Issue Report: Capitalism vs socialism

Which is the superior system, capitalism or socialism?

Within a capitalist society people are free to choose how to utilize their money. They may save it, donate it to charity, or purchase products and services. For these reasons a capitalist society is described as containing a free market. The market is all those things that money can buy, and the people can act freely concerning whether and what they buy. Within a socialist society the means of production and distribution are either determined by all the people through a government, or else select individuals within government decide for the people what will be produced and in what quantity, as well as determine who is entitled to that which is produced. Both capitalism and socialism are systems that may be used to do “good” or “bad” by those with power. There are many different types of power people may have. However, when speaking about capitalism those who have the most money are considered to have the most power. A person who dislikes capitalism will view the rich as having power, whereas a person who likes capitalism will view consumers as having power. In a socialist society it is always those who are in the numerical majority who have the most power. This binary view of potential political and economic systems may be thought simplistic, but it is a debate that is extremely common. Necessarily, many other systems are not touched upon.

Broader philosophies: What are the opposing philosophies of each system?

Socialism run by central bureaucracy, not "the people"

Michael Telzrow. "Socialism's broken promises." New American. December 25th, 2008

“In truth, the working classes had much to lose under socialism, and for later generations the shackles of communism would weigh heavy; for in practice, a central person or group had to control the redistribution of the wealth, and under communism power was concentrated for the benefit of the few at the controls — at the expense of the masses, no matter the harm and the suffering visited upon the masses.”

Socialism over-trusts government bureaucrats

Milton Friedman: “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it. […] The power to do good is also the power to do harm.”

In capitalism, society is rightly ruled by individuals.

Only a given individual can assess what is to his benefit or detriment. Capitalism places responsibility for an individual’s prosperity in his own hands. Socialism attempts to determine an aggrigate good defined as “the good of the collective” and apply that one “shoe” to all “feet”.

Capitalism is about individuals collaborating to supply needs.

On the most basic level, capitalism allows individuals to organize and work together to supply services and goods that have value in communities, meet needs, and for which other citizens are willing to spend their money on to benefit from. There is no exploitation involved at this most fundamental level.

No transaction happens in capitalism unless both parties benefit

Milton Friedman

“The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”

Focusing on large corporation distracts from fundamentals of capitalism.

Capitalism is not about enriching large and powerful corporations. It was originally and remains largely about small groups of individuals in communities working together to supply collective needs. Critics who talk about big corporations in capitalism typically ignore the fact that the vast majority of businesses are small, community-based ones, and ones in which eye-popping profits are not made. Most businesses are just community stores and organizations that pay reasonable wages and that communities would sorely miss.

Capitalism allows for greater personal fulfillment.

Socialism presents a “mob rule” where the collective (or whomever controls the government) outweighs any decisions made by individuals concerning their own lives. Individual “needs” are dictated by the state and so niche markets are prevented from forming. This causes a lack of innovation and social progress because major trends and even fundamental changes in society and technology start in niche markets with very specific needs that would not be considered “efficient” for the state to provide.

In socialist systems, society is ruled by the collective people.

Under socialism, society is ruled by individuals collectively working together toward a common purpose to enhance the collective good. Socialism also promotes democracy, self-management, solidarity, equity and other positive social benefits as well as greatly increases prosperity and equality (see the section on decision-making for more detail). This compares favorably to capitalism, where society is ruled by corporations and their pursuit of profit and power.

Capitalism does not guarantee societies needs.

This is because social costs, and everything that affects third parties in a transaction, are externalised (see discussion of market prices later in debate). This means that social needs and costs are not reflected in pricing. As a result of this, the needs of society are ignored in capitalist society unless they are profitable – which they usually aren’t due to the externalisation of social cost. The pursuit of profit, that is necessary under capitalism, also promotes anti-social behaviour, punishes solidarity and means that all winning takes place at the expense of other. For more analysis of this see Economic Justice and Democracy by Robin Hahnel.

In capitalism, businesses must put profit before everything else.

In a system (capitalism) with a built in need for growth and expansion (on every level) based on profit and on a level of competition such that every company that fails to achieve a level of growth and expansion on par with its competitors will go out of business, it is entirely intuitive that businesses can ONLY be about making profit and expanding – everything else is secondary to that goal. This is especially compounded by the fact that social costs are excluded from prices in capitalism (since they affect third parties) and so creating negative social costs is (practically) free and thus better for profit, while creating positive social costs or dealing with negative social costs is expensive and thus detracts from profits, and thus expansion and growth. In fact, corporations (the dominant business institution in modern capitalism) were designed (very consciously) to this end and that corporations must put profit before everything else is written into law! (information and evidence of this is given in the extended argument page). Information on the causes and effects of capitalism’s need for profit to come first is scattered around this debate (you can easily find it), but particularly relevant for the effects are the discussions on how capitalism fosters imperialism, how profit is made through exploitation, the relationship between capitalism, militarism and war, and on the destruction of the ecosystem.

In capitalism, profit is made through exploitation

There are many ways that exploitation is used bring profit in capitalism. The first is through the exploitation of the workers by the capitalist class. This was first described in Capital by Karl Marx and has yet to be disproved. Infoshop (an anarchist information website) describes this process (the extraction of surplus value from workers) quite succinctly: “Under capitalism, workers not only create sufficient value (i.e. produced commodities) to maintain existing capital and their own existence, they also produce a surplus. This surplus expresses itself as a surplus of goods and services, i.e. an excess of commodities compared to the number a workers’ wages could buy back. The wealth of the capitalists, in other words, is due to them “accumulating the product of the labour of others.”” (Quote is from Kropotkin.) A second way is through the subjugation of people and societies on the peripheries in order to extract wealth from them (see the extended argument on imperialism in the history section). An excellent overview of exploitation in capitalism and its causes can be found here and more detail can be found in Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization by Immanuel Wallerstein, and other more, detailed work, by Wallerstein.

Capitalism is not ruled by individual, but corporations

Corporations are totalitarian structures and are completely unaccountable to the public. Capitalism was designed around the interests of corporations, after they were designed by monarchs so they could keep their power over the rising middle-class and make money just by virtue of having money. Far from being ruled by individuals, capitalism is ruled by corporations who must, by design, continue to expand and make a profit, no matter how harmful this is to the individuals in society. And capitalism has always been ruled by corporations, to the point that they have become the defining feature of the capitalist ruling class. See here and here for explanation and analysis of how big corporations come to dominate capitalism and the effects on society as a result of it.

Capitalism has never been about groups of people working together to meet collective needs.

It has always been about the ruling class enriching itself at the expense of the ordinary people, particularly at the peripheries of capitalism. The only society that is truly ruled by the individual is anarchism, a la the ideas of Kropotkin etc., which is a form of socialism. Anarchism is ruled not by a state or a group of corporations, but by all the individuals in society making decisions together on an equal basis through federated council structures.

Genuine socialism is not ruled by a central bureaucracy!

Genuine socialism means a classless society where everyone owns the means of production and income is still reward based (see the argument and argument page on examples cited against socialism are usually not socialism for more detail on how they are not). The examples of genuine socialism have not (!) been ruled by central bureaucracies (which are incompatible with genuine socialism) but have been ruled by the people. See here for the example of the Spanish revolution, see here for the example of the Zapatistas and here for a general list of small examples. and see A Living Revolution: Anarchism In The Kibbutz Movement by James Horrox for the example of the Kibbutzim. Notice how none of the genuine examples of socialism have any bureaucratisation (and much less than capitalism).

Market transactions exclude third parties.

These third parties could be exploited workers, murdered trade unionists, people who suffer and die from pollution, people who are impoverished, whole species (including humanity) that could get wiped out from climate change. Since third parties are excluded from prices, capitalist prices cannot reflect social cost and end up being extremely destructive. See the section on market prices for more detail. And the idea that transactions in capitalism do not harm either party is a myth. See the argument on exploitation (in the inequalities section) and the argument on imperialism (in the history section) for a rebuttal.

Socialism is not about state rule, but individual rule.

In socialism, individuals are empowered as part of the collective. To understand how socialism maximises individualism see Soul Of Man Under Socialism – Oscar Wilde.

Government in capitalism is not compassionate.

It usually serves the interests of (and is comprised of) the elite. The elite in capitalism means the people who benefit from the system: the people who own the means of production and the people who have a monopoly on empowering jobs. They use government to protect their interests and bring themselves further profit and better conditions. The conditions for the poor must be worsened as a by-product because in capitalism to increase my wealth I have to take wealth from someone else. See here and here for explanation and analysis of government in capitalism.

Motivations: Does capitalism rightly harness individual desires?

Capitalism incentivizes higher productivity through reward

  • The drive to succeed as an individual is the strongest motivating factor a human being can feel in their work. When work is uncoupled from reward, or when an artificial safety net provides a high standard of living for those who don’t work hard, society suffers. The fact that individuals are driven to succeed is in all our interests.
The following historic quote represents this argument. “Of Plymouth Plantation” pp 96-97 by William Bradford: “At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advise of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; […] This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

Capitalism maximizes benefits of greed, minimizes harms

Milton Friedma

“The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm, capitalism is that kind of a system.”

Socialism favors political greed over economic greed.

Socialism fosters the power of central planning and of the bureaucrat. Greed, subsequently, become manifest in the form of accumulating and exercising political power. This is worse than economic greed, because economic greed benefits others by adding value and employment to an economy, whereas political greed simply drags on the resources of society – often in the form of corruption, or over-expansive govt programs – without adding any value in return.

Best ideas come from individuals, not govt

Milton Friedman

“Columbus did not seek a new route to the Indies in response to a majority directive.”

Socialism removes the incentive to excel.

This is a driving force essential for the development of human society. Some people are clearly gifted more than others, from the very moment of birth. As unfair as it may seem (or even as unfair as it is), the only sensible thing one can do about it is to help the more gifted people to excel (while, of course, building upon the not so extraordinary, yet valuable work of others), and learn something new from them. By promoting a classless society, Socialism inevitably hinders the individual development and excellence, forging people into one uniform gray mass. Capitalism, at the very least, doesn’t principally prevent an individual from excelling.

Socialism punishes effort, subsidizes laziness

Milton Friedman

“We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork.”

Socialism wrongly labels wanting/ambition as wrong

The behavioral schema that was all-too-common in real socialism was like follows: “You will not want anything from me, I will not want anything from you, and we will all solidarily wait until the end of the working hours”.

More people get a chance to be productive in socialism

Socialism gives about 4 times as many people the chance to harness their individual desires since they are no longer held back by poverty and class restraints (see the section on inequality, particularly the argument that Inequalities in capitalism stifle individual opportunity as well as the section on class). In capitalism about 80% of the population (the working class) are blocked from a chance to express their creativity and desires through empowering and creative work and are instead disempowered through rote work and through the hardships of living in poor conditions in a unequal society. But in socialism these people are now empowered to have a chance to express their desires and have creative and empowering tasks as part of their job. Socialism also presents the opportunity for the rote, disempowering jobs to be shared out (via a balanced job complex – see Parecon: Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert) so that some people are no longer disempowered by being stuck with all the rote tasks.

Socialism does not prevent individual success.

The only thing that socialism blocks is for individuals to earn more, or exploit other people, by virtue of being lucky enough to be born with more talent. Since in a truly socialist society everyone would have access to the job of their choice (including everyone having to do some menial tasks as well – this is called balanced job complexes) individuals actually have more chance to succeed with the talents they are born with. They just cannot use this success to push others back. “Yes” seems to assume that capitalism promotes individuals chances to succeed with the talents they are born with. But what about all the people with great talents that are never discovered because they have been born in poor circumstances, have been too poor to go to decent scool, or have been disempowered by having to work really long, difficult, rote hours, employing no creativity and just following orders, that drain all their energy and enthusiasm? Is that not blocking individuals from excelling with the talents they are born with?.

Capitalism subverts community, solidarity, productivity.

In a capitalist environment the ultimate end is the acquisition of profit through individual success, competition, and low wages. If I pay you cheap, abysmal wages I make more money and am judged as more successful under capitalism than if I pay you a fair price. In other words, in a capitalist system, the systemic biases encourages people to make as much money as they can at the expense of others. Socialism, by contrast, increases solidarity mainly by tying people to the product of their work and to those that receive that product. This is how solidarity works. It means that peoples fates are tied up together. And, by increasing solidarity and a sense of community, socialism increases happiness. This is because humans, as pack animals, need meaningful contact with others in order to be truly happy. Douglas Rushkoff discusses these concepts.Life Inc.. And, by increasing a sense of purpose, solidarity, and happinesses, socialism increases productivity.

Capitalism places profits above moral judgement

Michael Moore

“One of the most ironic things about capitalism is that the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang himself with. Actually they will give you the money to make a movie that makes them look bad, if they believe they can make money off it.”

Capitalism rewards many people in perverse ways.

Some footballers or company chief executives earn a thousand times more than nurses. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. A good explanation (with statistics) is given of this in the inequalities section.

Genuine socialism does not promote political greed.

The argument that socialism puts power into bureaucrats and rulers is flawed, since it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of socialism. Actual socialism is a classless society with socialised means of production. This formula precludes both bureaucrats and rulers. See the history section for more discussion of this.

Which one is better at reducing poverty?:

All prosperous nations are capitalist nations

The economies of India and China are growing rapidly because of capitalism. More people are being employed and the general quality of life is increasing. This is because businesses are investing in those countries, and it is the free market that circulates capital better than the government. Immigrants have flocked to the U.S., particularly during the Industrial Revolution, because of capitalism. Poor immigrants do not aspire to move to socialist countries. Even the European countries that some consider to be socialist allow for capitalism. Socialism cannot help bring a nation out of poverty because it requires everyone to be taxed, but if the people are living in poverty then they have no money for the government to take.

Equality: Which is better at fostering equality, dealing with inequality?

Capitalism gives everyone the opportunity to succeed

Bill O'Reilly

“For all of its faults (capitalism), it gives most hardworking people a chance to improve themselves economically, even as the deck is stacked in favor of the privileged few. Here are the choices most of us face in such a system: Get bitter or get busy.”

Capitalism is unequal riches; socialism is equal poverty

As Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous saying goes

“Capitalism is unequally divided riches while socialism is equally divided poverty.” In other words, socialism may be more equal, but that is not a better result when everyone is poor. It is better that there be some inequality under capitalism, when everyone is more wealthy and prosperous.

Capitalism fosters equal opportunity, not equal outcome.

One of the main principles of capitalism is to foster an equal-opportunity meritocracy, in which the most talent (no matter their background and parents) can rise up and achieve anything, mainly because they are the ones that can produce the greatest products and provide the best services to their fellow man. This form of equality – equal opportunity – is superior to an equal outcome mentality that attempts to keep everyone at the same level of wealth and success. While an equal outcome approach may benefit those that are less talented, it holds back and disincentivizes those that are more talented, while giving no motivation to the most talented to rise and provide the best goods and services and to help a society progress forward.

Business don't take from poor; they add value and jobs.

It is false to think of capitalism as a zero-sum game in which the only way for the rich to become rich is to take from the poor. This misreads the process by which a business and individual become successful and wealthy, which entails an individual and group within a company creating value in the marketplace that other citizen-consumers like and so reward by buying that service/product. Creating value in this way takes nothing from anybody else, it actually creates value out of nothing and adds it into an economy. Part of the result is that the poor or unemployed may now be hired by the business, and eventually, if they have merit, climb up the ranks of the business and become successful and wealthy themselves.

Income and rewards in capitalism are unequal

A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth. The 3 richest people in the world own more financial assets than the poorest 10% of the world’s population combined. Do the people in the richest 10% of the population work 425 times harder than the people in the poorest half? Or do the people in the richest 1% of the population work 2,000 times harder than the people in the poorest half? Or do the 3 richest people in the world work 200,000,000 times harder than the people in the poorest 10% of the population? Certainly not. So, capitalism produces a very unequal society that does not correlate appropriately to work-ethic and merit, and which depends in large part on the exploitation of the poor by the rich. See the section on history (imperialism particularly) and some later arguments in this section, as well as some parts of the market prices section, for a brief explanation of the causes of this gross inequality.

Inequalities in capitalism stifle individual opportunity.

Since there are such vast inequalities within capitalism some individuals are prevented from a chance of success. For example, there is no way a Sudanese man who earns less than a dollar a day and a poor and hungry family to feed can climb the social ladder and achieve success. And the chips are stacked mightily against his kids as well. This goes on all across the spectrum of poverty that is so prevalent in capitalism. But in socialism, since people are equal, and since some people are not forced into poverty so others can get rich, this is no longer a problem.

Socialism does not bring poverty but prosperity.

Examples of this have already been given in the history section, but suffice to say that the actual examples of genuine socialism have greatly improved the prosperity of the people in those societies and have not caused poverty.

In capitalism, profit is made through exploitation

Go to the extended argument page for further discussion of this point. But, at the very simplest, profit in capitalism is made through the extraction of “surplus labour value” (explained in extended argument) from the workers by the capitalists and through the subjugation and exploitation of people (and societies) at the periphery of capitalism by those at the core in order to extract wealth from them. Those are the two main sources of profit in capitalism (see extended argument for further discussion). This need for exploitation for profit means that capitalism actively fosters, and grows, inequalities, as well as massive amounts of suffering for most, while bringing immense profit and privilege for a few. An excellent overview of exploitation in capitalism and its causes can be found here and more detail can be found in Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization by Immanuel Wallerstein, and other more, detailed work, by Wallerstein.

Capitalism makes the rich richer and the poor poorer

This process occurs because in capitalism there is a slope of wealth from the peripheries to the core. This is discussed at many points in the debate but for more detailed information see much of the work by Immanuel Wallerstein, Samir Amin and other proponents of the World Systems Analysis. A recent example of this slope is that (at a very conservative estimate) Africa lost $854 billion in illicit financial flows to the wealthy countries from 1970 to 2008. This is a very conservative estimate and even that far exceeds the amount of aid (including tied aid and military aid – the majority of aid to Africa!) that has reached Africa in that time. These illicit cash flows are the result of the economic exploitation of Africa in such a way that wealth slopes from the poor to the rich (in this case globally). The total cost of the slope of wealth from the peripheries to the core is significantly worse than this: one estimate (cited in Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation by Patrick Bond) is that the “third world” loses approximately $1.8 trillion a year to the “first world” through surplus transfers occurring through various modes of exploitation. In effect, capitalism is the reverse Robin Hood – it robs from the poor and gives it to the rich.

Poverty is a byproduct of inequalities under capitalism

The structural inequality in society is produced by the wealth gap initiated through capitalism.

Classes: Which is better at dealing with class in society?

Socialism wrongly incites antagonism b/w classes

Richard M. Ebeling. "The Failure of Socialism and Lessons for America." The Future of Freedom Foundation. March 1993

“2. Collective or Group Rights. For the advocate of socialism, the idea of individual rights has been a bourgeois prejudice and deception. For socialists, human relationships in society are defined and determined by class relationships and antagonisms. The idea of individual liberty has been considered a smoke screen to blind those who are exploited and oppressed from understanding the ‘true’ nature of the social order. It was for this reason that Martyn Latsis, a senior officer in the newly founded Soviet secret police, said in 1918 that, in judging the guilt or innocence of an accused, ‘the first questions that you ought to put are: To what class does he belongs What is its origin? What is his education or profession? And it is these questions that ought to determine the fate of the accused.”

Capitalism divides people into classes

By creating the vast earning inequalities capitalism divides people into classes whereby some people are born into more privileged positions than others. Classes are also created in capitalism by some people owing the businesses and hiring others to be wage-slaves for them – the division between the capitalist class and the working class. A third class division that occurs in capitalism is the division between people who get empowering jobs and have a say in the running of society (coordinator class) and those who don’t (working class). For a short analysis of class in capitalism see here and for economic analysis, including class and its creation, see Economic Justice and Democracy by Robin Hahnel. For more analysis of class in society see The Makings of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson, Economic Apartheid in America by Chuck Collins, Felice Yeskel and Class Action, and The No-Nonsense Guide To Class, Caste & Hierarchies by Jeremy Seabrook. On the other hand, socialism is classless so it doesn’t suffer from these inequities and problems.

Rights: Which system better protects rights?

Capitalism is not a political philosophy.

Capitalism merely entails the ability to buy, sell, or save. It does not address issues of morality or legal rights.

Capitalism relies on righteous belief in freedom

Milton Friedman

“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

Capitalism is necessary condition for political freedom

Milton Friedman

“History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.”

Without rights and property, tyranny of majority reigns

ne basic problem with socialism is that it raises “the public good” over many individual rights, such as the right to private property (or at least socialism tends to infringe on the right to private property to a higher degree that capitalism [and maybe less so that communism]). The larger problem is that the idea of “the public good” can be used to justify various kinds of abuses and infringements, and even possibly human-rights abuses. For example, the majority may decide to punish former wealthy land and business owners in order to discourage inequality in the future. The problem is that there is no limit to the ways in which abuses can be justified in the name of “the collective good”. Individual rights, such as the right to private property help protect against such abuses, which can range from minor injustices to full-blown human-rights violations.

Capitalism is guided by people's "invisible hand."

In Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith argued that capitalism had a “guiding hand” which drove people working for their self-interest to help society as a whole. On the other hand, socialism creates a certain guiding hand that drives people for the greater good to acutally help the special interest who hold the power.

Socialist leadership cannot protect human rights effectively.

This type of utilitarian framework neglects appeals for human rights and any other framework of deontology, morality, ethics, etc. Capitalism is able to embrace the utilitarian framework while not precluding any form of decision calculus in policymaking to protect human rights.

"Collective Good" is a category error.

In that who benefits from any situation or policy is an individual. Ascribing a benefit or right to a group can only be done (as a shorthand) if that group is defined by the criterion of holding the benefit or right. Socialism holds the rights of the fictional collective above the rights of an individual just as theocracies place the rights of their proclaimed divine above that of individuals.

Capitalism divides and diffuses the power to oppress.

Socialism places both the control of wealth and the control of coercive force in the same hands, the state. A truly capitalistic state places wealth and its means of production in private hands which do not have the authority to use coercive force, while placing the authority and means use of coercive force exclusively in the hands of the state which does not have the authority to directly involve itself in economic enterprises. The private sector can then oppose state tyranny by financing opposition while the state may oppose private sector inequity with force backed law and the threat of confiscation of property.

Capitalism exists under constraints of democratic govt.

Capitalism isn’t a monolithic system – capitalism can have elements of control in it. After all, taxation is a capitalist creation and almost all capitalists accept a role for state regulation to prevent market rigging and to help those in absolute poverty. More broadly speaking, capitalism exists within the constraints of a democratic system, in which the people decide collectively – through their government – to place certain constraints, laws, and regulations on capitalism. Capitalism is ultimately subservient to the democratic system and the collective (and hopefully compassionate) will of the citizenry.

Capitalism often subverts human rights for profits.

These rights that are subverted include the right to life, the right to live adequately, the right to earn a fair wage, the right to liberty etc. In fact, looking through the UN declaration of human rights it is hard to find a single right that isn’t either constantly subverted or subverted in poor countries in order to achieve prosperity for rich countries, under capitalism. For some big examples of human rights that have been subverted for profit see the argument page on how capitalism fosters imperialism and for some reasons why see the sections on inequality, individual desires, market prices, and charity.

Capitalism subverts genuine political freedom

Capitalism can tolerate democratic forms but not democratic substance. The reason for this is that capitalism requires that a small group of elites (the capitalist class) rule society with the collusion of a larger group of elites (the coordinator class), but if there was genuine popular democracy the people would not allow these elites to maintain their privilege. This is why no capitalist society has ever passed beyond polyarchy (see Democracy and its Critics and Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition by Robert Dahl for definitions. In brief, a ployarchy is a society ruled by a group of elites where the public gets to decide on certain intervals which elites have more or less power and which elites get to rule but where the public has not effective participation). The economics of capitalism provide the elites also with an excellent tool for the subversion if genuine democracy (see extended argument page). See Democracy for the Few by Michael Parenti for the best account of how capitalism subverts genuine democracy in practice (with the example of America – the freest polyarchy) and see the first 4 chapters ofEconomic Justice and Democracy by Robin Hahnel for a more economic analysis.

The only genuinely democratic societies have been socialist.

Examples include the Spanish Revolution, the Zapatista Revolution, Kerala, the Partisan republics of the various anti-fascist resistances at the end of WW2, and smaller examples. This is because unlike capitalism, socialism is not ruled by an elite that must stay in power.

Capitalism impairs the right to food/life.

According to the UN “The Right To Food: Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2002/25” 36 million people starve to death every year despite the fact that the world currently produces enough food to feed everyone and according to the Food And Agricultural Organization Of The United Nations’ 2008 report the world could produce twice as much food. That means that because capitalism has such an unfair system of distribution and of rich countries stealing resources from poor countries, the figures for deaths from starvation that could easily be prevented is the equivalent of 6 Nazi Holocausts every year! The reasons capitalism causes this much starvation can be found in Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World by Mike Davis and Making Poverty: A History by Thomas Lines, among others, and for the root causes in capitalism of the exploitation that leads to hunger see the extended argument for Capitalism has fostered imperialism, exploitation, and suffering. In brief, since the people and communities in the peripheries (“the third world”) of the capitalist world-system are so exploited (this exploitation is one of the main features of capitalism) and are paid so little for what they produce they cannot afford to buy food. As a result of this food is allocated unevenly, favouring the core (“first world”) of the capitalist system, where people have profited from the exploitation and can afford to pay for the food and thus make a profit for the food sellers. This means that the people in the peripheries do not have access to food and they cannot afford to buy it, so they starve. This is not protection of human rights in the slightest.

Socialism is ideal for protecting human rights.

The argument that socialism cannot protect human rights since it seeks the good of the people is ridiculous. Surely, human rights is one of the most important aspects of the good of the people. Any truly socialist society would protect, and has protected, far more human rights than capitalism has in the best circumstances. And since major decisions would be made by everyone, not corporations or states, then they would obviously seek to promote their human rights. Socialism also protects from the tyranny of the majority (see the decision-making structure section for an overview of participatory planning which is an excellent method for protecting society from the tyranny of the majority).

Capitalism gives corporations tyrannical powers

There are pure unaccountable tyranny, as well as the state. For the tyrannical structure of corporations see The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Balkan, The Corporation (documentary), Life Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff or “Corporate Law and Structures: Exposing the roots of the problem” by Corporate Watch (follow the link of the title here. For the tyrannical acts of corporations see one of the NGOs dealing with corporate crime (such as Corporate Watch and many others) or many of the books and links given at the end of this debate. Corporations are less democratically accountable than almost every state and about the same as the worst ones. “Private Power” is really a euphemism for corporate power. Corporations are directly linked to the state and their power is extremely centralised (both internally and externally through the IMF, World Bank, WTO and similar structures). So putting more power into the hands of corporations is hardly diffusing the power to oppress.

Capitalism is very dictatorial.

Firstly, capitalism is extremely dictatorial in the economic sphere. This was discussed in the argument that capitalism gives corporations tyrannical powers. But capitalism also fosters dictatorships in the political sphere. Ignoring the polyarchic capitalist societies (and the fact that capitalism cannot go beyond polyarchy and to democracy – as discussed in the argument that capitalism subverts genuine political freedom) the majority of capitalist societies have been dictatorships – such as Indonesia under Suharto, Burma under Than Shwe, the many juntas in Latin America, The Congo under Mobutu, and many many others. In fact, dictatorships are necessary in the peripheries of the capitalist world-system. This is because the people in the peripheral societies are unwilling to be exploited for the profit of the capitalists and so a dictatorship is needed to keep them in line (for explanation of the division of capitalism into the core, the peripheries and the semi-peripheries see the extended argument page on capitalism fosters imperialism, exploitation and suffering. For information on how capitalism needs dictatorships in the peripheries see Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism (The Political Economy of Human Rights – Volume I) by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman and The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda by Edward Herman and see here for a brief overview.

Capitalism only respects liberty of rich to stay rich

Bertrand Russell

“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”

Socialism seeks social justice.

Socialism seeks to redistribute wealth and to ensure that the means of production are at the service of the whole of society, so that all can benefit and none will go without. This ensures social justice.

Capitalism is no "invisible hand", but a crushing foot.

The term “invisible foot” was coined by E.K. Hunt. Explanations of how capitalism crushes human relations can be found in Life Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff and Parecon: Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert. The arguments are too long to make them here but this side has made a few of them in other parts of this debate, so you can look at them for a brief introduction to the idea.

Capitalism is not ruled by individual, but corporations.

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