The Road from Ruin- Let’s Fix Capitalism!

After the recent Democratic debate, I was engaged in a water cooler discussion when someone asked a question that stopped me in my tracks.

What’s wrong with Socialism?

My mind splattered thinking of various points in history… the Holocaust, the excess of the Soviet Union, the American Dream, American Individualism… but I just couldn’t come up with an answer to the question. As the day wore on, I became increasingly interested in this subject. My mind kept wandering back to a moment in my childhood when someone had given me a chocolate bar and how my mom had insisted that I share it with my 4 siblings. I, of course, being a child, did not want to share something I’d rightfully earned… but, I had no choice and somehow, this seemed like the perfect analogy to describe why so many people are so against Socialism.

Socialism- a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Socialism, like most ideals, comes from an altruistic place. The idea that people take care of those less fortunate than themselves is admirable, and I strongly endorse making sure that everybody gets their basic needs taken care of. The claim that Socialism is the antithesis to inequality, however, is just plain wrong. Socialism puts all the controls in the hands on the Government, which if run by corrupt leaders can lead to disaster. Cue in Hitler, Stalin, Chavez etc. In a true socialist society, competition is non-existent because everyone is equally responsible for everything, whether they contribute or not. Here’s the best way to illustrate this:

Socialism is like a cart that has to be drawn by ten people, and they’re equally responsible for the progress they make, but it doesn’t much matter whether they do any pulling. Many of those able and inclined to pull will finally get the picture and just stop pulling. Invariably, to get the cart going again, someone has to be empowered to make everyone work harder. Those who don’t want to pull or cannot pull because of any infirmity know that they are living in a just society, and they expect to live a comfortable life.”

Capitalism: an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

In capitalism, the motive for producing goods and services is to sell them for a profit, not to satisfy people’s needs. It’s based on the hope that when you let people amass great wealth, they will voluntarily share it with those who cannot take care of themselves. But, we all know how that turns out! Capitalism is not perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got, folks! Think of a world without freedom, innovation and competition. Think of a world without Google, Apple or Facebook. Think of your job or career where there is no appreciation for your hard work and no opportunity for advancement based on merit. Think of your coworker doing half as much and getting paid the same as you. That’s not for me, thank you very much. Yet, there is so much discontent & inequality. For all my hard work and productivity, I barely scrape through each month, nevermind, amassing wealth.

Cap

What we need is for Capitalism to better spread the wealth of its productivity revolution, says Robert Reich, a professor of Economics and a former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. In his recent book, Saving Capitalism, which I’m currently reading and highly recommend, he argues that the rules of the game must be tweaked to help fight against economic inequality. “A market – any market -requires that government make and enforce the rules of the game,” Reich argues. “The critical debate for the future is not about the size of government,” he adds; “it is about who should the government serve?” In other words, why isn’t our government doing more to help fight economic inequality? Incidentally, if you haven’t seen the documentary “Inequality for All” on Netflix, you’re missing out.

The illegal immigrant across the street is not the reason why our jobs are going away. He’s just a pawn like any of us in this elaborate “free-market” lie. We’re being robbed from the top, not from the bottom and our government is a silent cohort! Our political and economic systems are rigged in favor of the 1%. You only need to look over the last two decades to see that there has been a shift to create policies and legislation that enable the rich to become richer while the middle class has practically vanished and those living in or near the poverty line have multiplied exponentially.

What can we do?

The reason why Bernie Sanders resonates with so many people is because he’s been saying all the right things about what people are feeling collectively. Many fear a populist revolt at the ballot box and that’s not hard to imagine. But, Socialism is not the answer to our fiercely individualistic society. “Collectivism and individualism cannot long share the same bed. They are political oil and water, and neither can compromise its position without eventually succumbing to the other.”

Capitalism needs to be rewired in favor of everyone, not just a few, for a strong, vibrant and growing economy. During this election cycle, I wish more politicians were talking about how to fix Capitalism instead of diverting attention away from this topic.

2 thoughts on “The Road from Ruin- Let’s Fix Capitalism!

  1. Nick Johnson

    Thanks for your considerate and passionate post. I absolutely agree that socialism isn’t the answer, and that we should work towards a reformed capitalism. There have been periods when this was more the case, such as the 1950s and 1960s, which saw more or less full employment and greater equality in the capitalist world. This was partly due to the legacy of fairly successful collective action in order to fight WWII, and the experience of the Great Depression, as well as the necessity to demonstrate the superiority of capitalism as against the socialist block. For a while people seemed to be more amenable to state intervention to improve economic performance and achieve social goals. But neo-liberalism has tried to undo much of that. In the US especially, it seems as if many of the richest are amassing greater political influence alongside their wealth, and lobbying for policies which will benefit them alone. I do not think that the capitalist system necessarily awards income and wealth based entirely on merit. The power to influence the rules of the game and how it is rigged are also part of the story. In my view, economics is inherently political and ‘political economy’ is a more appropriate name for the study of wealth creation/distribution. The recent recession led to massive state intervention to save the banks, but we have not seen a large political shift. Some leftist figures and parties have appeared though. Maybe the real change is yet to come.

    1. senadoll

      Thanks for reading and for offering this historical perspective. All we can do is educate ourselves and elect leaders who are willing to fight for our cause.

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