Debate: Capitalism vs. Democratic Socialism


Brendan Greve | Politics Co-editor

Much of America’s youth has been “feeling the Bern” and have been gravitating towards the self-described “Democratic Socialist”, Bernie Sanders. The Senator from Vermont is the first politician that has ever ran for President with the label of “Socialist” and it is shocking to me that he has made it so far. I believe that much of Mr. Sander’s youthful supporters do not understand the ideas of socialism and how dangerous they are.

Let’s start off with Merriam- Webster’s definition of socialism. It is, “a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies.” This is similar to th idea of communism, which is the form of government that has arguably brought the most pain and suffering to the world through terrible dictators like Joseph Stalin, Kim Jung-un, and Mao. Leftists believe that these horrible idea’s of massive government control will someohow work in America, despite failing everywhere else. Why would anyone want to implement a system that would even remotely resemble the system that has brought on the atrocities like those of the North Korean and Soviet regimes that have consistently failed and brought devastation though out the history of mankind?

Socialist and communist thinkers value equality over success– no matter how low the bar is in order to meet equality. In 1985, Bernie Sanders defended the ruthless Dictator of Communist Cuba, Fidel Castro. Sanders said in an interview, “All the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated their kids, gave them healthcare, totally transformed the society.” What is so disturbing about Sanders defense of Castro is he fails to mention what kind of education he provided, or the quality of the healthcare, or whether the transformation of the society was good, bad, or even terrible.

What is even more disturbing is that what Bernie Sanders said about Castro can be said about every ruthless dictator that ever lived. For example, Joseph Stalin— the leader of Communist Russia who killed even more of his citizens than Adolph Hitler— educated his people (with state sanctioned propaganda), provided healthcare (state sanctioned and poor), and transformed the society (By killing millions of people). This could be said about other dictators that have committed crimes against mankind such as Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Kim Jong-Un, and many others. To counter Sanders point, I would rather be illiterate, have no healthcare, and live in a bland society and be free, than be literate but be told what to read, have healthcare but be told what to do with my body, and would rather live in a society where I am free to pursue education, healthcare, and change- even if it isn’t given to me by the federal government. America has overcome wrongs and has strived because the political and economic process has been left to “we the people” not “we the government.”

Now here is why capitalism has worked for so long in America. It is because it resembles human nature. It is human nature that we are self-interested and dissatisfied. As the classic philosopher Adam Smith said in his famous work, The Wealth of Nations, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.” Milton Friedman also said, “The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”

Free-market capitalism is not thwarted by self-interest, it actually strives on it. I will also point out that it is never in someone’s self-interest to be selfish in a capitalist system. For example, every business that someone opens has to cater to the consumer, not the owner. The owner is actually the last person to make a profit. Would you work at a new restaurant where the owner said that he isn’t going to pay you until he makes enough profit? Of course not. If a restaurant owner decided to bump up prices to gain more profit, less customers would eat there and his employees would find other jobs at restaurants that have more reasonable prices that get better business. So regardless of how selfish a business owner may be, it is in there self-interest to cater to the customer, to provide jobs for employees, and contribute to the local economy.

In a socialist society, people expect the government to supply benefits to them without working as hard. Is everyone getting their “fair share” when some people are working hard to earn benifits that everyone will get anyway. To the students that believe capitalism is unfair, wouldn’t you be upset if you worked really hard on a group project and your partner did nothing, but you both got the same grade? Trying to work hard to earn more money is not as selfish as demanding to do less work and contributing less to the economy but demanding more benefits from it. That is the epitome of selfishness.

Lastly, dissatisfaction is another human instinct that capitalism thrives off of. The key is, no one is ever completely satisfied! I stress this point because socialist and even people on the left talk of this utopia in which somehow everyone has their every need met. This will never happen and if it did, it would be a disaster. Dissatisfaction is actually the cause of some of the greatest inventions and innovations that have been created by mankind. For example, it was dissatisfying that only the wealthy could afford cars.. Through that dissatisfaction, Henry Ford founded Ford Motors so middle class people can afford them. That created the auto industry in which millions and millions of people survive off of today. That is how most industries are started.

There will always be sustainability in a free-market capitalist system, because there will always be human nature. The experiment of socialism is inconsistent with human nature and that is why it has never succeeded and never will.

Democratic Socialism

Jasmine Ramos | Politics Co-editor

With the recent election on its way, several concerns about the state of the country have been brought up for debate. Issues such as immigration to education have been fought hard by both parties to gain the success of whatever candidate they support. However, with Bernie Sanders as a contender for president, his socialist views on politics have been questioned.

First of all, I would like to clarify that Bernie Sanders considers himself social democratic, not a socialist. The reason why this is important is because socialism has not been implemented historically through free and fair elections. He, personally, believes in and would favor socialism to be chosen, freely and fairly, though and by the electorate.

Now where did the word “socialism” come from and what does it mean? The term has varied definition throughout the years, from religion to philosophy, the economical term came from The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848. After observing the terrible conditions brought on by the Industrial Revolution, Marx and Engles’ observation of capitalism brought on what later developed to the public rather than private ownership of property and natural resources.

In socialism, it is said to believe that people do not live for or work in isolation, but live in cooperation with one another. Furthermore, everything that people produce is in some sense a social product and everyone who contributes to the production of a good is entitled to share in it.

Now, this might all seem confusing and scary, and you must be thinking “Why is the state taking part of what I earned when I worked hard on it?” This is where the concept of democratic socialism comes in.

Individuals and corporations will continue to own the capital and means of production, which means that a lot of wealth will be produced privately. That being said, taxation, government spending, and regulation of the private sector are much heavier under social democracy. That way the money would circulate back to the people in need, balancing the wealth in a country a bit more.

And, just a reminder for those who believe that democratic socialism would hurt the free market, the American capitalism has never been a fully free economy. Yes, the majority of the enterprises in America are privately run and owned, meaning most of the money is privately produced. But, most of the wealth that is privately produced is spent by the government. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 39% of the gross domestic product is spent in local, state, and federal government.

Now, business isn’t the only way in which capitalism produces unfair outcomes. What happens to the student that did everything s/he needed to do to be successful, got into the right college and studied hard, yet cannot find a job? Is it fair the there are individuals that are so powerful because of the money they have, that they can influence the political process without consequences to themselves?

Seth Macfarlane, creator of Family Guy and worth $150 million, said recently at a rally, “For years I have thought to myself, ‘Alright, I am a capitalist.’ I like eating at Sugar Fish and drinking Fiji water. […]But doesn’t it seem that things have swung so far in the other direction, with the top 1% of the country controlling more wealth than the other 99% combined?”

Many, like Macfarlane, have agreed with this, especially the younger generation. According to U.S. News, they found that 58% of young people choose socialism over capitalism, and 66% say corporate America embodies everything that is wrong with America. And who is to blame them when the average student debt loan is $28,950, and they cannot land a job after college?

So, in the words of Macfarlane, is it crazy to believe that “just a little bit of democratic socialism isn’t the worst idea?”