Capitalism versus Socialism?

I am looking for a rational argument for Socialism. How it could possibly work (outside of small secluded societies), why it hasn't been implemented, etc.

I am a capitalist, so I really don't need any pro-capitalist arguments, but if you must, feel free.

8 Answers

  • ZepOne
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    There's only two rational cases I can think of where Socialism might work.

    #1 - Where bountiful valuable natural resources exist to provide everyone with ample income so that an individual's value contribution to society is not that important. In other words, it doesn't matter whether individuals are incentivized to produce value because the most efficient allocation of scarce resources isn't really that important.

    #2 - If human nature didn't exist. We're a self-interested creature. It's in our nature. Many of the decisions that we are free to make in a capitalist society (and take for granted) lead to a much better outcome for us when we get make them vs. some centralized body making the decisions for us.

  • 1 decade ago

    There is no logical arguement in favor of socialism unless you start from the premise that people are not capable of self government. That is making their own decisions.

    Even then you must assume that people who aren't even smart enough to make any of their own decisions can some how collectively select leaders that are smart enough and caring enough to make those decisions for them. I don't understand how that is supposed to work. Don't think it ever has.

    The third way is actually the Fascist way. There you allow private ownership but the government controls all or most economic activity using taxes and regulations. Worked OK for the Nazis.

    It has been implemented and has failed everytime to the extent that it was tried. The Soviet union was completely socialist and completely failed. Sweden was mostly socialist and succeeded in turning itself into a third world country. France is mostly socialist and has about the same land area and population as California and has a GDP about 1/5 that of California.

    There really is no end to this. It doesn't work never has and never will.

  • 1 decade ago

    I am a true 100% capitalist so I think this would be an interesting for me to answer being that I am an investor. I think that socialism is wonderful for those that do not have the ability or desire to take their source of income to create wealth. To me, the idea of socialism is, to put it in really simple terms that I can understand, is to toss money into a communal pot and divvy it up equally, to ensure that everyone has the basic necessities, like food, clothing, health, and shelter. Unfortunately, socialism seems to take into account those things and nothing else. I assume that countries that are poor and have those that do not have access to an advanced education and do manual labor as their source of wealth would benefit more from socialism than capitalism. I also see that socialism keeps people from advancing to their highest potential and from excelling in life. Because of human greed and envy, it is impossible for communism to work in a large society, hence the root "Commune".

  • 1 decade ago

    Most people, barring a select few, are greedy. People enjoy Capitalism because everyone supposedly gets their fair shot in life and if they make it big then great but if they don't, they have nobody to blame but themselves. They care nothing about other people as long as they are doing okay.

    I prefer a mix of both. Take Canada for example. Capitalistic in most senses, except for health care. Sure we may pay more in taxes, but I like being able to go to the doctor and not having to worry about payment if my employer doesn't offer health insurance. And it also makes me feel a bit less guilty that other people less fortunate than me can also receive the same level of care as me.

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  • You're really asking for two related but distinct things: a rational argument for socialism, and an account of how a socialist economy and society could actually be realized. I'll answer the first part of the question, but the second part is, of course, the stickler: there are plenty of sustainable and fair ways to implement particular socialist policies, but probably not to maintain an aggressively socialist state.

    But here's an argument in support of socialism:

    Property rights are ultimately a self-serving agreement by the strong and lucky to protect primordial acts of theft from the commons -- think of Rousseau's famous parable: "he who fenced off a parcel of land and declared 'this is mine' and found people simple enough to believe him - he is the true founder of civil society".

    Also, no one is morally responsible for their bad luck in life -- being born into an impoverished neighborhood with neglectful parents, for instance. We do not choose the families we are born into, or the genetic endowment our parents pass on to us, or the trust fund that the lucky among us will inherit.

    Now, if you think that private property is simply a way to legitimate original theft from the commons, and that no one deserves their unchosen inherited assets, then you'll probably support widespread common ownership of productive assets and a strong system of social support for those who didn't do well in life's lottery.

    A system of collective ownership of the means of production combined with widespread redistribution and welfare guarantees is pretty much the working definition of socialism.

    So, your argument, in a nutshell, could be:

    P1: private property is ultimately a justification for original theft

    P2: no one in ultimately responsible for their draw in life's lottery


    C1: common ownership of resources

    C2: from each according to ability, to each according to need

    Of course there are problems with this line of argument, but then again, there are problems with popular defenses of private property and capitalism as well; and you asked for a cogent argument, not an irrefutable case.

  • 1 decade ago

    I would say the Native Americans have probably one of the best socialist attitudes in the world. I would look at the tribal laws, etc and how they are a community not a competition.

    Tribal folks dont have incest, rape, violence and the all cooperate for the good of the entire village without supressing individuality. Pretty intersting.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    This is certainly a tough question, but I am not the type who backs away from a challenge. Fortunately it is also a very good question. It is both interesting and worthy. So allow me a shot at it.

    A rational argument for socialism? Alright, in economics we like to talk about marginal utility. According to the law of diminishing marginal utility the more of something you have the less utility additional units give you. It follows that if particular goods were redistributed to people with less of them, overall social utility would increase. If we assume people have the same tastes, preferences and needs, the most socially efficient distribution would be equal for all. Of course there are some methodological problems with this approach. For one, the assumption of identical utility between individuals is unrealistic, and it has been shown that it is not practical, indeed theoretical impossible, to measure cardinal utility. Further, you cannot compare utility between people. However, it is not unreasonable (nor irrational) to make the systematic leap of assuming identical utility between people. After all the very Declaration of Independence for the US states that "all men are equal under God."

    Unfortunately socialism (in it's true form) is not only inefficient, unworkable and so on. It is downright impossible. Wealth and ownership ("stealing from the commons") is actually a political concept. Ownership gives us custodianship and control over something or someone. It enables us to exploit it/them for our own reasons, both altruistic and selfish. Thus, ownership is actually political power, and vice-versa. Strip back the linguistics and you can see that ownership and power are one and the same.

    All civilisations must deal with the conflicting wills of it's constituents. This implies (even requires) some form of coercive structure and political demarcation. Economists have proved that there is no voting system that provides equal power to each person. Thus, it follows that equal ownership is impossible (unequal power is unequal ownership). Further, our very nature makes socialism impossible. We are not some kind of ant colony that shares the same goals, ideals, thoughts and wants. More often our desires come into conflict, even when we are benevolent and altruistic. Anyone who has ever worked for a charity will know that conflict arises even when all have seemingly unselfish motives. Without demarcations, and a system of justice, to sort out conflicts of will, people will come into conflict with each other. Out of this of this conflict, a power structure (and hence an ownership structure) always emerges to fill the vacuum. While people have different views, tastes, preferences and wills, there can be no such thing as a commons. Conflicting preferences lead axiomatically to some kind of power structure, and once again, power implies property. No system can deliver equal power so there cannot be equal ownership. History has proven it.

    OK, so what is the closest thing we can achieve to socialism. Quite simply a system (or constitution) based on the principles of equality and justice. In this system, ownership of the commons is not vested in individuals or groups of individuals, but in concepts, principles, systems and ideals. This "governing system" must have the coercive power to uphold the principles of equality and justice between people. This is much the same as the system of "rule of law" in western countries. It overrides everything. It even subverts those who govern. The principle of equality and will satisfaction determines the aims of the system. That is to achieve every persons will, with every persons aims, needs, wants and preferences given equal weight. Justice sorts out the the conflicts between wills. It is based on another simple principle, internalisation. That is, people who help others achieve their will are given in return an equal amount of benefit towards their will. Conversely, if a person causes harm to anothers' will they are required to pay that person for the harm. In economists language this is the internalisation of externalities. For practical purposes it would be necessary to allocate domains of power (subject to equity and justice) to individuals (and corporates) so that they may act. For example a person must be allowed power over oneself so that they don't have to ask the authorities for permission to say, take a piss. This is based on another necessary constitutional principal -subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the idea that decisions are best made locally. This principal would naturally be extended to grant other forms of personal and corporate power, which is of course, the same as property. It would extend into the spheres of physical and intellectual property and so forth.

    Curiously, the logical outcome of this system of Utopian socialism is a system that looks remarkably similar to a system we all know well. Modern anglo-saxon capitalism!!

  • chi
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    ism is schism

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