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Debate: Capitalism vs socialism

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Which is the superior system, capitalism or socialism?

Background and context

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.

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

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Yes

  • 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.
  • 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.


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No

  • 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.
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Motivations: Does capitalism rightly harness individual desires?

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Yes

  • 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."[3][4]
  • 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.
  • 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.


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No

  • 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."[8]
  • 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.
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Which one is better at reducing poverty?

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Pro

  • 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.
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Con

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

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Pro

  • 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.
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Con

  • 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.


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

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Pro

  • 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."


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Con

  • 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.
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Rights: Which system better protects rights?

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Pro

  • 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.
  • Without rights and property, tyranny of majority reigns One 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.


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Con

  • 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 of Economic 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.
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Market prices: Do market prices make sense?

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Yes

  • 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."[11]
  • Market prices are always fair prices. In capitalism, the market determines price, including pay - the price of labour. If some people are paid huge sums, that is because other people believe they have unique talents which are worth paying for. If they fail to perform, then they will stop being rewarded so highly. This is all part of a dynamic capitalist system which values individuality and rewards ability and risk-taking.
  • State guaranteed prices lead to shortages. In real socialism, the prices of goods were guaranteed. Too bad that there usually were not many goods in stock, including such 'basic' stuff like toilet paper (widely substituted by newspapers at that time) and sanitary napkins (widely substituted by whatever was suitable for the purpose). The small amount of goods that was there was usually sold "under the counter" at - well - market price.


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No

  • Market prices do not reflect social cost Market prices do not include any costs to third parties, including anything from individual people all the way up to the ecosystem as a whole (these are called externalities). These costs could be negative, such as pollution, or positive, such as pollution cleanup. Negative externalities are overproduced (on a scale of what is socially acceptable) and positive externalities are underproduced - since accurate prices would make actions with negative externalities more expensive and actions with positive externalities cheaper, meaning more positive externalities would be produced and less negative externalities (it would about approximate the social cost). That would be accurate pricing. But social costs are excluded from pricing in the capitalist marketplace (they affect a third party) so it is economically rational to produce more negative social and less positive social cost cost than is socially rational.
  • Payment schemes under markets are unfair. When people are paid more in the market it doesn't mean that people believe in what they are producing more. It means that they own more property, have more bargaining power or are better at making other people pay the bills (often by exploiting them). So the best way to make money under capitalism is not to produce something good that we all love, but to already be rich or to be a thug. The more money you have the more money you will get in the future, do to payments for property, increased bargaining power due to having lots of money. And the less money you have, the less you will get in the future, for the inverse of the same reasons. Rewarding thugs and people who are lucky enough to already have alot of money (that they usually got by extracting value from other people's labour) hardly seems like a fair method of remuneration. In fact, it seems like the exact opposite. 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. For more problems of capitalist markets see here.
  • Markets often go against human interests and values. This is because of the way that they measure success. The way that markets measure success is through GDP. But the values that this gives to things is depraved in human terms. It under-appreciates things like using less gas (and thus polluting less), walking to work instead of taking a car, eating with friends, sharing, playing cards and doing a service for a neighbor without asking for money in return. In fact, many of these things subtract from GDP. Conversely, getting cancer, being in a car crash, being diagnosed with schizophrenia, getting a divorce and murdering someone can all, unfortunately, add to GNP. And, yet, despite the frequently counter-human nature of GDP, it is the popular capitalist measure of whether human societies are advancing or regressing.


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Economics: Which is more economical or efficient?

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Pro

  • Efficiency isn't the major goal of capitalism as a whole. It will by its very nature provide checks and balances to its working system. Efficiency is a by-product of a good idea, ideas that are faulty will collapse as long as corruption is held at bay.
  • Capitalism allocates capital/resources most efficiently. The reason for this is that capitalism gives individual investors the highest of personal incentives to choose wisely where they put their money: putting it where (to that individual's best knowledge) it can make the most money, which is where there is the greatest demand for a service and the greatest ability of a company to provide that service efficiently.
  • Capitalism provides people with what they actually want. Capitalism is based on the idea that services and goods will exist only because there is a demand for them. They will not exist if individuals do not want them, as demand will fall, and a company providing a good or service will simply go out of business. Resources will not be wasted on the good and services not wanted, and instead will, eventually, be put behind those that are wanted. And, the system constantly adjusts itself to make sure it supplies exactly what people actually want, in exactly the amounts that are actually demanded. This is because a company will not generate enough revenue to sustain supplying more than is actually demanded. Socialism, conversely, relies to a greater extent on the government (theoretically the collective body of people), struggling to supply goods and services on the speculation of whether those goods and services are desired, but without a direct feed-back loop that kills supply of goods that are not wanted. Under socialism, a government employee may have the power to continue a service because it is considered to have the potential to meet future demand, or because it is believed to be important and in the interests of the public good. But, this program can be supplied for months and even years by tax revenues, and without the restraints of revenue to hold-back spending. Programs can continue for months, years, and even decades that should have died, with many resources being wasted in the process.
  • Competition produces more valued goods more cheaply. Competition yields better products and more efficient processes in all fields of man's activities.
  • Planned economy is never as effective as free markets.
  • Socialist governments slow progress of markets. The guiding hand of government is too strong in a socialist system; it means that change is slow – which means that innovation is missed. This isn’t just pro-business, it has real effects on the lives of citizens - people are poorer because of it. In a capitalist system, economies are diverse enough that when problems happen in one sector, others are often insulated by their differences. In a socialist system, where everything is centrally controlled and diversity is non-existent, when government gets things wrong, everyone suffers. Ultimately, socialist systems are so inefficient and corrupt that labour has to be forced for the state to continue functioning (though this may also be a logical outcome of thinking less of the importance of individual freedoms compared to some abstract communal good). The failure of the USSR and other command economies shows the poverty of socialism and the failure of central planning, as on a smaller scale does the failure of nationalised industries in many western countries.
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Con

  • Socialism has shown itself to be very efficient. A prime example of this is the Spanish Revolution. Information and explanations are given on the Spanish revolution in the argument (and argument page) genuine socialism has greatly improved societies (in the history section) and information on how socialism in the Spanish revolution not only brought prosperity and improvement of life to the Spanish people, but also economic efficiency is given. To take a few examples, In socialist Aragon, in which 70% if the rural population had voluntarily collectivised (the rest had chosen not to and were given the freedom to do so), productivity rose 20% during the time of the revolution. According to Dave Markland "agricultural production and deliveries were strongest in the anarchist [socialist] areas" of Spain (see extended argument page for more examples). And all of this was achieved while fighting a civil war and a against a counter-revolution, both of which caused massive drains on the resources of socialist Spain. More information can be found in the argument page of socialism has greatly improved societies (in the history section).
  • Capitalism has shown itself to be inefficient. For example, by 1995, after neo-liberal deregulation which brought a purer capitalism than the social democratic era that preceded it, 95% of financial transactions were speculative and only 5% were related to the real economy. That means that only 5% of transactions actually involve production and trade of goods and services and bring tangible improvements, affecting the lives of ordinary people. On the other hand, 95% of economic transactions in capitalism just go into setting prices and bringing profits to the capitalist class, or in some cases the upper middle class, generally at the expense of the working or peasant classes since they are excluded from financial speculation. The speculative transactions waste time that could be spent working on production and consumption which affect the ordinary people, and the profits made through speculation are coming from their wages - which goes part of the way to explaining the decline in real wages during the neo-liberal period of capitalism. That figure is the generally accepted figure but the source used here is Profit Over People: Neoliberalism And The Global Order by Noam Chomsky.
  • Capitalism grossly mismanages resources. 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. In other words, we produce enough food to feed everyone, and we could produce twice as much, but someone still starves to death every second. If that is not mismanaging resources then what is?
  • Socialism provides people with what they actually want. In collective socialism workers' and consumers' councils interact through the participatory planning process to determine what is produced and consumed. This means that what is produced is exactly what the consumers demand. And since people take part in decisions to the degree they are affected, what is produced moves even closer to what is socially wanted and responsible. Mutualist socialism is dictated by supply and demand so it provides in the same way that capitalism does. However, advertisements in capitalism are designed to brainwash consumers into buying things that they do not want by creating subconscious attachment to the product. This means that the things are produced and sold do not reflect what people want per say, but they reflect what will make profit for the top corporations that control capitalism. In short, socialism provides people with what they actually want, and need, much better than capitalism does.
  • Centralized currency is biased toward scarcity and hoarding. This is, in part, because it appreciates in value when it is not spent. And centralized currency is an integral part of capitalism. This bias slows down the rate at which money circulates and means that instead of being spent on boosting communities and stuff like that, money is spent on increasing individual consumption or just making yourself already richer, so society suffers.
  • Socialism has control, unlike capitalism Socialist economies are very well planned and has control over all the industries, thus providing a guiding hand in building and contstructing its economy. A government wants its country to succeed, however a corporation only wants itself to succeed, even if its country is going to be doomed. The government doesn't care for money. It doesn't care for greed. It only cares for its country's status and for the country's own good. So, which would you choose? A greedy corporation or a government that only cares for the country's good? The government will be choosen of course, and that's what socialism means.
  • Unplanned capitalist economies undergo dramatic volatility. Economies in capitalist systems are essentially unplanned, so they often crash, producing depressions that damage the lives of millions. Socialist economies are planned, which means that problems can be foreseen and prevented. Ultimately, socialism guides with the aim of human happiness in mind, rather than the glorification or gratification of a particular individual or class.
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Competition: Which more effectively allows competition for the people's attention?

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Pro

  • Capitalism actively breaks monopolies to foster competition. Whilst it is true that monopolies sometimes form, these are combated by regulatory methods like monopolies commissions (witness attempts to break up Microsoft, or regulators forbidding the merger of some airlines on competition grounds). So capitalism actively tries to stop monopolies. On the other hand, monopolies are inevitably a part of every aspect of activity in socialist systems - the monopoly of the state.


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Con

  • Capitalism is characterized by monopolies, not competition. As everyone knows, monopolies are often formed under capitalist systems. Corporations were first chartered with the aim of gaining a monopoly over whatever area the monarchs chartered them in. So the need to monopolize is built into the basic logic of capitalism. The giant conglomerates that dominate world trade are proof of this. On the other hand, no monopolies exist in genuine socialism so there is no transfer of wealth to the centre or the pushing out of small, local groups - two important characteristics of monopolies.
  • State monopoly is not present in a socialist system. A truly socialist system is classless and everyone owns the means of production. That is hardly a state monopoly. There are no monopolies. The productive resources are owned by everyone collectively (or no-one if you like).


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Charity: Which fosters greater charity?

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Pro

  • Capitalism fosters, does not prevent, charity. There are lot of rich people in capitalist society who provide grants for charity funds, student fellowships etc. After all, anybody in a capitalistic society can take some of his own money or goods today, out of his/her free will, and go and give them to other (poorer) people, if he or she feels it's the right thing to do. Capitalism doesn't prevent that; nor does it prevent you from keeping your earned goods/money if you want to. Some examples of rich people who donated to charity are Bill Gates, Oprah, and others. On the other hand, socialism actively and rather aggressively restricts the amount of riches one can have. So, out of the two, capitalism clearly offers more choice.
  • There is less charity in a socialist society. Every resource considered by the majority to be either necessary or highly desirable is supplied through government. Government acquires these resources via taxation. Taxation does not require consent. Therefore, the resources used and provided to members of a society are not obtained through voluntary giving, which is the definition of charity. Since the majority in a socialist society believes that everyone has access to all necessary and highly desirable resources, then they have little motivation to sacrifice their personal resources to benefit another member of that society. They believe that it is not their responsibility to help others, rather, responsibility exists within government.


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Con

  • Capitalism has a systemic bias against helping others. Since third parties are externalised from prices in capitalism, it is economically inefficient to consider the effects that something has on others. And since this exclusion of third parties leads to the overpricing of positive externalities and the underpricing of negative externalities, it is cheaper to exploit someone than it is to be fair towards them (see the section on market prices for more detail). This is compounded by the selfish pursuit of profit that capitalism encourages (see the section on individual desires for more detail) . These combine together to mean that it is economically inefficient in capitalism to consider others and so charity and solidarity is punished, whereas anti-social behaviour is rewarded with profits. A perfect example of this is fair-trade: since workers are treated equitably in fair trade products, they become more expensive (the overpricing of positive social costs) and are thus rare and often unaffordable except for the well-off.
  • Socialism provides motivation of aiding fellow man. The impulse to share wealth and material amongst the community, to support all, leaving none behind, is one of the purest among humankind. Socialism harnesses this impulse effectively, whereas capitalism tends to squash it in favor of individualism and competition.
  • Charity is not meaningful in a capitalist system. Charity is invalidated in capitalism because if you steal a million pounds from someone and then give them a pound of charity because they are starving then that is not increasing their living standards.


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Decision-making: Which offers more decision-making apparatuses?

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Pro

  • Socialism poorly adapts to change. Well, life is unpredictable. Socialism promises predictability - or what else is there to imagine under this "right to live"? But there is nobody who can tell what tomorrow will bring, nobody and nothing that can guarantee well being. The basic premise of socialism is therefore as realizable as perpetuum mobile. Sometimes, the crops may be bad, natural disasters can strike, new technologies can emerge so your knowledge or skill is no longer valuable. Capitalists usually quietly and peacefully (though, of course, not necessarily lightheartedly and easily) accept these changes or losses as a thing that life brings, and learns how to adapt to the new circumstances. Socialists, on the other hand, usually begin a fruitless and absurd search of whom to blame for (not predicting) these abrupt changes, with the "outcome" of this "search" usually being "the capitalist behaviour" of some individual or a group of people, against whom the aggressive anger of the "common people" is subsequently senselessly turned.
  • There are multiple methods of decision-making in a capitalist society Because of the free market people are free to experiment with various methods of organization and decision-making concerning the acquisition and distribution of resources. People are free to make decisions by themselves or within a group. Under a socialist government people must either participate in group decision-making or make no decision at all. The method of decision-making is decided by the majority within that group.
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Con

  • Socialism puts planning into the hands of the people. In collective socialism workers' and consumers' councils interact through the participatory planning process to determine what is produced and consumed. In this system of planning, each workers' or consumers' council (in their federations) make a proposal for what they want to produce or consume and other workers' and consumers' councils can approve or reject the proposal. If the plan of an individual council is rejected then it is responsible for editing and resubmitting it. This process means that what is produced is exactly what the consumers demand and what the workers are happy to produce. It means that each person takes part in a decision to the degree they are affected, solidarity is encouraged, democracy and self-determination is promoted, and a plan comes together that everyone is happy with. It means that social costs can be respected and plans can be made without domination. It also means that the plans will be fair since they have been made by everyone involved to the degree they are affected. See Participatory Planning for the best overview of this process and for more detail see Economic Justice and Democracy by Robin Hahnel and Parecon: Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert.
  • Socialism can effectively respond to crises. A truly socialist society would be far more versatile and flexible than any capitalist one. Since there would be no classes and decisions would be made by the people, they would be able to make decisions that would best avert the crisis for the average people, not the elites (like in capitalism or fake socialism). And since decision making would be truly democratic it would be easy to change things about the society if everyone wanted it.


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Conflict: Which better manages and possibly prevents conflict, war?

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Pro

  • Free trade promotes the most peace and solidarity When people are interdependent upon one another for goods and services they are significantly less likely to intentionally cause each other harm. In addition, since only governments can enter into war, and since no government is a capitalist government, then capitalism cannot cause war. At the worst, an individual capitalist or group of capitalists can petition the government to create or enter war, but only governments through their military may take this initiative.
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Con

  • Capitalism grossly misdirects money to military According to the 1998 UN Human Development Report, the additional cost of achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, basic health care, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food and clean water and safe sewers (in other words, ending poverty) would amount to roughly $40 billion a year. The current military budget for the entire world is $1.1 trillion a year. This is 27.5 times the amount that would be need to ensure universal access to all of those things. This is mismanagement, driven in large part by the profit-interests of the "military industrial complex". In other words, 1/27 of the amount of money that we spend on killing each other and working out how to kill each other could end poverty (the single biggest killer in existence) but that money doesn't go to ending poverty because the military is profitable but ending poverty isn't! This misdirection of money is also a result of the need in capitalism for imperial conquests to expand profit and power. This misdirection of money to the military and the arms trade fuels war and conflict and a grievous level.
  • Capitalism necessitates imperial wars of conquest. See the section (and the extended) argument of how capitalism fosters imperialism, subjugation and suffering for information and explanation on this. But for now, suffice it to say that imperial wars are necessary in capitalism to bring a flow of cheap resources from the peripheries to the centre and to create cheap markets for goods produced by the top corporations. This is why capitalism has never existed without wars, particularly colonial wars and the civil wars that result from a society wrecked by colonialism. See here for an explanation of how capitalism causes militarism and war.
  • Capitalism necessitates war for profit. In What is Anarchism Alexander Berkman spoke of "the capitalistic interests of the various countries fight[ing] for the foreign markets and compete with each other there" and when they "get into trouble about concessions and sources of profit," they "call upon their respective governments to defend their interests . . . to protect the privileges and dividends of some . . . capitalist in a foreign country." According to an article from create real democracy there are 6 ways that corporations profit from war: control of strategic resources, building weapons, waging wars, reconstruction, debt and privatisation/corporatisation of the conquered nation. (See the extended argument page for sources on how to find out about war for profit in capitalism and about the military industrial complex, as well as their effects. For example, the size of the military industrial complex in the US economy is so large that since 2006 over $889 billion ($889,918,604,053) worth of contracts have been handed out, all of which lead to vast profits for US based corporations (see [13]).
  • Capitalism does not peacefully accept losses. When capitalism is faced with troubles it's typical reaction (it meaning the elites who run the show) is to steal from the poor so as to offset the (minor) losses that the rich have experienced. A brief look at history will confirm this but here is a recent example that illustrates this point: One of the ways the rich countries have reacted to the 2009 economic crisis is to make massive land grabs in poor countries, mostly Africa. Now, most of Africa is in a food crisis but the rich countries have still bought huge amounts of land to profit off.


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Environment: Which system is better for the environment?

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Pro

  • Socialism could do great damage to the environment. Without private means of production there are no private citizens to hold responsible for environmental harm which certain industries may cause if not run conscientiously. Placing industry in the hands of the state equates to putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, i.e. putting government in a position of conflicting interests. If it is actually possible, stateless socialism might avoid this if we revert to pre-industrial technology and a world population with pre-industrial sustainability i.e. euthanize the majority of the current pop. This would of course (one would hope) invalidate the reason we worry about environmental disaster e.g. the people whom it may harm and it makes future survival of our species much less likely in the face of potential large scale natural disasters.
  • Capitalism has a neutral impact Within a capitalist system, the environment will be harmed only if people choose to engage in economic activity that harms the environment. However, if they choose against engaging in economic activity that harms the environment, such as through "reducing, reusing, and recycling", purchasing products with organic materials or ingredients, buying clean energy, boycotting environmentally-unfriendly businesses, etc., then the environment will not be harmed. Under a socialist government the majority may decide to support activity that harms the environment, and the minority will be unable to refuse to contribute to that harm.
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Con

  • Socialism has inbuilt mechanisms to protect the ecosystem. Since through participatory planning (then planning mechanism for genuine socialism) everyone gets a say in decisions that affect them, the people most affected by an environmental decision would get the most say and would thus override decisions that harm the ecosystem they rely on. Since to destroy an ecosystem would need the permission of the people who rely on it, it is almost inconceivable that socialism could harm ecosystems. In fact, the main currents of the ecological movements have been socialist, such as social ecology or eco-socialism. There is much more to this but this is the basics. For much more detailed information on how socialism can, and would, protect the environment see chapter 8 of Economic Justice and Democracy by Robin Hahnel, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, Toward An Ecological Society and others by Murray Bookchin, The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace With Our Planet by John Bellamy Foster, [17] and others in the social-ecology and eco-socialist movements.
  • The argument that socialism could do damage to the ecosystem rests on two erroneous assumptions. The first assumption is that socialism is a statist society. This is completely false: as socialism (at its core) is a classless society where workers own the means of production it is very rare (if impossible) that socialism could be a state society - there are exceptions (such as Kerala, Bolivia, etc.) but that is because they are transitioning towards socialism, and in doing so are gradually taking away state power and putting it in the hands of the people. The second assumption is that stateless socialism can only exist in pre-industrial societies, a lá the ideas of Zerzan and other primitives. This blatantly false: the largest and best example of a socialist society was the spanish revolution, which was an industrial society, and most ideas for socialist societies (such as Prouhon's Mutualism; Bakunin's Collectivism; Kropotkin's Anarchist Communism; Bertrand Russell's Guild Socialism; Pannekoek's Council Communism; Rocker's Anarcho-Syndicalism; Albert's and Hahnel's Parecon; Shalom's Parpolity; and others') have been for industrial societies. So both assumptions that the argument that socialism could harm the environmnt are erroneous.


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Freedom: Within which system is there more economic freedom?

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Pro

  • Everyone has a voice within a capitalist society Whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, a part of a majority group or a part of a minority group, all non-imprisoned adult persons have the freedom to choose how to acquire and utilize their money. They may purchase products made from recycled materials, or not. They may buy marijuana, or not. They may buy a book about capitalism, or not. People are entitled to offer any kind of work for any kind of pay, and people are entitled to choose where to work and accept or reject an offer of wages. Under a socialist system the freedom to acquire and utilize money is restricted based on the values of the majority. You may be required to or prohibited from giving money to a religious group, an abortion clinic, a restaurant chain, etc., depending on the values of the majority. If you are in the minority opinion you have little freedom to choose.
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Con

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Public opinion: Where does the public stand?

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Pro

  • People generally prefer capitalism to socialism. "Last November [2009] a survey of 29,000 people across 27 countries (almost all democracies) by GlobeScan and the BBC World Service found that only 23% agreed that capitalism is "fatally flawed" and needs replacing. Some 51% believed it had problems that could be addressed through regulation and reform, and a further 11% were happy with the system as it is." (The Economist, "Old dogs and new tricks", February 13th 2010)
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Con

  • That poll shows that capitalism is not popular. More than twice as many people think that capitalism is fatally flawed and needs to be changed than people who think that capitalism is good as it is. It is very difficult to figure out the meaning of the majority for reforms because it is impossible to tell whether it is a result of the endless propaganda preaching that there are no alternatives to capitalism or whether it is a result of people thinking that reformed capitalism is the best system. No matter what that means, the fact that capitalism is so unpopular despite endless propaganda (through the mainstream media, all the corporate propaganda (see Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty by Alex Carey and see here for a brief overview), public relations campaigns, the internalised effects of advertising, and the way that people internalise their society) shows how deeply people are against capitalism. And the poll was from the rich countries, where the people have benefitted from the exploitation of others. Polls were not taken in the third world countries that have suffered the most from capitalism (a couple were and the results were obvious: in Mexico 38% of people think that capitalism is fatally flawed and that figure is 35% in Brazil - it is unlikely that that many people have felt their societies were fatally flawed (with all the factors mentioned earlier and with the prevalence of reformism everywhere) in many other societies and those figures represent massive dissatisfaction with capitalism. Capitalism is so unpopular that people in Russian (61%) and Ukraine (54%) would rather the utter tyranny of the Soviet Union. Results of the poll can be found here.
  • Other polls show that socialism is more popular than capitalism. For example, according to a recent gallup poll (found here) people in 17 out of 19 Latin American countries are more likely to call themselves socialists than capitalists - For example in Paraguay people are 5.37 times ad likely to call themselves socialist than capitalist (making a ratio of 5.37:1 in favour of socialism); that number is 4.33:1 in Nicaragua; 4.2:1 in Trinidad and Tobago; 3.33:1 in Uruguay; 3.27:1 in Venezuela; 2.74:1 in Costa Rica; 2.66:1 in Ecuador; 2.45:1 in Argentina; 2.22:1 in Peru; 2.12:1 in Bolivia; 1.71:1 in Dominican Republic; 1.69:1 in Chile; 1.69:1 in Columbia; 1.67:1 in Brazil; 1.65:1 in Guatemala; 1.29:1 in El Salvador; and 1.1:1 in Honduras. The only 2 countries that show greater popularity for capitalism are Panama, where the ratio of people describing themselves as socialist as opposed to capitalist is 0.87:1, and Mexico, where it is 0.81:1. It must be noted that both Panama and Mexico are dictatorships (with demonstration, but fake, elections) in which just being socialist is enough to get you arrested, or worse, as are Honduras and Columbia, so the support for socialism would probably be even greater there since people are afraid of speaking out. That all means that overall, a Latin American is 2.38 times as likely to consider themselves a socialist as opposed to a capitalist, despite the heavy repression of socialist in some countries and the history of it in others. The history of capitalist imperialism in Latin America provides ample enough reason why the Latin Americans feel like this. For information on the history of capitalist imperialism in Latin America see Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent by Eduardo Galeano, Jungle Capitalists: A Story of Globalisation, Greed and Revolution by Peter Chapman, Year 501: The Conquest Continues by Noam Chomsky and Against Empire by Michael Parenti.


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