There is an interesting note (followed by an interesting discussion) on Slashdot about the trends toward communal behaviour on the internet and the way this is putting paid to many 50’s-era “myths” about communism and its evils.
Personally I think the first few responders have got it right. Just as in most cases, the absolutes on either side are as dangerous as the other. Absolute capitalism leads to economic collapse, serious gaps between the mega-rich and the starving-poor and a level of selfish viciousness that is astonishing to behold. Likewise, absolute communism breeds -exactly- the same problems as the system set up to empower the workers is itself perverted to serve the comfortable few.
Luckily, the world has very few absolutes. I have been watching the American media a bit lately and am constantly amazed by some of the things said, particularly on channels such as Fox News. I often am led to wonder whether the presenters on this channel actually believe the things they say, or are cynically manipulating a public more impressed with theatrics and personal attacks then actual reasoned debate and knowledge. To this day I’m unsure which I’d prefer to be the truth.
Watching the constant attacks on president Obama, constantly calling him and his policies and ideas “socialist” has been a complete laugh. There must be a segment of the population who obviously believe America to be a pure capitalist society. Truth me people, it isn’t – and you’ll be thankful for it.
The classic remark was from a Chrysler dealer not long after the company started shutting down franchises and giving them to other people, sticking the owners with stock they couldn’t sell and massive debts they couldn’t support. The story was horrifyingly sad, but it didn’t prevent us noticing the absurdity of what this man said: “How could this happen in America? I thought we were a capitalist society!”
The place where this sort of thing can most easily happens is a more “capitalist” society! In a purely capitalist society the market decides and there’s nothing stopping someone who is paying you from deciding to pay someone else instead to do your job. If they can do it cheaper, better, or hell, if they just like the look of their face more than yours. That’s what capitalism is all about, free market. (Emphasis on free.)
It’s a pretty horrible way to live for 90% of the people, so society decides to restrain the free market in various ways. We put regulation on the way companies dump waste (free market economics demand that companies dump waste as cheaply as possible, which prohibits environmentally safe options), the way they treat labour (minimum wage restrictions, unfair dismissal laws) and how they build their products (national safety standards).
We step further from the free market in our social services too – some countries more than others. Welfare, public school systems, public health-care (Australians, Canadians and plenty of other countries have it) are all “socialist” ideas that mix nicely with a capitalist economic system. Its the citizens paying for services available to everyone.
So every time you hear someone spit out “socialised medicine!” like its some sort of disease, realise that there is no “capitalism vs communism” anymore. Theres just the world, and individual societies who are each determining how much of their money they are willing to give to the government in order that everyone in the country should benefit from new services.
Personally, I find it a constant astonishment that a country who is so willing to spend billions of dollars for no other reason than killing the people of other countries is so allergic to spending some of that money to keep their own people alive. In the end, it’s health-care and education that will keep your country strong far longer than just guns and muscles.
And please don’t forget that communism and totalitarianism are not the same thing. It’s not only the communists who have to worry about governments controlling and oppressing their people. We -all- do.