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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The trouble with socialism is socialism. The trouble with capitalism is capitalists.


Liberals, who mostly despise capitalism, call highly paid corporate CEOs and their corporations "greedy" because of the huge amounts of money the CEOs and other high management types collect. This abuse is one of the primary reasons they hate capitalism, in fact.

Conservatives, who correctly believe capitalism is the best economic system ever created, are embarrassed by the excesses of corporate America, but are unable to do much about it.

Liberals believe that socialism is the solution to the excesses of capitalism. It isn't. Socialism is the answer to no serious question. But capitalism certainly gets a black eye each time some CEO inflates his salary to match his inflated ego.

William F. Buckley, Jr. addresses this topic in a recent column, Capitalism's Boil, which is worth a few minutes of your time.

16 comments:

Buffalo said...

I lean to the left more often than to the right. That said.....

Socialism is a noble concept. As with many noble concepts it can work only in a perfect world. As long as humans inhabit the earth it will not be perfect.

I don't resent the salaries earned by CEOs. A person would have to be a damned fool to not negoiate the best possible salary. There are scores of people that can turn a wrench for every one person that has what it takes to be an effective CEO.

JL Pagano said...

The word idealogy refers to the way we would wish society to be in its most ideal form.

Pure socialism is all about doing what you can to ensure resources are distributed equally and fairly amongst everyone.

Pure capitalism is all about gathering as much resources for yourself as you can because if you don't, someone else is bound to take them.

Between the two, I choose socialism.

It doesn't mean I am never greedy and it certainly doesn't mean I expect world peace and harmony to happen in my lifetime.

I suppose it just means I prefer the destination of one path over the other.

James Howard Shott said...

I think the people who tend toward socialism have noble intentions, but their ultimate goals are totally unrealistic. Socialism is a noxious theory that de-motivates its members, and attempts to make everyone equal. We are not all equal, and can’t successfully be made that way. No private property; government runs the factories and businesses. Sounds pretty uninteresting. That’s why it always fails: It's dull, unimaginative and insults the human spirit.

And JL, socialism is far less than you imagine, and capitalism if far more than you imagine.

Socialism: Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; a system of society or group living in which there is no private property; a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism.

Capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

Neither system is perfect, as the human element enters into the equation. Capitalism is superior because it allows the individual pursue dreams and goals, and to achieve something and be rewarded for it. It motivates people to work. They work to eat. They work to have a better life.

Under socialism, even those who refuse to work get to eat. Why work? What’s the reward?

JL Pagano said...

"We are not all equal, and can’t successfully be made that way"

But we ARE made that way.

The only thing that makes us different is attitude.

And I did precede my definitions with the word "pure".

Under capitalism, someone's whim on the stock market can lead to an entire town full of people who are willing to work becoming unemployed as the factory on which they and their families depend gets shut down. Some reward.

We can each give examples until we are blue in the face. I have my path, you have yours.

James Howard Shott said...

Some people are brilliant, some are smart, some are average, some are slow and some are just plain dumb.

Some are tall, some are short. Some are large, some are small. Some are attractive, some are not.

That has nothing to do with attitude. It has to do with genetics.

Some are motivated, some are lazy. Some are honest, some are dishonest. Some are violent, some are peaceful.

That also has nothing to do with attitude. It has to do with character.

Socialism can't change genetics. Socialism can't change character.

We are not equal, and cannot be made that way.

The best we can do is to provide an equal opportunity for people to succeed. Socialism can't do that, either.

Under capitalism, some guy with an idea and gumption can mortgage his house, borrow money and build a factory and hire a town full of people. But not under socialism.

Under capitalism anyone who wants a job can go to the guy's factory and apply. The best suited will likely get the jobs. But not under socialism.

The people with the most knowledge, best skills and most responsibility will be paid more because of their individual qualities. But not under socialism.

If he makes the right decisions on hiring, and manages his factory well, the guy won't lose his house, and will have profits to show for it. But not under socialism.

JL Pagano said...

It seems you are indeed willing to get blue in the face!!!

Brilliant, smart, attractive, dumb, average, these are not attitudes???

You may see one man as brilliant because he shrewdly invested his money, caught a few breaks and now lives in a big house in the suburbs, that is until he can afford an even bigger house in a more affluent suburb.

I may see another man as being brilliant because he decides to use his skills to help those less fortunate than himself, while still retaining enough of his income so that he and his family can live comfortably.

Please don't tell me capitalism does not rely on luck, because it does. Many bend the rules to make their own luck. Is bending the rules ok? Remember I am talking about IDEAL scenarios here. Simply knuckling down, investing all your money and hiring the right people does not create a market for your product.

When you say socialism, I have a feeling you are really saying communism. They are not the same thing. Since you lived in the USA right through the Cold War amid all the "better dead than red" propaganda, I would not expect you to understand the merits socialist thinking has to offer.

James Howard Shott said...

Blue is my favorite color.

Luck sometimes plays a role, and sometimes it doesn’t. Hard work is mostly responsible for success. You don’t start a business in the hopes that someone somewhere will find your product and want it, businesses arise to meet a need or want. Bending the rules may be okay, but breaking the rules is not. Just because a few break rules does not invalidate the entire capitalistic system.

I gave you the definition of socialism. Essentially, government controls much of the activity, and individuals have little control. Both socialism and communism are largely unsuccessful as economic systems. Look at the former USSR. Look at North Korea, and Cuba. China is moving toward capitalism, and is becoming a world economic power. France is struggling under socialism and is moving to privatize.

Discussing "ideals" is a great academic exercise. It has little relevance in the real world, however. Ideals give us targets to aim at, but they are unattainable. The egalitarian goals of socialism are somewhat desirable, but the method of achieving them is not at all desirable.

I believe I am capable of understanding the merits of socialist thinking, despite my misfortune at having lived in the US during the Cold War, and watching democratic capitalism survive as communist socialism failed. Why don't you give it a try?

Buffalo said...

I work. I earn. The money is mine. If I choose to help someone that is my call. If I choose not to help someone that also is my call.

I don't know where anyone gets the idea we are created equal. That just ain't so.

JL Pagano said...

I don't have to "give it a try" - I'm living it! Maybe Ireland isn't quite the commercial bloodbath that America is, but we are still a capitalist society.

Let's look at capitalist ideals, shall we? You speak of different countries as if this is the actual world order. I tend to think this is not so. Multinationals, none of whom are democratically elected, wield far more power than even Uncle Sam can. This is a stage well down the path I referred to in a previous post.

Once again I say, if given a choice of two paths, I would choose the socialist one.

As for equality, well I guess how you define "equal" depends on what measuring stick you are using.

Sorry guys! You're not gonna turn me!!!

James Howard Shott said...

When I wrote "give it a try," I was responding to "I would not expect you to understand the merits socialist thinking has to offer."

Why don't you "give it a try" and explain the merits of socialist thinking?

As for "equality," as I understand socialism -- the guiding principle of which is "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" -- the goal is to see that everyone has the same things regardless of other factors. Not only is that monumentally unfair, but taking what one person has earned and giving some of it to someone who hasn't earned it is immoral.

It strikes me that after a little while of busting your butt "according to your ability" and having what you've earned given to others is motivation to stop busting your butt, and just take what others have. Soon enough you have one of two situations: 1) only a few work and the rest sit on their butts or, 2) when not enough people work, the good socialists running the government get out their guns and force you to bust your butt.

If that appeals to you, you can have it.

If that is not what you say you would choose, then you really don't choose socialism.

Anonymous said...

Socialism is not a new concept in this country. It was tried in the 1600's. It quickly adopted a capitalist tenet, "If you don't work, you don't eat." It, with a bit stronger Communistic tone, was tried again in the 1700's and 1800's, the latter in Texas and the southwest. Every student of history knows exactly the results of all those attempts, although some may not wish to admit them. They may be one reason why capitalism is embedded today. We saw in the 1930's a strong attempt to return to socialistic policies. By 1996, even former socialists were trying to get rid of the expensive failures.
My mother tried a modified system in my family out of what she believed to be necessity. It didn't do anything except worsen the situation among the ne'er-do-wells. It did not contribute anything worthwhile toward her primary objective of keeping the kids alive and healthy. The pennies she saved the families on food simply went to buy booze or the makings. It did deny the ones who furnished much of the cash an opportunity for educational improvement.
Socialism offers a carrot to those who can not or will not see beyond today. Any system which is based on that philosophy must eventually rely on some outside source for its sustenance.
There are abuses of the capitalistic system and those need to be corrected. Amazing as it may sound, the liberal politicians are the ones who have historically chosen to overlook many of those abuses. They know which side of their toast has the oleo on it.

Chuck Hollis said...

JS, I'm staying out of the whole Socialism vs Capitalism issue, but I'd like to suggest that making statements like "Liberals, who mostly despise capitalism" and "Liberals believe that socialism is the solution to the excesses of capitalism" you're generalising liberals a bit too much.

As I said in another post, I consider myself liberal; however, I also am anti-union and support free trade, issues I find to be more capitalism-biased. I most certainly do not despise capitalism, and I'm quite sure that most other liberals do not.

Thanks for reading.

-found my way here from What Middle America Thinks

JL Pagano said...

OK, my final post, I promise. As it is your blog, I will leave you with the last word (to me anyway) and we can put this one to bed till the next time!!!

You accused me in the past of "setting up a straw man only to knock him down". I have a feeling you are doing this with your simplistic example of one able bodied man working his butt off while another able bodied man sits on his butt for the same reward under a socialist system.

What of the guy who's father worked to build up a company and he sits on HIS butt because he knows full well he will be guaranteed a seat on the board as he leapfrogs over all who have worked to help build the company? Does that not happen?

Does everyone who succeeds in a capitalist framework do so as a result of hard work? You and I both know this is not the case.

All through this post I have stated that I would prefer one path to another, nothing more.

James Howard Shott said...

JL, you’ve totally missed the point. My examples were intended only to show that what can happen under capitalism can’t happen under socialism, and to underscore my belief that it’s a far better system that allows people to achieve their dreams than a system that discourages individuality, encourages mediocrity and advocates rewarding people who do nothing on pretty much the same as those who do something.

If that’s what you prefer, have at it.

James Howard Shott said...

Chuck,

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

I understand that not every liberal is equally liberal, that some who call themselves a "liberal" are a mix of liberal and conservative ideals.

My statement is, however, true of the rabid Left. I don't know what other term to ascribe to those people other than "liberal."

Chuck Hollis said...

Point well taken.

I prefer to call them "flaming liberal", "raging liberal", or "screaming liberal" myself.

;)