Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism.
A Philosophical Commentary and Essay
Marxism is a social, economic, and political philosophy that inspires mixed feelings in many people. The theory has evolved a lot over the years and for the sake of clarity, I will be referring to Classical Marxism, developed by Karl Marx (1818). My boy Karl was an incredibly influential dude back in his day. He argued to protect “the working man” from exploitation and alienation within the economic system. His philosophy was anti-capitalism, which is why growing up in the United States, it was a topic people avoided.
The reference for his argument came from an analysis on class struggle, and if you’re interested in hearing him out thoroughly to make you’re own judgement, “The Communist Manifesto” is out there. Myself and my scholarly brethren personally feel that he has gotten a bad rep, but I’m not here to convince you of that. What I want to talk about is the strengths and weaknesses of the main political movements — Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism — that we see being executed in today’s world (none of which are actually Marxist.)
Now before I take you too far into my mind, please remember that I am not an expert in philosophy or politics by any means, I am simply a citizen who enjoys speculating about systems greater than I, and if you’re going to come along for the ride, suspend your judgement for bit. I will start by defining and then we will get into the commentary. These are very casual definitions, not cited from any source other than observation and conversation. And up front, I want to address the elephant in the room and say that associations with Marxism to Communist regimes (such as Nazism) is not something I would ever want to promote. Terrible deeds have been done in the name of Communism, and in the name of many belief systems. Today, I would simply like to discuss the modern day pros/cons of the theories themselves.
Terms Defined From an Economical Stance:
Capitalism is the right to sell anything at any price, even if it’s snake oil. The people run the economy, which is great but also.. have you met people? It’s cool though because there is no cap to your success other than you. Socialism, (which is kind of a middle ground) is public ownership of property and resources. This movement embraces the idea that we are all in this together! The government will hold your hand every step of the way, but say goodbye to your money during tax season. And Communism well, the government manages the economy for you, which includes your personal affects as well. Class system has been removed entirely (or so they say).
Now each of these economic theories, on paper, sound pretty valuable in their own right for different reasons. It really just depends on the kind of life experience you want. The individual that grows in each of these environments will have a corresponding set of values, which makes it extra important to try to be unbiased.
As purely a theory, Capitalism is a free market economy where ideally, you can make an unlimited amount of money doing whatever people will pay for. The working class works hard, long hours to not only get by, but to try to get ahead. Ambition is embedded in this culture both economically and philosophically, but the quality of life can be poor if you’re not actually getting ahead. If you flounder for too long, you could be floundering forever, and it’s super important to have a plan. In the U.S. specifically, it truly is the wild wild west, because people do whatever they can to find an advantage. The system actually works though, if you work it. The country runs on loans, and if you’re busting ass at a minimum wage job while you pursue higher education, you can not only rise out of poverty, but rise to build the fortress of your dreams.
Socialism sounds fantastic to many people because healthcare and higher education are accessible to everyone (mostly free). Generally speaking, I think this is excellent. You have a lot of immediate problems solved for you, which is nice, but not perfect. When someone else is solving your problems, you have to wait on them to solve it, which can take a while. Leisure is valued higher than ambition typically, and as a result the economic market is less competitive. Your income will cap out at a certain point, and no matter how hard you work, you can only attain so much. In reference to the old Gatsby metaphor of the outsider looking in — new money is less likely to emerge in a socialist economy. Meaning that immigrants are less likely to find success. What I find truly fascinating is that there are a lot of social movements in the United States that push for a democratic socialist economy because they see the socioeconomic dis-balance, but the dis-balance is fairly consistent across all political movements. I would try to speculate about Russia, China, and North Korea’s racial issues, but they won’t let me. These political ideologies, at their core, have little to do with social justice. They in fact have everything to do with money — and as a result we see social hierarchies emerge.
Communism is the ideology that promotes government ownership and management of resources. Class system is essentially abolished. The ability to earn more than other workers is unnecessary. The basic philosophy is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Which honestly sounds awesome in writing. But ability and needs are kind of debatable. In communism, population control, is an ongoing investigation. The idea of people limiting the number of children they have — for the sake of resource conservation, financial stability, and mental health— is appealing. Bringing a child into a system that depends on the consideration of many working parts, should be an intentional decision. Many people do not consider the depth of he responsibility that they take on when they have a child — let alone multiple children. It is plausible that incentivizing people (by paying hospital bills, etc) to apply for kids could be the answer. But it’s a hard thing to enforce, and with good reason. Everyone needs a voice when it comes to their own well being. With what we have seen from the enacted Communist regimes, it is obvious that stripping people of their humanity is not ideal.
Karl Marx believed that the evolution of Capitalism would ultimately lead to the working man rising up to overthrow the ruling class and restructure the economy. I personally hope this doesn’t happen in my lifetime, but we’ll see. According to Marx, this restructuring would lead to Socialism, pushing for a diminished difference between classes. The class system would not be absolved though, and social inequalities would still need to be addressed. Social issues are a result of both our culture and our biology, which predate Marxism, Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism — combined. We are tribal by nature, and favoring ones own tribe is not abnormal. But combating the lasting impact of our own nature takes a conscious effort. Epigenetics will tell you more about that.
The corporation's (people) that distribute and manage the resources in Capitalist society aren’t going to go anywhere. While civilians may dream of dethroning the ruling class, it is unlikely that this will actually happen. The ruling class is large, first of all, and is made up of multiple industries (automotive, food, pharmaceuticals, technology) that we globally depend on. The relationship between government and industries in the U.S. is almost Feudalistic. There is really no telling how a restructuring of Capitalism could or would go, but we can discuss how it should go. Maybe in the U.S. each State needs more autonomy — it is an awfully large country, after all. Or maybe we need more of a Collectivist approach to the Capitalist way of being, so that the individual does not feel as burdened.
A tangent on Big Data and Politics
Big data, a massive instigator in social change, is not going to attack itself if/when Capitalism goes downhill, even though we have seen the damage it can do (Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, the Trump Administration). The competitive spirit that has pushed the innovation of American industry for years should not be dulled nor should people’s ambition. If the U.S. economy is 100% outside of our control, it may very well be 100% inside the pocket of the government — unless we talk about how to restructure it. People might argue that corporations are running the government right now, but I can only imagine what would actually happen if the government was running the corporations. The working man would not be exploited nearly as much as the consumer — all of us. When an economy is in the hands of the people, the governments role is to simply protect the people. All of the social issues are ours to mend, not the governments. And thus, I ask you: who do you trust more, the government or the people?
The prioritization of personal agendas within politics has been an issue for years. When money and resources are at stake, humans have always been known to do whatever it takes to succeed. That’s why we’ve taken over the planet (at the expense of many). We will continue to see proxy wars in Iraq to mine resources. China will continue to do whatever it wants with the illegal citizens that were defiantly born. Russia will keep bullying it’s neighbors even though they’re hardly using their own land. France will remain poised with leisure while the rest of us fight for her to stay beautiful. Insurance will continue to be a frustration in socialism and capitalism alike. Scandinavians will keep pretending to be above racism when 99% of their population is the same race. South Africans can continue to believe that they aren’t a pale imitation of 1960’s America. And we may all sleep better at night with our denial and the propaganda that came before us.
Education really could change things though. It wouldn’t be that difficult to improve education for everyone involved and make it more unbiased and accessible. I think I could write an entire essay on that topic alone… but in relevance to this situation, if more people understood economics, war, and the difference between social and political ideologies they would probably be a lot less angry at their neighbor for having more or less than them. We are a product of our environments. We are goddamn lucky to have made it this far. And whether the government regulates the economy, or the people do; respect needs to exist between all of us. I hope, with all my might, that we can move forward to revise our systems in a way that gives the people what they want without giving up on freedom. If we took more time to understand the cultures that we are unfamiliar with and the foundation of thought upon which they stand, it is possible that we can make this better.