Economic Systems

The choice between Capitalism and Socialism is a false choice. We already have a blend of the two systems. We rely every day on roads, public schools, and parks - all are socialism. And we rely on prisons, the police, and the fire department to keep us safe - all socialism. Many rely on public transportation, snow removal, and many other services provided by the government which is socialism. Our country would not work without these systems of socialism.

Some Americans have a particularly virulent paranoia of the term 'socialism,' thinking that if they don’t oppose everything they term socialism (which really is anything they think they don’t like), we would become like Nazi Germany or Russia -- and that's simply not the case.

"The American People will take Socialism, but they won't take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC [End Poverty in California]. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to 'End Poverty in California' I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them."
-Upton Sinclair

I highly recommend the video Let's Talk About Socialism - by Prof. Richard Wolff

Professor Wolff has another video, The Cure for Capitalism which discusses how we might fix capitalism's faults (done well before COVID-19).

The capitalism model and profit motive works great for discretionary items like toasters and shoes. In other words, capitalism has a lot of good features; it has brought us to a level of development that other systems may not have accomplished, but it has achieved this “progress” at the cost of destroying our planet for short term gain.

Seventh Generation

We must consider the impact our actions have on generations to come. This concept is derived from the Constitution of the Iroquois Nation that most of us have heard of which 7th Generation Quotesuggests that "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine." Read most about this concept in Seann Sweeney's blog.

The Downside of Capitalism

Capitalism is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, capitalism can make production more efficient. If one company can make a product more efficiently than another, then the first company will survive. However, if the first company is more efficient because they dump their waste while the second company pays to clean up their waste properly, the first company will survive because they've saved money by externalizing their cleanup costs to the taxpayer. This is the aspect of free-market capitalism that does not work and why government regulation is necessary.

In addition, capitalism does not work well for critical, life-saving items, like insulin and Epi Pens. Allowing unlimited profit for corporations who produce these critical items allows them to raise prices above what most people can afford. Martin Shkreli's hiking the price of the EpiPen just to make more profit is a prime example, but there are many others.

In the same vein, hospitals should not base how they are run solely on profit, thereby disadvantaging rural people -- because treating them is less profitable. When you are having a heart attack, you can't afford the time to shop around for which hospital you want to treat you.

One of the basic assumptions of capitalism is infinite growth. Capitalism dictates that growth always represents progress, and that growth is a goal in itself which increases profits. However, infinite growth in a finite context (such as planet earth) is a recipe for disaster at some point, and we are starting to experience that wall preventing further growth. Capitalism alone will not carry us beyond our current state, with its systemic depletion of resources (mineral and animal) and pollution of the ecosphere.

Don't miss this talk concerning a new model for our society. A Healthy Economy Should be Designed to Thrive Not Grow by Kate Raworth.

Furthermore, having to choose between capitalism and socialism is a false choice. We need the best features of each system. Capitalism rewards people with incentives to achieve goals, while socialism limits the excesses and damage of predatory free-market capitalism, and tries to make sure people don't fall through the cracks.

For those who oppose social-welfare programs by claiming that "socialism is unamerican", note that the preamble to the US Constitution, which sets the tone of the entire Constitution, literally states that one purpose of the government is to "promote the general welfare". That means the government should manage the commons for "we the people," not sell off the commons (frequency spectrum, our National Parks, our precious and finite groundwater) so that corporations can make a quick profit for their stockholders at the expense of our grandkids' future.

When Capitalism Fails

With every crash due to capitalism's excesses, we have turned to socialism (government control of the means of production) to rescue our economy. In the 1930's we had the New Deal which was based on socialism. After the crash of 2008, the government had to bail out the big banks, with no plan to bail out individuals. in other words, socialism for the rich, and predatory capitalism for the Middle Class. Note that real bailouts for people is what Bernie (with other progressive voices) has been advocating for his whole life, but nobody would listen to him because he's a crackpot, it's too expensive, etc., and now we're doing It.

And to address COVID-19, we have to again turn to socialism to bail out not only the big banks, but citizens as well. However, to date, the bailouts have again gone to the big corporations and the rich, with a token pittance to us. I agree with Bernie that if a bank or other institution is too big to fail, it's too big to exist and should be broken up.