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Debate: Capitalism vs socialism

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*'''[ History demonstrates the potential of socialism to destroy our species.]''' 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. *'''[ History demonstrates the potential of socialism to destroy our species.]''' 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.
-*'''Socialism does not prevent individuals from excelling, it merely removes any incentive or reward for excelling.''' 
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Which is the superior system, capitalism or socialism?

Background and context

Capitalism is the world’s dominant economic system. Within it, the means of production and distribution are owned by individuals: private ownership and free enterprise are believed to lead to more efficiency, lower prices, better products and rising prosperity. Socialism advocates the ownership and control of the means of production and industry by the community as a whole: the community is believed to be both more just and more efficient through central planning, or participatory planning. In Marxist theory Socialism represents the stage following capitalism in a state transforming to communism; for many, however, it is a goal in itself. 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.

History: Does history demonstrate the potential of capitalism/socialism?


  • History proves that capitalist systems are successful because the majority of modern states became powerful and wealthy societies which have survived for moderately long lengths of time utilize capitalism to great effect.
  • History has proven its past that socialism does not work. In the case of extreme socialism with Joseph Stalin, he would put his farmers in a ditch, if they didn't give up their crops to be distrubuted evenly throughout Soviet Russia. Socialism does not fit the needs of people, Capitalism does. History has proven it's past, and Socialism without a doubt, does not work. As Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous saying goes:
"Capitalism is unequally divided riches while socialism is equally divided poverty."
  • Private property is essential to the human race. The right to own property is central to man’s existence. Private ownership of property (including land, businesses and goods) gives individuals security and a means to control their own affairs. Ownership brings responsibility and allows individuals to plan for the future so as to provide for themselves and their families. For example, owning a house, a business or some land makes it possible to borrow against that property so that individuals can invest for the future. The lack of private property rights in much of Africa makes such borrowing and investment impossible, and is one reason for the continent's lack of economic growth.
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.
Voluntary social living was tried long before the term "socialism" was coined. It was a disaster and they quickly rejected it. They were not pursuing any socioeconomic ideology but rather simply seeking the most beneficial and prosperous way to live. Bradfords' observations, summarized above, are universal and incontrovertible. Where socialistic policies are tried, it discourages productive labor to the detriment of all. To maintain productivity, coercion —rejected by the colonists as a great tyrany and opression— becomes necessary. This leads immediately to the soviet run feudalism and political aristocracy we have seen so much of in the Twentieth Century.
References: wikipedia article Of Plymouth Plantation;
Online Text Of Plymouth Plantation;
Download Bradfords History of "Plymouth Plantation"
(Note: This is not a novelization or fiction. It is the actual memoirs of William Bradford whom governed the colony.)
  • History demonstrates the potential of socialism to destroy our species. 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.


  • Socialism in the Soviet Union has been successul in many regards. Even though one may argue that the net result of the Soviet experiment was negative due to repressions during the 1937-1939 period, it's unequivocal that socialism led to many positive results for the people of the USSR. Among them free education, health care, culture and guaranteed employment. On a national level, Soviet Union has achieved leadership positions in many areas and parity with capitalist countries in most, despite worse climate conditions, poor initial conditions and a devastating impact of two world wars and one civil war. This simply could not have been achieved if socialism is clearly worse in all regards than capitalism. A case is often made that the productivity in socialist countries is lower than under capitalism, the differences (if they exist) are partly ofset by other benefits. Therefore socialism cannot be dismissed as an obviously worse form.
  • Capitalism is inefficient and causes inequality, exploitation and misery. The wealth of the earth belongs to all men or to none. Under capitalism, property is concentrated into the hands of relatively few well-off people, leaving the many with nothing and at the mercy of the rich for work, charity, etc. This leads to gross inequality, exploitation and misery. Nor is it economically efficient, as the rich have so much already they have no incentive to use their property productively.
  • 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.
  • Capitalism fosters the exploitation of third world countries. Third world countries In the era of industrial revolution, European imperial powers extended control beyond the limits of Europe by colonizing nations, namely Africa. This colonialism is rooted in the framework of capitalism as a means to expand the economy, garner resources, and spread the market. Thus, said situation in Africa is not a product of a non-adherance to capitalism. Rather, the situation is caused by colonialism, a tool of capitalism.
  • The examples that "Yes" cites are not socialism Socialism, in it's purest form, means a classless society where everyone owns the means of production. To argue that this was the case in the Soviet Union would be ridiculous. The examples of socialism have been small and fleeting, just like the examples of capitalism were in medieval times, but where socialism has been practiced it has greatly improved the lives of the poorest people living there. Examples of true socialism include the Spanish revolution, the Zapatista revolution in Chiapas, southern Mexico, the Israeli Kibbutzim and examples of things that have got, or are getting, close to socialism include the recent Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions involving large federations of communes etc., the recent democratic planning experiment in Kerala, India and many others. If you look at all these examples you will see that they have, at least partially if not greatly, improved the lives of the people in them.
  • Private property is not essential to the human race Focusing only on the very narrow are of Europe, the most prosperous time for ordinary people was a time without private property. This time was the 11th to 13th centuries. During this time there was no private property and everything was run by local currencies in local egalitarian economies (much of the aristocracy was losing control, hence why they invented corporations), not centralized currencies or large corporations. In Life Inc. Douglas Rushkoff writes that at this time "quality of life for most Europeans was better than at any other time in history, including today"; "The working class enjoyed 4 meals a day, usually of 3 or 4 courses. They worked 6 hours a day, and just 4 or 5 days a week"; "In addition to metrics such as demographic expansion and urban development, measures of health and well-being also surpassed our own". This was the most prosperous time for Europeans in their entire history: it was also the closet Europe has ever got to socialism. But this prosperity was undone when, in the late 13th century, local currencies were outlawed, to be replaced by centralized currencies, and control over society was ceded to chartered corporations, owned by monarchs and run by wealthy merchants. Rushkoff writes that "within 10 years, the population increase had reversed to a decline as standards of living fell". This was the first attempt to impose something like capitalism (it was almost capitalism but not quite the one we know) on people and it collapsed in 1347 when the drops in living standards fell so drastically that there was an outbreak of what we now call the black plague, which killed more than half of Europe's population. The black plague was directly related to the drop in living standards that the introduction of the quasi-capitalism.
  • History demonstrates the potential of capitalism to destroy our species. Anyone familiar with recent history will know that our species is fast becoming suicidal. The onset of global warming and the threat of nuclear weapons constantly loom over us and everything we do. This is directly related to capitalism and it's need to continuously grow. The process goes something like this: All money is lent into existence by banks. But since banks charge interest the bank might lend me £1 million and get back £2 million, including the lending through a smaller bank to get to me (I'm pretty sure these aren't accurate figures but I'm just giving an example). This extra £1 million has to come from somewhere but only banks can lend money into existence. So more money has to be created. So, as a result of this, capitalism needs to continually grow or it will cease to function. Because capitalism needs to continually grow it will have to grow into every area of life. This includes weapons production and exploiting fossil fuels, among other nasty activities. So, in order to survive, capitalism must put the survival of the human species (and many others) at risk, killing many in the process. . This process of perpetual money creation also means that inevitably someone will have to lose out, since the money has to come from somewhere and banks have to keep making profit. This losing out often means bankruptcy but it can also mean various other (far worse) outcomes. This perpetual money creation also leads to a slope of authority towards the centre, that being banks and corporations. Put together this means that capitalism necessitates perpetual growth whereby the wealth ends up in the hands of a few dominant elites. This process of sloping wealth to the centre leads to the deaths of 36 million people every year through starvation (the equivalent of 6 Nazi holocausts a year) even thought the world produces enough food to adequately feed everyone in the world and could produce twice as much. Think about that for a minute.
  • In response to the point about Plymouth Plantation basing an argument on what happens in a novel makes no sense. There have been real examples of real participatory socialism. Some have failed, most have worked. And the ones that failed, most of the time were either crushed by force or co-opted by capitalist market forces. For examples of real socialism that worked you should look at the Zapatistas, the popular movements across Latin America, or read Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century. There are lots of examples of real socialism that has worked and this side of the argument has given a few. If you look you can find more.

Motivations: Does capitalism appropriately harness individuals desires?


  • Capitalism harnesses the dominant individual desire to succeed. 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.
  • Socialism subverts individual excellence, 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.
  • Capitalism does not prevent anybody from aiding a fellow man, just the exact opposite. 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. 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.
  • Socialism promises predicability, builds upon a dangerous promise of guaranteed well being for everybody - Well, life is unpredictable. Socialism promises predicability - 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 than 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 neccesarilly 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.
  • Socialism takes demandingness as a wrongful attitude - The behavioral schema that was all-too-common in real socialism was like follows: "You will not want anything from me, I will not want anything from you, and we will all solidarily wait until the end of the working hours". It may seem surprising to some, but this "solidarity" did not exactly led to a well working economy. So solidarity has to be approached very carefully. Socialism clearly overdoses it, with detrimental effects on individual human behavior and consequently the whole society.
  • Socialism promises everything for everybody - while this may seem just, it's a total nonsense - The attitude of socialism is like follows: if everybody that wants to do something does not have a chance to do it, then let's ban the relevant activity (at least until it can be mass available), so there can not be unhappiness of people that cannot participate in it. What a complete nonsense. Take as an example the way to the moon. Arguably, literally crowds of people were interested to go to the moon (not to mention being there first). Only a really small group of people eventually went there - since the technology of space travel was (and still is) in its infancy. Yet, the whole endeavor, though available to only small group of people, turned out to be very profitable, bringing technological advancements. It is hardly imaginable that such a thing could occur in a pure socialist state. To sum it up: socialist attitude is "If not everybody, then nobody". Capitalism doesn't contain such stupidly restricting attitude, enabling a much better one "If not everybody, then at least somebody".


  • Many could be motivated by a wish to aid their fellow man. Over time, as the benefits of this better way of life become obvious, all will. The impulse to share wealth and material amongst the community, to support all, leaving none behind, is one of the purest mankind can experience. It is not merely possible – it is a demonstration of the progress of our species to a finer, more humane state of being.
  • Capitalism prevents many individuals from a chance of success 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 has to feed a family of 5 can achieve success through anything other than violence. 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.
  • Capitalism often prevents happiness. The ultimate desire of any individual, except possibly psychopaths, is to be happy. Everything else is a process in trying to achieve that. And since humans are pack animals we need meaningful contact with others in order to be truly happy. But capitalism disconnects us from others and from everything that is valuable in our lives in a process discussed by Douglas Rushkoff in Life Inc.
  • Socialism does not prevent individuals from excelling. 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 solidarity In a capitalist environment the ultimate end is the acquisition of profit. But since the easiest way to achieve a profit is to make somebody else pay the bills, capitalism subverts solidarity. 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. The best way to get to the top in capitalism is to exploit and steal from everyone else. "Yes" makes the argument that in capitalism people can give money to anyone they want but that is a weak argument. Even in fascism, the dictator could give all of his earnings to the poor but that doesn't mean he is going to. Even though people can give money to others in a capitalist system, the environment encourages people to make as much money as they can at the expense of others. And the amount that rich people give to poor people as charity pales in comparison to the amount that the rich have made exploiting the labour of the poor. The fact is that most of the excess money the rich has was created by the work of the poor but then siphoned off into the pockets of the owners, managers etc.
  • Capitalism does not peacefully accept these losses. When capitalism is faced with troubles, like the ones "yes" has alluded to 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 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. This land will most likely be used exactly as the land they bought perviously has: to create large exports to bring more food to rich countries cheaper. This will force (and has forced) the poor countries further into starvation as they must rely on the fluctuating prices of the market and cannot produce food for them so they must flood their country with subsidized food from rich countries (at great profit to the already wealthy), undermining and ultimately destroying their already fragile economies. And another way that capitalism has responded to this economic crisis is that donors have cut off huge funds from the world food program which has now had to cut back 20 - 25% of it's food aid, thus greatly aggravating the far more important food crisis. Is that peaceful? Starvation from this will likely be huge, although I doubt it will be but a dent on the current figures as they stand: 36 million deaths from starvation a year, 98,000 a day, 4,000 an hour, 1 a second, in a world that produces enough food to feed everyone. The way capitalism deals with crises has been almost universally similar to this.
  • The point that socialism cannot respond to crisis makes no sense. 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.
  • What "yes" calls "real socialism" is not socialism. They are totalitarianism. Once again: Socialism is a classless society in which everyone owns the means of production. The examples given under "real socialism" do not even attempt to achieve this. They are run by the co-ordinator class. And the reason that people didn't work enough in them is far more likely that they were disempowered by being forced to work for someone but unlike capitalism they were not forced to work as much. This side has given examples of truly socialist (or close to it) societies and they do not face that problem. Productivity actually went up during the Spanish revolution! That was probably because people were no longer alienated from the product of their work and because they knew the people it was going to so they made it better because they didn't want to get something bad back in return from the people (which would probably happen if they gave them something bad). That is how solidarity works. It means that peoples fates are tied up together, so that because I want to have nice things I work hard so other people can have nice things so they will be more motivated to make me nice things. If my fate is tied up with yours we are not only going to work well for ourselves (like people would in any society) but we are going to work well for each other since we have to to get better things for us.
  • Socialism doesn't ban activities that not everyone can participate in. Obviously there would still be specialization in socialism. Like there would still be scientists and they would still get the chance to go to the moon if they want. There are 2 differences between socialism and capitalism in this respect.

1) Nobody gets a monopoly over empowering work in socialism. So while a scientist will still get the chance to work on going to the moon or coming up with other creative experiments as well, they will also have to spend some of their time sweeping the floor or something like that as well. It is not fair that some people have a monopoly on good, empowering jobs, just because they were lucky enough to be born into a good family and get a good education or be born with a special talent. In socialism everyone gets a combination of empowering tasks and rote tasks as part of their job. Contrary to what you may think, this would not decrease efficiency because since people are empowered through their lives you get 80% more people (80% is about the amount in the disempowered working class in capitalism) who have an opportunity to go into science, through their talents that had not been discovered because they were disempowered. This easily makes up for the time the current scientists spend doing rote work.

2) People do not get paid extra for doing better jobs. This is rather self-explanatory. There are 2 types of remuneration in a socialist economy. The first is to each according to their need, from each according to their ability. This was used in the Spanish revolution and the Israeli Kibbutzim and it worked well but it is however very optimistic. Another remuneration scheme is that everyone gets paid according to effort and sacrifice. This means that if you work harder you get paid more. An even more socialist approach to this would be calculating it on a slant, whereby the extra money you get lessens as you work harder so people aren't forced to work too hard to keep up. Capitalism rewards people according to the property they own, their bargaining power and their output. A good discussion on the relative morality and practicality of different payment schemes can be found in Parecon: Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert. Obviously in a socialist society people would choose which way to remunerate people because socialism is democratic, but those are the 2 types of remuneration that are in line with the values of socialism.

Market prices: Do market prices under capitalism make sense?


  • 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 usually lead to shortage of goods. 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.
  • Capitalism reserves an important role for compassionate government. In any case 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.


  • Capitalism rewards 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. The poor are fooled into thinking that they can gain in capitalism, when really all their wages do is hold them in place – their savings are swept away in the first moments of unemployment, a concept central to capitalism but one that socialism destroys.
  • Markets do not set a fair price. Market prices leave out what economists call externalities. For example, if I have a choice between buying something that runs on oil and something that runs on wind energy, the fact that one choice is leading to the destruction of the environment does not factor into the price. And it is cheaper to use the oil that we already have all the technology for and have built the access to even though it will destroy the environment. In other words, as the market stands today, pollution is good. Also, in a market economy it is cheaper to exploit someone than to pay them a fair wage, since it costs me less to exploit someone than it does to be fair to them, because externalities are not counted into price. So markets promote anti-social behavior and encourage people to exploit and repress each other.
  • Any true socialism would not use state guaranteed prices. This side of the debate has explained repeatedly that the "socialism" in the Eastern Bloc was not socialism in the slightest. The core of socialism is that workers own the means of production - without that there can be no socialism. Did workers in the Eastern Bloc countries own the means of production? No, these countries were dictatorships in which the workers did not own the means of production. (It is highly improbable that a dictatorship in which the workers own the means of production could exist). Socialism also has to be classless and calling Eastern Bloc countries that wouldnot make much sense. So it follows logically that the Eastern Bloc countries had very little to do with real socialism. So using the failures of the Eastern Bloc countries to criticize socialism is like using Feudalism to criticize capitalism: it makes no sense.
  • Incomes and rewards in capitalism are grossly 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? Since this obviously doesn't happen, the only sensible conclusion is that the poorest people are being exploited by the richest people, who are making huge profits off their exploitation. You can get similar results from other figures as well. The World Bank estimated in 2005 that more than half the world's population lived on less than $2 a day. Meanwhile the latest Forbes magazine “rich list” said there were 793 billionaires worldwide with a combined wealth of more than US$4 trillion. Is that fair?
  • Poverty is often a byproduct of inequalities under capitalism. The structural inequality in society is produced by the wealth gap initiated through capitalism. Taxation to help the poor in a capitalist economy is redundant because poverty is produced by the idea of taxation of capitalism.
  • 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.
  • Government in capitalism is not compassionate. It 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, by definition and in practice, 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 - which stems from a lack of solidarity in the system. To the extent that governments in capitalism are compassionate they are only that way because ordinary people (a great many of them socialists) have fought and died to make it that way. That's not opinion, that's just history. There seem to be no examples where the elite has just handed over rights, increases in living standards, or anything similar without a fight. And charity doesn't count 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.
  • The role of government in capitalism (and other class societies) is summed up very well by a quote by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: "Laws: We know what they are, and what they are worth! They are spider webs for the rich and mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of government."
  • Markets work against human interest. This is because of the way that they measure success. The way that markets measure success is through GDP (it could hypothetically be something else but it would still have to be strictly in monetary terms). But the values that this gives to things is depraved in human terms. This relates to externalities, as this side has mentioned earlier in this debate. Here are some examples of how depraved market value is: using less gas (and thus less pollution), 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 all subtract from GNP. And getting cancer, being in a car crash, being diagnosed with schizophrenia, getting a divorce and murdering someone all add to GNP. There are many other similar examples.

Government hand: Does government slow the markets or provide a guiding hand?


  • Socialist government slow the progress of the 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.


  • 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. To gain this for all rather than just for some requires an element of social control – the excesses of capitalism will forever mean that too many fall by the wayside as the strong profit, and the weak are left behind. Critics who point to the failure of the soviet bloc don't understand that this was not true socialism, which has never been properly tried, but a corrupt version of central planning which served selfish elites rather than the good of the people as a whole. Examples such as Britain's National Health Service, or the European social model of welfare provision show the strengths of a socialist approach.

Ruled by the individual, ruled by the state: Which is better?


  • In capitalist systems, society is rightly ruled by the individual. Who would want to live any other way? In socialist systems, society is ruled by the state. Why would one want to live like that?
  • Capitalism allows for greater personal fulfillment of the individual and pursuit of individual goals. Socialism presents a "mob rule" where the collective (or whomever controls the government) outweighs any decisions made by individuals concerning their own lives. Individual "needs" are dictated by the state and so niche markets are prevented from forming. This causes a lack of innovation and social progress because major trends and even fundamental changes in society and technology start in niche markets with very specific needs that would not be considered "efficient" for the state to provide.


  • In socialist systems, society is ruled by the collective people. Who would want to live any other way? In capitalist systems, society is ruled by the individual and their independent pursuit of money. Under socialism, society is ruled by individuals collectively working together toward a common purpose to enhance the collective good.
  • Capitalism is not ruled by the individual, but the corporation. This argument is fairly self-explanatory. 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. 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.

Competition: Which system is more efficient?


Competition yields better products and more efficient processes in all fields of man's activity. 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.


  • It is false to say that capitalism secures competition automatically. As everyone knows, monopolies are often formed under capitalist systems. Capitalist monopolies are pernicious - they mean that individuals profit obscenely as they can charge exorbitant costs, since citizens cannot obtain services anywhere else. On the other hand, socialist monopolies are benign since the state has the interests of citizens at heart, rather than the enrichment of a particular person.
  • Centralized currency is biased toward scarcity and hoarding. 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.
  • The monopoly of the state is not presence in any truly socialist system. A truly socialist system is classless and everyone owns the means of production. That is hardly a state monopoly, considering that states, by definition, elevate one or more classes above the rest. There are no monopolies. The productive resources are owned by everyone collectively (or no-one if you like). And capitalism not only doesn't prevent monopolies, it cannot survive without them. 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.
  • 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?
  • Capitalism grossly mismanages money. 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. And the military budget is only one part of the money that is spent on killing each other or coming up with news ways to kill each other (it excludes the arms trade which is very profitable - the Stockholm International peace research institute estimated that in 2006 the top 100 arms companies produced about $315 billion worth of weapons). In other words, in capitalism as it stands today, we could end world poverty with less than 1/27th of part of the amount of money we spend on killing each other (possibly 1/35th of the total amount).

Which system protects the human rights more widely?


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.

Socialism cannot protect human rights because it seeks the good of the people. 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.


  • Capitalism may use the language of human rights, but it only really respects the right of the weak to starve in the gutter, and the right of the strong to keep them there. Socialism understands rights more widely and fully, and provides for the right to work, the right to an education, and to health care free at the point of use. It cannot be right for a few individuals to block the progress of all towards these great goals.
  • Capitalism consistently blocks the most basic right of all, the right to 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! That is not protection of human rights in the slightest.
  • Capitalism is not an "invisible hand" to guide human relations, but an "invisible foot" to crush them. 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.
  • The only human rights that capitalism protects is summed up quite well in a quote by 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.”
  • Capitalism often subverts human rights, if it is in the interest of profit. 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.
  • 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.

See also

External links and resources:


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