Social Question

CaptainHarley's avatar

What, exactly, is socialism, and what are the advantages/disavantages of introducing it into the USA?

Asked by CaptainHarley (22409points) November 1st, 2010

Elsewhere on Fluther, we had a brief discussion about what socialism really is. This is hopefully a cotinuation of that discussion. Is there more than one definition? If so, is there one on which we can agree? Do we have the beginnings of a socialistic system in the USA, or are we in the process of establishing one? If yes, what will be the advantages and/or the disadvantages of having an “American Socialism?”

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36 Answers

Jaxk's avatar

The easiest way to look at pure socialism is to look at the Borg Collective. That is true socialism. No government, everybody does they’re assigned job and no one complains or tries to get ahead. I’m not impressed.

JLeslie's avatar

Can we agree there is a difference between having some social programs and pure socialism?

YoBob's avatar

@JLeslie Sure. The question is where to draw the line.

There are those who believe that the role of the federal government should be limited to providing for our collective national defense and regulating matters of inter-state commerce, then there are those who believe that unless you have complete cradle to grave intervention from a benevolent “nanny state” you are a heartless barbarian.

As for me I lean towards the former even though it means having to accept both a greater amount of personal responsibility as well as personal risk. I believe that self determination is fundamental to true human development.

mammal's avatar

There are many definitions, but ideally the worker is not alienated from the means of production but participates within a co-operative that controls the means of production and thus has democratic influence over the allocation of resources, and whose objective is to adequately cater for the needs of all.

Contrast this with a Capitalist system, whereby the means of production are owned and controlled privately, at the exclusion of the worker, who’s sole input is his labour, and no further influence particularly over the distribution of goods. The motive of the Capitalist is profit, as opposed to meeting human needs.

The means of production -

Means of production refers to physical, non-human inputs used in production—the factories, machines, and tools used to produce wealth[1]—along with both infrastructural capital and natural capital. This includes the classical factors of production minus financial capital and minus human capital. They include two broad categories of objects: instruments of labour (tools, factories, infrastructure, etc.) and subjects of labour (natural resources and raw materials). People operate on the subjects of labour, using the instruments of labour, to create a product; or, stated another way, labour acting on the means of production creates a product.[2] When used in the broad sense, the “means of production” includes the “means of distribution” which includes stores, banks, and railroads.[3]

Wikipedia definition.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

“Socialism is the doctrine that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that his life and his work do not belong to him, but belong to society, that the only justification of his existence is his service to society, and that society may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good…..Socialism may be established by force, as in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—or by vote, as in Nazi (National Socialist) Germany. The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia—or partial, as in England. Theoretically, the differences are superficial; practically, they are only a matter of time. The basic principle, in all cases, is the same.” :Ayn Rand

JLeslie's avatar

@YoBob thank you for permission to let us be somewhere in the middle. I think that is in line with the Amercian way, and my own preferences. So true, it is about where do we draw the line.

@all I believe first of all the governent can work side by side with business. It also seems that in our history government has funded extensive research. I think everyone agrees our government helped invent the internet, but of course private business really fueled the invention and mass distribution of personal computers. People speak of research done by pharmaceutical companies, because they pursue profit, I agree with that, but there have been also incredible medical discoveries funded by and found by the government. It is not just about a safety net regarding shelter or healthcare, society is so much more complex than that. But regarding shelter, I was watching Martha Stewart in Singapore, the country is amazing, and it seems after the British left and they got their independence, the elected Prime Minister built lots of housing, believing all Singaporians should have shelter, and someone explained to me that there is belief that people can be most productive when they do not have to worry about basic things like shelter. It seems that even today 80% of Singapore’s citizens live in the housing built for this purpose. I was shocked. The country has thriving businesses, and is as you know very international, and a major port of call.

I feel I am a capitalist at heart, but I feel there needs to be controls and regulations. I also feel we have a check and balance between business, government, and the individual, and I would not want to give that up.

I hope we, as a country, can look around the world, and take what ideas have worked well, that can fit into our culture, and try them out. If they do not work well, we change, improve with the next idea. What I can’t stand is the paranoia, which has replaced rational discussion on the topic. Thank God for fluther.

JLeslie's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille give it a rest. What was horrific about the Nazi’s was they did not have a basic premise that all people are equal and deserve to live at least with basics provided by the government. They felt one race superior, and killed the other people who didn’t meet the criteria. Also, I have been told Hitler was not socialist, but my history is not strong enough for me to argue this point.

The USSR was Communist, it did use socialistic ideas, but it is not synonomous. Communism is one step farther than just controling the economy and business it seeks to control society, goes as far as trying to control religious beliefs and ownership of personal property. It is no longer just trying to fulfill basic needs and provide security and safety for its citizens, it goes beyond that to controlling everything.

I say we look around the world, and what has been effective in our own history for what works and what doesn’t. Many countries in Latin America are Democracies with free markets, but I don’t think they are the only picture of a democracy or capitalism. You say Nazi, I say Denmark. The generalizations need to stop, we need to be more specific, more analytical about it in my opinion.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@JLeslie -“Give it a rest” is a phrase used by those who haven’t a leg to stand on and don’t want to be drowned by the deluge of the truth.
Your history is not only “not strong enough” it is woefully lacking coherence and would lead you to the box cars if there weren’t people in this world intelligent enough to prevent you from doing so. Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.
Don’t try to lecture me or anyone else with your pathetic synopsis of what you feel the differences are between Communism, Socialism and Capitalism. Based on what you’ve presented here, your knowledge is abysmal and is devoid of the fundamental principles inherent of these systems. You need an Epistemological house cleaning!

N.A.Z.I is an acronym for the German shortening & alteration from “Nationalsozialist” ( that’s with a “Z”), so yeah Hitler was a socialist.
Democracy is nothing more than mob rule and no one is “equal” in a Democracy, let alone a Socialist Democracy.
In a Democracy if nine cannibals vote to eat the tenth cannibal it’s OK because they took a vote, so much for “equality”.
The US is a Constitutionally Limited Republic which elects its representatives through the Democratic process, but that is where Democracy’s participation ends.

Zaku's avatar

People tend to label me a socialist or communist when I mention various economic ideas, but I don’t agree with the sentiments in Ayn Rand’s definition which @lucillelucillelucille quoted above. I believe people have the right to live for themselves. In fact, I think it may be a human’s first duty to take care of their own needs and happiness. The Ayn Rand quote seems to me extreme to the point of making benevolence unworkable.

It seems to me that the question touches on assumptions about human nature. That quote speaks of duty, as if humans would need to have a duty imposed on them to prevent them from being destructively selfish. That’s an idea also found in right-wing American dogma, and in Christianity (i.e. humans need Christ to be good), which all seems like patent BS to me. I believe humans are mostly good and loving to each other by nature. What causes us to abuse each other is having been abused and not healed, and other fearful circumstances.

But what is the purpose of a government? I feel it should serve the people and their wishes and needs, and to some degree it should provide services that make sense to provide (e.g. defense, some infrastructure and utilities, justice, others as chosen by the people), and that it should not instead be at the service of corrupt powermongering politicians, nor to serve greedy corporations (e.g. oil industry investing money trying to get global warming deniers into government) or groups who seek to oppress others (e.g. anti-abortionists, from my perspective), unless a great majority of the people are choosing to be oppressed as an expression of cultural beliefs (e.g. anti-abortionists simply wanting such rules in their own anti-abortion community).

lloydbird's avatar

Socialism as expounded : I’m no expert.
Socialism in principle : Win/Lose (Competition) versus Win/Win (Co-operation.)
From what I see, there is a whole lot of Win/Lose in America as it stands.

JLeslie's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille my first sentence was written very poorly, two thoughts. Anyway, my point is, why don’t you explain to me, if you would like to, what it is about socialist Germany that is so appauling to you? I think most people have pictures of Hitlers killing machine, Xenophobia, and racism, when his name is mentioned. My history knowledge is poor, I admitted it off the bat. From what I understand Nazi Germany still had some free enterprise, although a lot was run by the government, but it was not like Communist Russia.

Forgive me if I was flip in my response to you, but you have to admit there is a lot of Nazi being thrown around these days. Funny, when Bush was president I had relatives that called him Hitler.

Anyway, what I am getting at is there are probably some good things in socialist societies we can learn from, and there are bad. There are good things in a Capitalistic society, and there are bad. I like the idea that in America we can have a mix, our own way, an American way.

mammal's avatar

Nazi Germany was always more about Nationalism than Socialism, there lies the problem. There was nothing about that ethos that resembled Socialism, in fact the Jews were persecuted on the basis that they were considered inherently bolshevik, so it is ridiculous to equate socialism with Nazi ideology.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I tend to view socialism as state-imposed and collectivistic. The other historic thread on this topic could be explained as primarily individualistic ( except when people are voluntarily collective for relatively short-term goals ).

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

The horrors of Nazi Germany can be understood by one simple statement made by Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels ”“To be a Socialist,” says Goebbels, “is to submit the I to the thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.”
Under this type of philosophy,anything and anyone can be sacrificed and the Germans practiced what they preached and sacrificed millions. Remember ,I had used a quote which stated “The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia—or partial, as in England”. What Germany set up was in between those extremes, a Fascist Socialist state. Property remained in the hands of it’s citizens but ultimate control was in the hands of the state leaving the citizen holding the bag.

The United States was the first moral society in the history of the world. The American way was originally Capitalism. Not declared,but organic by virtue that for the first time in the history of man a nation was born which enshrined the right of the individual over the state as it’s sole reason for being. The only Socioeconomic system which could arise from such a beginning was Capitalism, and not hands off Laisse faire Capitalism but the closest form of pure Capitalism that has ever been achieved. What is moral about Capitalism is man is free to choose, to participate or not. To have total control over ones own life, in a true Capitalist society you cannot lay claim to another’s.

Capitalism had created the highest standard of living ever known on earth.
Witness the meteoric rise of America because of Capitalism which is only possible through freedom. Capitalism leaves men free to achieve that which they are capable of achieving.
The twentieth Century witnessed two societies, American quasi capitalist society and the former Communist Soviet Union. America embracing, as best it could, Capitalistic principles and thriving while the Soviets held to Communism all the while feeding off it’s own corpse and eventually self -devouring. Yet notice the further America moves from capitalism to a more Socialist system the further we also fall.

To quote Margret Thatcher “The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@mammal -What is ridiculous is you apparently don’t understand that the word Nazi is short for the German translation of Nationalsozialist or National+Socialist. And what is also ridiculous is the statement you made: “so it is ridiculous to equate socialism with Nazi ideology.”

Again quoting Joseph Goebbels Hitler’s Propaganda minister when discussing the nature of the Nazi state “To be a socialist,” says Goebbels, “is to submit the I to the thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.”

Now I suppose you understand what it is to be a Nazi better than Hitler’s own Propaganda Minister? So no, you my friend are “ridiculous”

Zaku's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille I massively disagree with your version of history and your conclusions, but I don’t have the will to argue today.

JLeslie's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille I think what people want in America is still maintain control, in the sense that the government serves us, not what you describe. @mammal point about nationalism is a big one, that is why during Bush so many liberals felt the country was going the way of Hitler. I don’t think it was really Bush’s doing, but more the people around him, and the loud moths on the far right who get attention. The whole schtick abut being agains the war meant those people were UnAmerican, or less American, and the assumption they did not support our men who were fighting. That whole line of crap, asking for a blind loyalty to the President and our country is like Hitler. Possibly some of Hitler’s ideas on socialism can be compared to some ideas being raised in America, I am not clear on that, and I don’t doubt if we pick it apart we can find some, but my point is you can pick little pieces and scream Nazi from either side.

Blind loyalty is the real scary part of any government style I think. Corruption in government is a problem also, it can happen under socialism, capitalism, communism, etc. I don’t want to give up the power of the people.And, to be clear, I do no want to live in a socialist society. I do want some social services to be provided by the government, and I am willing to pay for them.

And, I do know we are a Republic. You mave have seen me on other Q’s voice my displeasure with the electoral college, I want a popular vote.

I hope some of our German jellies make a comment on the thread, not only for their perspective on Nazi Germany, but also their thoughts on socialism, and their definition.

JLeslie's avatar

I am so sorry for all of the typos, too late for me to correct.

CaptainHarley's avatar

“Where the people fear the government, there is tyranny. Where the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

No, I didn’t say it first… but I wish I had! : )

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

The National Socialists, regardless of what Limbaugh, Beck, Malkin, Coulter, Hannity and their ilk say, was socialist in name only. The Nazis spent a lot of time and money in eradicating socialists from their society. They even burned down their own parliamentary building then blamed it on the Left in a false flag operation which was bought hook, line and sinker by the German populace. Read the history, it helps to have a knowledge base.

Second: I can tell you a little about Socialism in practice.

Throughout the Perestroika period of 1987–1990, I spent a cumulative eight months in Warsaw, Poland. Poland, about the size of New Mexico, has always been rich in natural resources and tillable land. At the time I was there it had a population of 35 million people with a skilled, educated workforce that, under Socialism as a USSR satellite since WWII, had an annual GNP just less than the annual net revenue of General Motors Corporation. This, of course, was much less than its potential.

Here, I saw Socialism first hand from the ground up. The first thing I noticed while traveling the 350 miles from the Baltic coastal city of Świnoujście (my initial entry point) to Warsaw, was that the long distance rail cars were in fact unheated, seemingly unrefurbished, Parisian Metro light rail commuter trains from the 1960s. You could tell, because remnants of French advertising, Parisian Metro and French Tourist Bureau instructions were still plastered on the insides of the cars. For safety purposes, the train never went over 35 miles per hour. With stops and unscheduled sidetracking, it was more than twelve hours before we entered Warsaw Central Station. There were no toilets on these cars and they would have to stop the train every few hours in some woods or other rural setting so hundreds of people could pile out and relieve themselves. Often there were not enough trees or other barriers to hide behind and you could see men pissing in the open and women squatting over the frozen ground from the windows of the train. It was humiliating for both them and the observer. Each party averted their eyes.

The common automobile was the 1961 Fiat compact 4 door sedan, the exact same model of which was produced every year, year in and year out, but in a different color for each year so people would know which year the car was produced in order to determine it’s age. I believe the 1986 ‘61 Fiat was blue and the 1985 ‘61 Fiat was white. It was against the law to paint one’s car other than its original color as this was fraud—equivalent to tampering with the odometer.

There hadn’t been meat or fish in the shops since December 12th, 1981, the day that General Jaruzelski had declared martial law. On the other hand, vodka was plentiful and always available. A litre of the State product, Zwetnya Vodka, went for seven cents American and when frozen to the viscosity of cooking oil, was very good and soothing.

There was a wall phone at the end of the hall on each floor of every apartment building which was quite often inoperable. Next to the phone sat an old lady on a stool whom you paid to make calls or bribed to advance ahead of someone else in line. I never figured out on what authority these women were able to gouge their neighbors, but I suspect they had some sort of political clout, a son in the Party, a relative with the security police, etc. People would crowd around these phones all day long and call relatives to ask what type of food was in the shops in their part of town. Some would have cheese, others eggs or bread or a tasteless white margarine (that I always suspected of being some kind of lard), and swaps would be arranged. Coffee was nearly unheard of and meat was impossible to find unless you knew a member of the Communist Party. Fruit and vegetables mostly came in cans, but on a rare occassion one could get dehydrated. In all my time in the city, I never saw fresh produce except in groceries reserved for Party members.

Only once in my time in Poland did I see fresh fish available, all be it in limited amounts at high prices. The traditional Christmas meal in Poland is centered around a large carp, much like the American Christmas meal is centered on a large turkey or ham. During the Christmas of 1988, I saw some carp available in a few shops. They were quickly hoarded by black marketeers and openly resold in the old town square at even higher prices. The state radio was telling the citizens that, due to the criminal Western Imperialist forces backed by the NATO Pact countries (read USA) which were ransacking their socialist brother nations in the third world of all their resources, a large portion of Polish meat and fish production was being exported to those countries as foreign aid. This was the official State explanation for the years of shortages.

A good lie has a modicum of truth in it, but nobody I knew actually bought this story as Solidarity Underground had proven that all of Poland’s meat production was being sent by rail to the Soviet Union to feed their vast army. I could go on all day with this. The fact is, the governments of the socialist east bloc were corrupt. The people were completely controlled in every aspect of their lives. In order to live, one had to break a law one way or another and therefore each person could be arrested at any time if the state security police deemed them important enough, or if one of their neighbors with any political connections at all chose to settle a grudge.

Apartments were handled through the State apartment exchange and the waiting list was 26 years. Women, once they realized they were pregnant, would register their unborn children with the housing office so their child might have their own apartments by the time they started their own families. The result was two and three generations living in one and two bedroom apartments. In order to register, the parents needed to name their children before they knew what sex they would be, and because of this, today there are many Poles with names of non-specific gender.

The list for private telephones was nine years long, cars eleven years—for that 1961 Fiat. It didn’t matter how much money one had, unless it was western currency. On the other hand, if one was a member of the Communist Party—which represented only ten percent of the population—anything could be had at anytime by simply showing their Party documents, usually a red plasticized picture ID card about the size of a driver’s license. They even had their own shops, hotels, nightclubs and the official state travel agency, Orbitz, all of which were closed to the common citizen. These facilities rivaled anything you could find in London or New York and they only accepted western currencies, the possession of which, was officially against the law.

Bureaucracy and monetary exchange was very weird in Poland. Upon entry from the west one had to pass through the customs ritual. At Świnoujście, this took place in a Quonset hut the size of an airport hangar at the end of a path that led from where the ferry from Sweden docked. The first station just inside the entrance of the building was a kind of barred teller’s window behind which a middle aged woman in a babushka sat and furiously stamped the living hell out of my passport, taking up at least six pages with a variety of stamps. I’d never seen anything like it. She loudly recited the rules to me in Polish at the top of her lungs, which had no effect because I didn’t understand a word she said. She handed me a card with six different languages, including English, that explained that basically, you weren’t allowed to bring in any agricultural items, including meat or coffee, or western currencies.

I was carrying about a thousand dollars in deutsche marks, dollars and Swedish kronor. She asked me how many days I would be in Poland and I foolishly told her the truth, 30 days, and this required that I exchange about $20 at 9,000 zloty per dollar for every day that I was in country, plus there was some kind of nominal daily tax. On the suggestion of my Polish traveling companion from Sweden, Teresa, I gave her fifty bucks which she pocketed and that was that. Fifty dollars was nearly three months income for her. There was a large glass pyramid near her window which was full of Polish currency. When I asked about it, she explained that I would not be able to take any Polish currency out of the country when I left and this is where I was to deposit it, without any exchange.

I had four large duffel bags with me, one of which had clothing and personal articles, the other three were crammed with smoked Swedish hams and tins of primo Gevalia coffee, gifts for friends. At the next station I was asked to dump my bags on a long table for inspection by these very young soldiers in ill-fitting brown wool military dress with Sam Brown belts across their chests. When they saw the hams and coffee, they just stared at me. Not sure what to do, I gave them each a tin and a ham and they quickly packed my bags for me and sent me out the door at the other end of the Quonset hut.

On the other side of the door stood two more young soldiers leaning on their old bolt-action carbines. These kids still had peach fuzz on their chins. They immediately offered me an exchange rate of 90,000 zloty per dollar. Teresa told me to wait. Down the road toward the train station there was a row of taxis. Here, they were willing to trade 120,000 zloty per dollar, an inflation rate of about 1,300% within a quarter mile of the babushka lady that originally offered me 9,000 zloty by the official exchange. At this rate, I figured I’d be a millionaire before I made it up the hill to the train station. But on Teresa’s advice, I made an exchange of about twenty dollars with the cabbies which lasted me a week.

I got better at this as time went on. It was the way things were done. The babushka lady and I got to know each other pretty well over the next couple of years and she always had a bright smile for me and I always had a tin of coffee, a ham, and a fifty for her and a couple of hams for the guys. She would clear me through customs without searches or delays, and everything always went smoothly. By the end, she was coming around the cage and greeting me with big hugs. But she always made sure to stamp the hell out my passport.

The Polish people I knew in my time in Warsaw, Krakov and environs were the nicest people in the world. I had never experienced people that were more polite and friendly. This says a lot about people who were forced to live under these circumstances from 1945 to 1990.

I remember in one case, a friend needed antibiotics for his sick daughter, but these were unobtainable from both the State and the Catholic Church due to shortages. He had to go to the old town square in downtown Warsaw to buy on the black market. He had to take whatever was available. A one ounce vial of clear liquid and an unpackaged one-time-use syringe cost him one month’s income. The label said tetracycline. What he obtained was either the wrong drug, was too old to be effective, or just plain water, and the result was that his daughter soon died of sepsis.

As bad as it was in Poland, there was a mantra that I’d heard all over Europe: That life was much worse in East Germany.

In my experience, Socialism in practice does not work. In practice, it is a system that ignores the individual rights of human beings in order to benefit only the power elite. In theory, individual rights take a back seat to the greater good of society. On the other hand, we may never know if Socialism actually works because every socialist country that has ever existed was totally corrupt. When so much power is concentrated in any entity besides the people—be it the State or the Corporation—I am convinced this is the inevitable result.

Don’t misunderstand, however. My experience in the US has shown me that, although the corruption is much more subtle, a purely capitalist country that has allowed the corporation to become more powerful than its elected representatives is just as inadequate concerning the democratic self determination of its citizens. I believe this is the case with the United States.

Good government requires a consideration of both individual rights and the greater good, depending on the circumstance to be decided by the people through democratic mechanisms. An educated and well informed citizenry is paramount to a successful democracy. We have neither in the US. The educational system no longer emphasizes critical thinking and it is blatantly evident that the news media exists only to divide the population amongst itself.

The better system, in my opinion, is found in western Europe, where the countries are democratic, its citizens are active in their democracy and the corporations operate within the laws set by these strong democracies—and not the corporation subjugating the government to their will as they have in the US. In return, the taxpayer gets education, healthcare and national protection for their money. They are statistically healthier, better educated and happier than the average American. They generally feel their government works for them and not the other way around. This seems like a very good system to emulate.

It’s interesting that a recent international study placed American primary and secondary school children 24th in the world in academic achievement, but number one in self confidence. We are raising people who are confident in their beliefs, yet they have no knowledge base. People like this rarely understand history or new concepts and are unable to formulate solutions to complex problems— which is the only way to avoid making the mistakes of the past.

JLeslie's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Thanks for writing all of that out. You basically said what I was getting at, but much better, and I learned quite a bit.

Zaku's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Those are some great descriptions!

However, you are describing Eastern Bloc countries, and what you describe has more to do with being part of essentially a Russian empire (the USSR), and a buffer zone of occupied territory between Russia and Europe. The corruption and power classes and so on are more a product of Russian history than socialism, in my opinion. Sweden, Germany, and France are at least partly socialist governments, too, and I would far rather be in any of those countries than in America.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Zaku What you are describing, as far as the western European countries are concerned, is Social Democracy, a socially responsible form of capitalism, not Socialism. Socialism is a disaster in every country in which it has been practiced, whether we’re talking about a former Soviet satellite country, China, or post war Viet Nam.

It is common that Americans cannot make the distinction between Socialism and Social Democracies just like they can’t make the distinction between National Socialism and Socialism here in this string of comments. They seem to think that, since the word “Social” is used in these terms, that the concepts are indistinguishable from each other, which is childish and simplistic and nothing can be farther from the truth. I go to great lengths to explain that in the last paragraphs above.

@JLeslie: Thank You.

mammal's avatar

What get’s my goat with Ayn Rand, is the fact that she was fully educated by the The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to at least Post Grad level, for free, whereupon she defects to The United States of America in order to make a living, (a very decent living) trouncing the very system that offered her intellectual sustenance, to live a frivolous life of luxury.

Secondly the bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoisie, always cite the dissolution of individuality as the ultimate objection to socialism, what they mean is Their individuality, because, obviously the proletariat is merely an object, or instrument of production, they are not respected or related to as individuals.

In conclusion it seems to me that all men & women are created individual
but some are more individual than others… ;)

mattbrowne's avatar

Short answer: individuals can’t own businesses, only the collective can.

Advantages: almost none, except perhaps that people can’t be fired because shareholders want cut costs and increase the share price

Disadvantages: little innovation, few incentives to be creative and work hard, no real domestic competition

East Germany was a socialist country for 40 years and failed miserably. Some people were extremely creative though and a huge black market system was invented which followed the principles of a market economy. There were code words for many products used in newspaper ads for example.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Excellent post. Really well done! I salute you!

You have hit the nail on the head with your indictment of most education here in the US. It’s very, very sad, but true. I think two of the reasons for what has happened is the abdication of parental responsibility, and the influence of the teachers’ unions. My son home-schooled his boys until they were ready for 3rd grade, and they manage to glide through the canned lessons in public school with the greatest of ease.

mammal's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus thanks for that post…excellent, Stalin was always more interested in punishing Poland than Liberating it.

I was disappointed with China equally, back in the 90’s, i’m even more disappointed with it currently, but after spending time in Cuba my interest in Socialism was rekindled, sure you get the usual disinterested shop attendants selling a paucity of substandard goods, when they can be bothered to, and i’d rather eat from a privately run eatery than anything the state has on offer, but living, health and education standards per capita are far far higher than a good deal of south America, you only have to visit the Dominican Republic next door, or Haiti to appreciate the gulf between the haves and have nots.

@mattbrowne if Capitalism is so advantageous why are it’s most devoted custodians seemingly in a perpetual state of war with such a diverse group of people and countries? From the middle east, to the far east, in Africa and South America. Surely people would realise by now that Capitalism is the most appropriate economic system.

Zaku's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Yes, that is the sort of confusion that many American political groups try to exploit, will all too depressing success.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Why anyone, especially any American, would espouse socialism is way, WAY beyond me. I actually see it as a sort of insanity that gets a grip on spoiled, Middle Class brats who don’t know any better.

mammal's avatar

@CaptainHarley well that’s your choice, people with more to lose than to gain tend to take that stance which is what America is all about, what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine, i don’t really care, but what i do care about is Americans killing, terrorising, bombing and politically meddling with folks around the world that happen to be born on the shit side of Capitalism and want to try out a system that promises to, at the very lease drag them out of the squalor, into a standard of living that is remotely decent.

What is interesting about Socialism, is America has devoted every spare resource available to discredit it, physically destroy it, pressurise and undermine it, so it never really has an opportunity to operate without duress, so in reality we haven’t really seen it function without America and the other post imperial western powers breathing down it’s neck.

CaptainHarley's avatar


“More to lose.” Interesting, since I live on a fixed income and rebuilt a mobile home so my wife and I could move out of rentals. What does it TAKE to convince some people that socialism doesn’t work? It didn’t work in Cuba, which has had over 50 years to make it work, during most of which time the Cuban government was propped up by USSR donations. Now that Cuba no longer has the USSR to prop them up, what are they doing? Moving toward free enterprise.

I remember a science fiction story I read once where a cannibal hive approach to human organization was being tried. The founder of the hive was dismayed because, “I can’t seem to convince our people that we can’t survive forever by eating our own!” I see socialism like that… it eats its own until the money runs out and then blames everything on the “capitalists.” How convenient. : /

cockswain's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus That might be the most interesting answer I’ve read on this site. Thanks for taking the time to detail it so well.

There is plenty of evidence that greater economic freedom equates to greater innovation and economic growth. As @mattbrowne alluded, there are less incentives in a socialist society. Why make the effort if the pay off is just equal to someone who doesn’t?

No question a totally socialist society doesn’t work. However I wonder if an uncorrupted socialist gov’t would be more successful/sustainable than a corrupted capitalist gov’t. Who knows, interesting to ponder.

I believe an uncorrupted Capitalist society is the best gov’t humans have created yet. However our goddamn greedy nature corrupts it, so gov’t has to exist to attempt to correct these problems. So we have a system that allows people to get ultra-wealthy, but then don’t have the goodwill to proportionally donate enough back to the society that allowed them the freedom to get so wealthy.

I’d love to figure out the ideal role of gov’t. A lot of liberal/conservative bickering ends up being about individual freedom vs. role of gov’t. If we were less greedy, we could justify less gov’t. Because we are inherently greedy, we can’t have unchecked Capitalism.

Nothing wrong with economic classes, but there is definitely something wrong with the bulk of the economy residing in a hugely disproportionate percentage of people.

flutherother's avatar

Communism—People under the shadow of the State
Capitalism—People under the shadow of the Corporations
Nazism—People under the shadow of Madness

CaptainHarley's avatar


Is there no “shadow of Liberty?”

flutherother's avatar

@CaptainHarley Liberty is full of shadows but at least it comes with a torch.

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