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A Comparison Between Capitalism and Socialism

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Capitalism vs. Socialism: What is similar and what is different, and how do they compare to a Free Market economy?

Both systems, communism and capitalism, have undeniable virtues. Marx’s theory regarding surplus value and control of the means of production has been largely validated throughout history and the whole of humanity stands to benefit from a greater understanding of Marxist theory, but capitalism in the form of free exchange is inherent to the human condition and is the sole reason why we have risen so far above chimpanzees, who never learned how to trade effectively.

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Under a communist or socialist system, workers effectively trade opportunity tomorrow for safety today. For some, especially the disabled or unskilled and now redundant to automation, this is quite appealing — future risks for these groups can be easily predicted, and are problems we will be forced to address in the coming years. Social security for retirees and the Job Corps are fantastic examples of this, despite some of their massive flaws. I will not argue that the use of force to raise living standards is immoral, because that is quite easily refuted with simple utilitarianism, but instead that such a system actually hurts those with the most to gain more than anyone else.

However, in a purely capitalist system, as differentiated from free markets, workers end up in virtually the same situation, trapped by debt and exploitation by the triptych of industry, military, and bureaucracy. The primary difference now is that one proletariat is oppressed by men in grey, while the other is held down by men in black ties. In ruthless capitalism, whoever can buy the most guns becomes the de facto state — while free markets can only exist through the legitimate use of force, held constantly in check, by the state; these successful free markets have done more for humanity than any other system or invention.

Our current GWP (PPP) is an abysmal $16,000. If we were to institute a communist system, assuming full efficiency of redistribution, nearly all of Americans would assume a permanent standard of living not even comparable to a minimum wage worker receiving no benefits. America’s wealth is not ill-gotten, however — though a strict Marxist calculation points to exploitation of the third world, had it not been for our absurd wealth and expansion of our economy into poor countries we would never have nearly-singlehandedly eliminated global extreme poverty. Again, this is not from the corporate oligarchy we so often experience at home — the massive success of emerging markets is only possible through the existence of stable governments that value human rights and free enterprise. Compounding returns in human progress, resulting from freer global markets, manifest in massive increases in standards of living for those at the very bottom, yet still allowing would-be capitalist entrepreneurs and financiers to generate profit from this growth without hurting a soul.

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