Which is the superior system, capitalism or socialism?

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Debate: Capitalism vs socialism

Which is the superior system, capitalism or socialism?

Background and context

Capitalism is the world’s dominant economic system. Within it, the means of production and distribution are owned by individuals: private ownership and free enterprise are believed to lead to more efficiency, lower prices, better products and rising prosperity. Socialism advocates the ownership and control of the means of production and industry by the community as a whole: the community is believed to be both more just and more efficient through central planning, or participatory planning. In Marxist theory Socialism represents the stage following capitalism in a state transforming to communism; for many, however, it is a goal in itself. This binary view of potential political and economic systems may be thought simplistic, but it is a debate that is extremely common. Necessarily, many other systems are not touched upon.

Broader philosophies: What are the opposing philosophies of each system?


  • Socialism run by central bureaucracy, not "the people" Michael Telzrow. "Socialism's broken promises." New American. December 25th, 2008: "In truth, the working classes had much to lose under socialism, and for later generations the shackles of communism would weigh heavy; for in practice, a central person or group had to control the redistribution of the wealth, and under communism power was concentrated for the benefit of the few at the controls — at the expense of the masses, no matter the harm and the suffering visited upon the masses."

  • Socialism over-trusts government bureaucrats Milton Friedman: "Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it. [...] The power to do good is also the power to do harm."[2]

  • In capitalism, society is rightly ruled by individuals. Only a given individual can assess what is to his benefit or detriment. Capitalism places responsibility for an individual's prosperity in his own hands. Socialism attempts to determine an aggrigate good defined as "the good of the collective" and apply that one "shoe" to all "feet".


  • In socialist systems, society is ruled by the collective people. Under socialism, society is ruled by individuals collectively working together toward a common purpose to enhance the collective good. Socialism also promotes democracy, self-management, solidarity, equity and other positive social benefits as well as greatly increases prosperity and equality (see the section on decision-making for more detail). This compares favorably to capitalism, where society is ruled by corporations and their pursuit of profit and power.

  • Capitalism does not guarantee societies needs. This is because social costs, and everything that affects third parties in a transaction, are externalised (see discussion of market prices later in debate). This means that social needs and costs are not reflected in pricing. As a result of this, the needs of society are ignored in capitalist society unless they are profitable - which they usually aren't due to the externalisation of social cost. The pursuit of profit, that is necessary under capitalism, also promotes anti-social behaviour, punishes solidarity and means that all winning takes place at the expense of other.

  • In capitalism, businesses must put profit before everything else. In a system (capitalism) with a built in need for growth and expansion (on every level) based on profit and on a level of competition such that every company that fails to achieve a level of growth and expansion on par with its competitors will go out of business, it is entirely intuitive that businesses can ONLY be about making profit and expanding - everything else is secondary to that goal.

  • In capitalism, profit is made through exploitation. There are many ways that exploitation is used bring profit in capitalism. The first is through the exploitation of the workers by the capitalist class. This was first described in Capital by Karl Marx and has yet to be disproved. Infoshop (an anarchist information website) describes this process (the extraction of surplus value from workers) quite succinctly: "Under capitalism, workers not only create sufficient value (i.e. produced commodities) to maintain existing capital and their own existence, they also produce a surplus. This surplus expresses itself as a surplus of goods and services, i.e. an excess of commodities compared to the number a workers' wages could buy back. The wealth of the capitalists, in other words, is due to them "accumulating the product of the labour of others.""

Debate: Communism

Is communism a sound political philosophy?

Background and context

Communism is a socioeconomic structure that promotes the establishment of a classless, stateless society based on common ownership of the means of production. It is usually considered to be a branch of socialism, a broad group of social and political ideologies, which draws on the various political and intellectual movements with origins in the work of theorists of the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, although socialist historians say they are older. Communism attempts to offer an alternative to the problems believed to be inherent with capitalist economies and the legacy of imperialism and nationalism. Communism states that the only way to solve these problems would be for the working class, or proletariat, to replace the wealthy bourgeoisie, which is currently the ruling class, in order to establish a peaceful, free society, without classes, or government. The dominant forms of communism, such as Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, Trotskyism and Luxemburgism, are based on Marxism, but non-Marxist versions of communism (such as Christian communism and anarchist communism) also exist and are growing in importance since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Property: Is the communist perspective on collective ownership of property appropriate?


  • Liberal democracies should ensure a degree of "equality of outcome" A principal 20th century liberal theorists, John Rawls, originated the idea of a the "veil of ignorance". The idea is that, imagining we all had no idea how we would "come out of the womb" and whether we would be "advantaged or disadvantaged", what kind of social contract would we construct. We would want to construct one in which we minimized the risks to ourselves if we happened to get the "short-end of the stick". This is why a degree of "equality of outcome" is important. Communism and socialism recognize these ideas.

  • Society must collectively own many form of property through government - Benjamin Franklin - "All property, indeed, except the savage's temporary cabin, his bow, his matchcoat and other little Acquisitions absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the creature of public Convention. Hence, the public has the rights of regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the quantity and uses of it. All the property that is necessary to a man is his natural Right, which none may justly deprive him of, but all Property superfluous to such Purposes is the property of the Public who, by their Laws have created it and who may, by other Laws dispose of it."[1]


  • People have full rights to their property that governments shouldn't deprive. Governments violate the rights of citizen when they force, or threaten to force, individuals to transfer their legitimately held wealth to the state in order to provide for pensions, to help the needy, or to pay for public goods (e.g., parks or roads). Individuals have a natural right to life, liberty, and property. Depriving any one of these rights diminishes the others. Therefore, these rights must be considered inviolable. They are important to uphold for their own ends, not merely for other expediencies. Therefore, no matter what the cost, the individual right to property must be upheld as an absolute. A socialist government would not uphold this right.

  • "Collective" Ownership is an ill defined concept Whatever rhetoric may be used, the fact of ownership of property is having control over the use and disposition of said property. When one speaks of "collective" ownership one is really speaking of government ownership. As a practical matter then the representatives of the state then grant usage of property to individuals who then effectively own it. The real question is whether individuals will gain the use of property through the exchange of their own productive labor or if they will gain its use through political influence. Communism is simply a newer atheistic form of feudalism with divine right of kings replaced with political right of the commissars.

Economics: Is communism economically beneficial?


"1935: Social security will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!

1944: The G.I. Bill will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!

1965: Medicare will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!

1994: Health care will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!"


  • Government merely defends the interests of the rich against the poor Adam Smith - "Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all."[2]. It is likely that this would happen with communism.

Motivation: In a communist, society, would people by motivated to help others?


  • Many could be motivated to work by a wish to aid their fellow man. Over time, as the benefits of this better way of life become obvious, all will. The impulse to share wealth and material amongst the community, to support all, leaving none behind, is one of the purest mankind can experience. It is not merely possible – it is a demonstration of the progress of our species to a finer, more humane state of being.


  • The drive to succeed as an individual is the strongest motivating factor a human being can feel in their work. When work is uncoupled from reward, or when an artificial safety net provides a high standard of living for those who don’t work hard, society suffers. The fact that individuals are driven to succeed is in all our interests

Can communism help the less wealthy?


  • Shared wealth will mean more wealth for the less wealthy. If wealth is shared the lower class will receive a fairer and high share of a nation's wealth.

  • Helping the less wealthy is the intention of communism. Communism was founded on the idea of helping the less wealthy so it seems obvious that communism can help the lower class.


  • Communist states often oppress dissent. This would not be good for the emotional well-being of the population.

  • Communism will destroy the economy. By restricting the activities of individuals the economy will collapse. This means that there will be poverty for everyone.

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