhere. Basically, the advantages of markets are too strong to ignore. And yes, in addition to individual freedom + choice, markets also act as an incubator of ideas that often have broader societal benefits. Obviously, the ability for such a large population to exist as it does nowadays is testament to that. Therefore, it’d appear that capitalism in reality is no longer just a method of exploitation but also a tool for the greater good.
However, as noted with your Business Roundtable advisory group + the response to it by the Chamber of Commerce, there’s been recognition that instead of reinvigorating the Corporate Charterhood concept in America that used to exist, there needs to be attempts to get corporate stakeholders to look at things besides the bottom line. As many know, Corporate Charters, whereby the legislature could revoke a corporation, existed in America before corporate personage was born out of court decisions in the late 1800s. Interestingly…President Trump, by incentivizing corporations to stay in America, is somewhat reinvigorating a part of the older Corporate Charter mindset that corporations need to provide jobs to a country’s citizens. Interestingly to me, none of the language used by the Roundtable + Chamber of Commerce sounded radically socialist. Instead, it seems to fit very closely in with the moderate ideals of Social Democracy-whereby capitalism + aspects of socialism co-exist.
Maybe Tom, if we could get corporations, with the assistance of politicians, citizens, + the above named groups to help change the focus of the business culture, there would be a quieting of those that are advocating a radical socialist overhaul-often of a rhetorically Marxist tone, to America.
Although not talked of much, the political world exists in a haze of political dynamics. Often, the harsh rhetoric employed to create a political narrative is a somewhat clumsy attempt to find a middle ground. Unfortunately, its hard to know which political actors are truly trying to find a middle ground + which ones are attempting something more radical.
Therefore, although many people seek to build on + refine the very successful Social Democracy aspects that have existed for almost 100 years, some politicians + operatives begin to advocate policies that often veer away from Social Democracy. The reason many Americans become alarmed with the word socialism is by what we’ve seen over the past 20 years with how Venezuela went from a functioning + wealthy democracy to basically a poor communist dictatorship.
With more ideas like the Business Roundtable + The Chamber of Commerce, maybe we can move the political dynamic on both sides more towards a rational discussion of all of the factors that contribute to both maintaining + promoting the good life for all. The ideals of the philosophers like Mill + Russell show that Social Democracy ideals can exist within a market-based economic system.
Take Care Tom!
The Chamber of Commerce’s “mission statement” make eminent sense – for the economic world, at least. But that’s the weakness, what about other aspects of life?
Check out the Three-Fold Social Order of Austrian Philosopher Rudolf Steiner. It was conceived as a system to put into practice just after WWI with Europe in tatters as a way to go forward with the right incentives. The consideration was three spheres of life – the Economic, the Rights or Legal, and the Cultural. Each as important as the other, and each influencing, but not overpowering the other, all on an equal footing. Economics, obviously, must deal with the optimal allocation of resources. Rights insure that the playing field is level, that all have equal opportunity, that each are afforded a deserved dignity. Culture is the area of soul expansion, of education, the arts, and all that progresses humanity beyond the material. Each sphere must support and facilitate the other. Great responsibility is leveed on the Economic, as it must create the wealth that makes the Rights and the Cultural flourish.
These are the realization of the failed ideals of the French Revolution – Liberty (Culture), Equality (Rights), Brotherhood (Economics). They are the three-fold human fully developed in thinking (head), feeling (heart), and willing (hand).
It is a wonderful conceptual system that never was able to take hold as that area of the world went through traumatic disruption starting in the 1930s into the 40s, almost as if a malignant force rose up to stymie it.
Worth considering anew.
One thing for certain is we sure do need a new direction…..
Hey PJ…excellent points about the founder of the Waldorf Schools-Rudolph Steiner!
After all, if we could truly integrate the different aspects of life together more holistically, as opposed to separating them into different categories, we may be able to lower the amount of societal dysfunction that we have.
I agree…these ideas of Steiner’s need to be considered more. It appears that he was onto something. 🙂
World Economy is Steiner’s lecture series given in 1922 on economics and the initiation of a three fold social order.
“These lectures provide a foundation for a completely new approach to the science of economics. Steiner does not give abstract theories but bases his ideas on the dynamics inherent in the phenomena themselves. A mobile, flexible quality of thinking is required to enter into this radically different approach to such things as capital, labor, and natural resources, and the qualitative differences between purchase, loan, and gift money. The direction Steiner indicated in these lectures is the inspiration for a number of banking and financial initiatives now active all over the world.”
You can read them all at –
Although I’ve been acquainted with Steiner’s ideas, I never had the pleasure of going through his economics lectures before. In reading through some of these, I find myself amazed at the flexibility of his holistic economic ideas, his clever + ahead of his time interpretation of some short-comings of Marxism, + his ideas on interest rates, money, + price setting.
As you say, Steiner’s ability to tie in our economic being with the general conception of spirituality that humans have, is indeed refreshing. Also, the fact that he spoke of this in 1922, when parts of the world were reeling from the collapse of money that was occurring as a result of WW1, is rather amazing.
In addition, the idea that money goes through a metamorphosis whether its gifted money vs loaned money, is intriguing. Interestingly, Steiner’s ideas on money + how it becomes valued + ultimately devalued, were extremely valid in light of the cataclysmic aftermath of WW1. As we know, this war resulted in many changes in nation-states + cultures.
Human nature being what it is, Steiner’s ideas may help us navigate through similar crisis points that may lie ahead. There’s much to learn here.
Thx so much PJ for bringing out these valuable insights about Rudolph Steiner!
I liked reading this very much. I especially appreciate your summary as that is so on point. Excellent!
Thx so much Alison!
Since you live in France, you’re undoubtedly acquainted with the benefits of living in a country with a history of Social Democracy. Also, I’m definitely enjoying your blog about life in Paris! I’ve learned so much from it. 🙂
Thank you, Perry. I actually only visit Paris for a month or two each year but have definitely observed the benefits of their social democracy.
Great post Perry. I agree wholeheartedly that socialism can coexist with capitalism in a way that’s better than either one of those by itself. There are some things that lend themselves to Socialism while of benefit in a capitalist country. Example: Health Care.
Arguments against socialized medicine and letting people fend for themselves when it comes to health costs are similar to those of Libertarians saying we don’t need taxes to operate our country. Although technically it sounds good, in reality would be the biggest disaster ever.
On the other hand, the wealth and variety of material goods available in capitalist countries is much greater than that of socialists so that it can’t help but raise the standard of living,
My thought: Should we just let the balance between socialism and capitalism balance itself out, or should we actively try to tinker with it through our elections and policies?
Thx for stopping by again luv4all1959!
Regarding your point about how healthcare lends itself towards operating with socialist aspects, I agree. Although many countries in Europe have expanded away from a single-payer system to incorporate market features, the core of their healthcare comes from the single-payer aspect.
Obviously, when it comes to ensuring a social safety net, aspects of socialism that equate to Social Democracy come to the fore. And yes, although tax policy should be questioned, it’d seem that modern life without taxes would be close to impossible to achieve.
The difficulty with socialism is in finding the balance. Nowadays, there is a resurgence of those that feel that moving towards more socialism on a continuum would create a more just society. And this is where some socialist advocates appear to be moving at times to Marxian rhetoric whereby they view market economies as exploitive.
A good example of this is how advocates worked to block Amazon from building a major campus in New York City due to the fact that the tax breaks Amazon would receive were deemed “exploitive.” Ironically, many liberals + most New Yorkers were disappointed that Amazon was blocked from providing thousands of high-paying jobs due to this. Therefore, we now have a situation whereby some advocates have moved from advocating Social Democracy, to more of the Marxist-influenced rhetoric that’s skeptical of big business.
As for your excellent point about letting the blend between socialism + capitalism play out to a natural balance, I agree. After all, most people seem comfortable with many aspects of Social Democracy + blending capitalism + socialism.
However…tinkering seems to be a natural part of American politics. 🙂
WOW! A lot of thought out opinions here. So I won’t add to them. Just know that it’s impossible to have both real socialism and our unfettered-type of capitalism together on the global stage. There must be true change for those in power (capitalists) will not hand it over just because we may be “right.”
Thx for stopping by Kleier + taking the time to comment!
As for idea that real socialism + unfettered-type capitalism cannot co-exist, I’ve heard this many times before over the years. And yet…the evidence proves that elements of capitalism + socialism have existed on the global stage together for a long time. As you know, many people are fine with adding certain elements of socialism to a largely capitalist system. This is the Social Democracy model that has proven popular.
Interesting post. I suggest banning the word “capitalism”, which really is one of Marx’s bad legacies. In short: there can be no Capital (K) without Labour (L). One can’t really function without the other but using the label “Capitalism” distracts from proper thinking.
What we do have in most of the world now is a “Market economy”. One where producers of goods and services offer their “wares” to consumers. Who choose to buy or not. Historically, the market economy is the most efficient, because it is based on freedom of choice. Freedom to produce what you want to produce and freedom to buy or not. Now, left on its own, a market economy can evolve into a monster. From monopolies to abusive Labour practices. That is where “social democracy” comes in to attenuate the excess of the Market economy. Provide Balance. And we all need balance the world over…
Nice to hear from you Equinoxio + thx for the words of wisdom!
Yeah…I agree with you about Marx’s use of the word capital. Interestingly, the usage of the word capitalism often has a much more negative connotation than market economy. And yet, as you say, market economies-due to their overall rationality when it comes to allocating resources, seem to be the efficient norm for so much of the world. In line with that, you point up the truly pivotal point about how freedom to choose + produce, creates those efficiencies.
And yes, left to its own devices + without regulation, market economies can definitely take on negative qualities. This is where the Social Democracy concept, as well as the milder socialist philosophers, come into play. As always, is a question of balance.
Thx for the dialogue!
Thanks to you. I often wonder whether to mention those thoughts, in the face of such strong ideologies. On both sides… 🙂
Take care and have a nice week-end.
Valid point Equinoxio!
Since discussions about the merits of socialism vs capitalism-market economies, can get quite heated, many of us find it hard to talk about these topics openly. Your travels around the world have surely made you aware of how deeply held these beliefs are.
Acknowledging the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism and socialism enables us to create something better.
Excellent point Kind Feelings!
As you point up in your blog also, its always a question of balance. Mixing the positive attributes of capitalism + socialism together has worked quite well to produce something better.
Should we take an Originalist or Constructionist interpretation of our laws? How does our government, three co-equal branches adapt to popular morals? Especially, morals that had previously been legislated, adjudicated and established? Public education, the rights of women, concern for the unborn and protection of the environment are newly popular morals raising concern that the masses may in fact have gone astray of our founding principles self-determination. Ambiguous subjects such as, surveillance, torture, financial misconduct and even freedom of speech, are rife with contempt for established norms. If dictators and marshal law became popular with the electorate, would there be a constitutional remedy? Should there be? The tyranny of the masses, mob rule and the rise of populism around the world brings both good, demands to increase the quality of life for all, and the bad, the rise of authoritarian leaders who promise help their loyal followers. We see a lot of manipulation by the rich to divide the masses and effectively maintain the status quo. We are torn, between effective change and maintaining established morals for the sake of order. I am gravely concerned about populist leaders that use violent and inflammatory language to incite their followers. Worse, the goals espoused by these populist are not as lofty as they say and in fact, quite conflicted with their own rhetoric. I turn to you oh sage one, how do we strike a balance?
Welcome back to the discussion Tom!
In the history of politics + government, there are many different theories that have evolved over the past 3,000 years. However…even though many theories have evolved, there’s been a constant dynamic that exists between governments that are run by elites, vs. those that have more of a populist bent.
Interestingly, enduring types of governments-such as Representative Democracy, seem to combine both elitism with populism. Over the years, countries such as the United States have veered between both populism + elitism to varying degrees.
Both populism + elitism approach morals in different ways. Whereas many elites attempt to talk in measured tones that sometimes mask a deeply bureaucratic approach to morals, populists tend to try to make moral arguments seem more apparent + plain to see. Regarding morals, the wide gulf of opinions that exist about a topic such as abortion shows that ideas about morality have a somewhat subjective element that varies between different political circles. Likewise, on many other topics with a moral bent, such as the many you mentioned above, there exists many different opinions.
Therefore, although morality is a most important bedrock for civilized society, one cannot help but notice that there often exists differences of opinion about just what is moral. And finally, to strike a balance between the elitist + populist approach to governing, one of the best things we can do is to find ways to seek a common ground on many issues while still maintaining our own beliefs + integrity. This is the tricky part. 🙂
A system that could coexist with both capitalism and democracy would not be akin to the concept of “socialism” decried on Fox news and related media. If Social Democracy is a solution, more power to us.
I agree A.P.!
Social Democracy has so much to offer. Unfortunately, defining socialism and the different types available is a very loaded concept. In defense of some uncomfortable with socialism, it may partly be a result of the fact that some socialism advocates use language similar to Marxian socialism.
As opposed to Marxism, the type of socialism that’s represented by Social Democracy is very comfortable with free-markets, private property + democracy.
Nice to hear from you again A.P.!
You as well, Perry.
Interesting topic, my two cents briefly, a balance need to be reach between the few ones who hold the strings of Capital, and most of the people who depend on a low paid job to earn a living.
Excellent point “theburningheart!”
I agree that the balance between the hyper-wealthy + the rest of society needs to be addressed + looked at. Interestingly, since the world-wide “Financialization” revolution was launched globally in the 90’s, some have noticed an increase in wealth inequality. And yes, at some point, high wealth inequality can become unstable.
Although calls for redistribution of wealth are made by many, some are calling for a return of some older finance regulation as a way to nip the situation in the bud. In America there are periodically prominent voices calling for a return of “The Glass-Steagal Act.” Advocates say that a return of this Depression-era legislation would lead to a calmer societal + economic landscape by separating the duties of Investment + Commercial Banks.
The hope is that a return of this legislation would create more of a reliance on tangible assets as opposed to the high-tech derivatives that have been increasingly used the past 20 years. The hope is that the stigma of “Casino Capitalism” that some say we currently have, would fade.
Thx for the comment + I look forward to reading more of your fascinating blog! You cover such as array of philosophical, scientific, + societal topics in a very readable + enlightening way! I’ve bookmarked your blog. 🙂
Perry Casilio, are you familiar with what they call Social Democracy?
Hi Ragnar! Yeah, the mildest + most stable form of socialism happens to be Social Democracy!
Perry Casilio, I was reviewing a few of your comments on a couple of my posts. Have you sampled any of the sauces that I have reviewed?
Hm interesting. I never looked this much into socialism.
Nice to hear from you Shell-Shell! I’ve been enjoying your informative blog also. 🙂
Yeah…socialism has so many different varieties. The mild socialism of the Social Democracy type seems to have the strongest staying power due to the fact that it clearly supports a social safety net – while still leaving room for a high level of free-markets + personal decision making. The mild + flexible nature of Social Democracy is the reason why it’s been popular + effective the world over for many years.
It’s important for us, and teachers (I don’t believe public propaganda camps are useful anymore.), to read, research, and discuss various governments, their causes, and the results, also reading the founding fathers’ own words, the federalist papers, and early pioneer opinions.
Excellent idea Dolphinwrite!
Only by truly studying various governments – including ours, + cross-referencing sources, will we be truly able to get a handle on the optimal form of government. Having said that, there is strong evidence that Representative Democracies, + their original constitutional documents, provide not only the highest amount of rational thought, but also the highest amount of happiness + productivity as well.
Take Care 🙂