False Dichotomies: Capitalism VS Socialism

Posted on 9th May 2004 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior

What’s the best market model? While pundits scream words like “Communist!” and “Fascist!” across the isles in an attempt to demonize the opposition, the reality is that civilization requires a balanced market with both Capitalist and Socialist aspects. Both economic strategies require a healthy Democracy to work.

The result of splitting the debate over government versus corporate provided services into two extremes, like good and evil, is that we remove the ability to have intelligent, rational debate over the matter. When someone suggests privatizing a governmental function, opponents cry foul and point to instances of corruption in corporatist enterprises. When someone suggests socializing a service, opponents cry foul and point to the failure of specific Communist systems.

The problem with both of these approaches to debate is that they ignore the successful aspects of both systems. North Korea is a drastic example of socialism taken to an extreme, but socialism has obvious benefits in China. Enron is an example of Capitalism taken to an extreme, but capitalism has obvious benefits in the United States. Taking things to extremes in disputation is known as presenting a “Slippery Slope” argument, a rhetorical fallacy.


In evolutionary terms, Socialism expresses the concept of social animals. Our civilization brought the human race to the point of being the most successful mammals on the planet (bugs and microbes still have us beat), and we require the preservation of civilization to maintain this status. IAAMOAC.

The problem with letting the Government solve problems is the lack of accountability. If a government agency is doing something wrong, there is no competitor to bring a better way into the market. There is no variety of ideas, only one business model, the government’s, and it answers only to itself unless the people mobilize to change it — a premeditated effort, rather than a natural occurance like market trends. A corporation can sink millions of dollars into a bad business model, but it will eventually fail, preventing the a perpetual waste of resources. The government, faced with a need, can only sink more money into its service.

Socialism rarely produces innovations like convenience stores, computers, automobiles, successful dot-coms, and the like. It took an individual motivated by the potential for rewards, gifted with the freedom to pursue these innovations independently to manifest them.

Socialism fails to take into account human nature. We are motivated by the rewards, or potential rewards, of our endeavors. When no additional gains are made by additional effort, there is no motivation to excel as an individual.

Socialism fails to see the forest for the trees.


In evolutionary terms, Capitalism is an economic survival of the fittest. Business model memes enter the market and compete for profits like animals competing for food. The ideas that please consumers most take the most profit. New ideas, like mutated genes, are constantly entering the system, most fail, but the good ones survive and other models adopt these successful innovations to the gradual improvement of the entire system.

Capitalism has the benefit of promoting innovation, however, left unchecked, it destroys innovation. Ideally, the best product or service wins, but the reality is that the more established product uses its market share to squash the competition, which is more cost effective and instantly gratifying than product improvement. If the government does not regulate the market, then the most powerful enterprises will.

It should be noted that Capitalist ventures did not reach space until well after Russia, China, and the United States’ socialist programs all achieved this. Similarly Pharmaceutical, Stem Cell, and other medical researches rely heavily on tax-money, because only the government has that kind of investment power.

Capitalism also fails to take into account human nature. By focusing entirely on the rewards of the system, the individual has no motivation to act for the common good.

Capitalism fails to see the trees for the forest.

Always a Balancing Act

Governments that allow public oversight of their processes provide a counterbalance to the extremes that may emerge from either system. Communist systems such as China’s provide means for citizens to express their grievances for consideration. Democracies provide citizens with an indirect power over the system. Neither system fully harnesses the power of public oversight through open government and direct citizen control, but each one harnesses the power of disputation in tempering their behaviors.

socialist aspects in government are tempered with public oversight of government-provided programs and have the power to evaluate, refine, and cancel programs that do not work. In government models devoid of public scrutiny, the only oversight is reality, as in the crushing weight of economic reality comes down and the entire system collapses.

Similarly governmental oversight of a capitalist system is managed through the people. Free markets provide a system of public oversight in that the public avoids enterprises detrimental to the system, but government oversight of Capitalism as motivated by the public is also required. Without such moderation, monopolies and abuses occur that subjugate the people, hinder society and progress.

As with so many things regarding public policy, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but a complex realm of situations where case by case decision making is required. Moderation is key. Thorough and nuanced disputation of policy in an open forum will provide the best, most specific solution.

Socialism VS Capitalism in Science

One last note for all my Scientifically minded hommies out there.

Socialism funds generalized studies. The Hubble Telescope, the Human Genome Project, and the endless stream of research conducted by University Scientists across the globe are all projects conducted for no other reason than to satisfy our curiosity. Socialist Science is all about discovery for the sake of understanding our world. There is nothing profitable about pictures of the farthest visible galaxy in our universe, nothing lucrative about confirming or denying the existence of microbes on Mars, or searching the skies for messages from extraterrestrial beings, but there is everything inspiring about these things. They provide us with vision.

If Socialist Science is all about broadening our horizons, Capitalist Science is all about the practical application of our knowledge. Brain candy is nice for fantasizing, but building a super-powerful Computer Processor out of an Einstein-Bose State of Matter benefits us right now, today. Sequencing the Human Genome is theoretically “neat,” but applying that research into the production of life-saving therapies, drugs, and other treatments lies mostly in the realm of Capitalist Science, which will pursue the leads more effectively because of their profit motivations.

Science requires both socialist and capitalist motivators to expand. Socialist Science sets a foundation that Capitalist Science builds upon. Socialist Science opens the doors of possibility while Capitalist Science actively pursues the revealed possible.

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