Socialism is Not the Economic System We Need
One of the most contentious economic debates that often occurs today is the debate between capitalism and socialism. Despite a wide array of contradicting opinions, many people in the US still feel that socialism is a superior economic system for the country. Young people in particular love the idea of socialism so much, that 51% of them have a positive view on it. The 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a self-labeled socialist, won 43.1 percent of the democratic popular vote and socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even won a House seat in New York’s 14th District in 2019.
Young people’s ebullience towards socialism isn’t totally unfounded. Many of the socialistic policies prescribed by politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have very stark differences with the old world image of socialism. It is not the same as what we historically saw in the Soviet Union and North Korea. Socialism and communism are indeed different.
But regardless of this, we need to ask the question: is socialism the right system for us? Though socialist policies like universal healthcare, education and income may seem rational and fair, there are very serious considerations we need to make before we go in that direction. On top of that, there’s always the fear that these seemingly harmless policies could make the government too large for many peoples liking.
These very fears boggle the minds of economists, academics and politicians. Winston Churchill himself once said, “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” This quote perfectly describes what many people believe socialist policies can turn into.
On the opposing side of socialism is capitalism. Capitalism’s fundamental philosophy is that the individual has the right to what he/she creates. Capitalism utilizes the free market and the laws of supply and demand to facilitate efficient economic policy.
Socialism’s sympathizers generally criticize capitalism because of its reliance on profit. They believe that profit seeking can be a cause of corruption and inequality. Though this can be true in some cases, these same people seem to be very nearsighted when it comes to the benefits that they themselves derive from capitalism.
If you take one quick look around the room you are sitting in, you will be very hard-pressed to find one thing that wasn’t created by capitalism. The lights, the chairs, the clocks, and the clothes you are wearing, etc. All of them were produced by a company whose goal is to make a profit.
The competition that arises in the free market is one of the most important reasons why capitalism arguably outshines socialism. Competition drives down prices, and requires business owners to be rational and adaptive in their production, because if they aren’t, they will fail.
This competition is also the reason that capitalism can facilitate progress. It allows intellectuals to profit from their inventions and encourages them to improve. The evolution of communication, transportation, production technologies, and software that make our lives easier are great examples. But this can even be seen in fields like medicine, where healthcare and pharmaceutical companies work to produce lifesaving drugs and technology.
From telegraphs and telephones, to high tech medical treatment, capitalism has the power to fundamentally improve our society.
Numerous studies have found that thanks to the free market, hunger and poverty around the world have been in a drastic decline. Even our own country benefits greatly with record lows in unemployment and poverty. Much of this is attributed to the free market.
Though there are indeed rational arguments for an increased presence of socialist policies, we need to discuss whether they are desirable or not. There is a definite advantage to having an economy in which government policies and regulations cooperate with the free market. That is why we need to have decisive discussions about how each can attribute to a more healthy economy.