Economics/Class Relations

Capitalism v. Socialism What is a Fair Trial?

This is an interesting essay on the capitalism vs. socialism dichotomy.  I like the idea of an experiment pitting socialist and capitalist intentional cities against each other. Similar experiments pitting social conservatism/traditionalism vs. social liberalism/counterculturalism against each other would also be interesting. As most people familiar with my work know, I tend to view things more in terms of authoritarian vs. anti-authoritarianism, centralism vs. decentralism, large-scale vs. small-scale than in terms of socialism vs. capitalism or conservatism vs. liberalism. Although another interesting experiment might be one where two continents are compared with each other, one where authoritarian ideologies are prevalent and one where anti-authoritarian ideologies are prevalent.  Of course, there is a considerable amount of subjectivity to what counts as “authoritarianism.”

By William Meyers, III Publishing

Competition, Values, History

Has capitalism, more specifically free-market capitalism, been proven to be a superior economic system to socialism? For most of the world the answer is yes. The great rivalry between the capitalists, led by the United States of America, and the communists, led by Russia and the USSR, ended with the collapse of the soviet economy and communist government in the 1980s. However, there are many reasons to question this simplistic conclusion. For instance, are nations like Germany and France capitalist or socialist? Most economists would say they are mixed systems. Lump them in the socialist camp and there is no clear capitalist victory. In particular, following the New Deal, the American economy and society has had many socialist aspects, for instance Social Security. I think, even as we see civilization dissolving into the Slow Motion Apocalypse, that capitalism versus socialism is still a critical question. This essay will approach the question as if it were possible to do a science experiment, like the clinical trials used to test potential new drugs, to see which system is superior. However, for context a number of other issues will be raised, starting with the judging of the Communist v. Capitalist economic and political race of the 20th Century.

In a science trial, say a drug trial to compare two drugs, it is important that the subjects tested by equal, or as equal as conditions allow. For instance, the average ages of the subjects should be the same. In the contest between western capitalism and soviet communism it is hard to find more unequal test subjects. Take, for instance, the testimony of John Steinbeck in A Russian Journal, based on his 1947 visit, a couple of years after the end of World War II. Steinbeck describes the bombed cities of Leningrad and Kiev. He takes us to a couple of farms in Ukraine where farm work is done by hand because German soldiers destroyed or stole the farmers’ machinery and livestock.

Clearly the economy of the USSR and the USA did not start at the same point at the end of World War II in 1946. America had prospered during the war, supplying materials to the British Empire. No American factories were damaged during the war. The only attack on the United States, Pearl Harbor, had focussed on military targets, unlike the endless bomber runs of America and its allies that targeted factories and civilians, terminating in the vaporization of civilian populations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1947 American agriculture was almost entirely mechanized and American factories were the only ones capable of supplying the world with industrial and consumer products.

A scientific test might be run as follows. Two new cities are set up and they are allowed to trade freely with the world (no one can discriminate to help socialism or capitalism win the test). Their populations are chosen at random from a common pool. They are given equal amounts of capital in the form of buildings, roads, other infrastructure, factories, etc. One is run with socialist economics, the other with capitalist economics. The test is run sufficiently long to get a true result, say 50 years, certainly no less than 10.

Aside from the practical problems of creating this social experiment, the science problems would seem to require not two cities, but perhaps dozens. There are many variables that make a one-to-one comparison not very meaningful. For instance, will the socialist city be democratic-socialist or Leninist-communist? A democracy or dictatorship? Same for capitalism. Perhaps with four test cities socialism might do better than capitalism under a dictatorship, but worse in a democracy. More importantly, what about mixed systems? Can the capitalist city have Social Security for its elders? Can the socialist city allow for some unregulated free markets for smaller businesses?

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