The question of whether capitalism or communism is the best economic system has been repeatedly hailed as the most important economic debate of the 20th century. Though it is clear nowadays that capitalism has won that battle, most people don’t even possess a basic understanding of the fundamental nature of capitalism or communism. Therefore, to compare the two, let’s first educate ourselves about these two very different ideologies.
Capitalism, put in simple terms, is an economic system based on the optimization of personal profit. The basic gist of it is to own means of production and use them for acquiring wealth. While capitalism is deeply rooted in our society – the idea of acquiring wealth isn’t something new – the idea of large scale capitalism only appeared with the Industrial Revolution. Communism, on the other hand, is based on a common ownership of means of production, and can be notably traced back to the notorious Karl Marx. However, communism more than an economic system; by modern usage of the term is it also a social and political ideology.
While both ideologies have the same ultimate goal, which is to maximize wealth and happiness of the human population, similarities between capitalism and communism end there. On one side, capitalism strives to do so by prioritizing freedom over equality, while communism strives to do so by prioritizing equality over freedom. By capitalist thought of view, it does not matter if one is richer than the other, as long as the rich produces means that increase the standard of living of everyone. By communist thought of view, it is the difference in wealth that causes unhappiness in society, and wealth equality must therefore be prioritized even if it means sacrificing productivity.
But what is wrong with that communist school of thought? In theory, noting. But in theory, theory and practice are the same; yet in practice, it is rarely the case. Many so-called “communist” regimes that once failed were more akin to dictatorships than to common partnerships; and those still surviving strong today such as China are only “communist” by name but capitalist by habit. Why is that so? Why is capitalism a better system than communism? It comes down to human psychology.
Communism certainly strives to promote equality, yet only financial equality. What about equality in other spheres of life? Some people are born beautiful, some are born smart, some are born well-connected. Those are all examples of non-monetary facets that communism cannot equalize, yet if we only equalize money without caring about deeper differences between each individual are we really equalizing anything? A perfect communist society would, by extension, also be a perfect dystopia where everyone would be exactly the same. Furthermore, humanity has successfully reached the stage where it is practically impossible for one man to destroy the entire human race. This idea is so deeply rooted in our minds that it pushes us to seek individual survival among our society, which is basically acquiring wealth. Humanity has grown so large that basic notions of community among individuals of the same species do not exist anymore. This can be easily shown by the categorization of humans into different races and nationalities. Because communism has shown that maximizing equality doesn’t work in practice, at least capitalism allows us to maximize freedom with success. This is the fundamental reason why capitalism has succeeded, while communism has failed.
Capitalism has not only pushed the human race to its limits for the past century or so, but it has also pushed us to the fullest of our capacity. While pure communism sounds like a good idea – notice the word “sounds” – it is in practice quite impossible to obtain. Maximizing equality over freedom – communism – sounds like a good idea, except that when you actually do so, you get neither equality nor freedom…
Written by MWR writer Raymond Zuo, edited by the MWR team
The Advantages of a Communist Regime
The age old debate of communism versus capitalism seems to have ended in 1991, with the fall of the USSR and a clear capitalist victory. However, it would be quite an uneducated statement to say that we live in a purely capitalistic world. Is it a coincidence that more progressive and communist orientated ideas such as universal health care, a fair minimum wage and some government control are seen as positive parts of a society while more capitalistic ideas such as a totally free market, corporations and low wages are seen as a detriment to society? Furthermore, the most successful and the happiest countries in the world, usually the Nordic countries, have distinctively left leaning governments.
Many people will make the argument that it was under communist regimes that many of the world’s greatest dictators have risen and committed some of the worst atrocities ever seen. However, these atrocities were not committed in the name of the social regime, but in the name of those leader’s own paranoia and hate. One must not make the mistake of associating these tugs with real communism, which guarantees equality and justice for all members of society, as well as the downfall of inhumane and exploitative capitalistic systems.
It is important to also notice the fact that human society has been moving slowly but surely to the left for the last two centuries. Countries all around the world have started adopting labor laws, child labor laws, pro-union laws and many more. These basic right guaranteeing laws were at the time seen as very progressive, coming from a communist background. These laws that today are taken for granted were once ferociously opposed by the rich capitalists owning the factories, because they would decrease their production and make them significantly less money. Here lies the major problem with capitalism: it is a morally bankrupt system that puts money in front of mankind.
Finally, on moral grounds, communism is way ahead or capitalism in any way, shape of form. Communism preaches equality of everyone and a fair distribution of a country’s resources and wealth. Meanwhile, capitalism is essentially a grown up form of the childish and selfish “me…me…me” philosophy. This way of thinking only focuses the gains of individuals, which is nothing but detrimental to communities which rely on teamwork, bonds and friendships.
And so, although communism seems to be an impossible choice for a modern country, it is obvious that communism has left a meaningful and positive mark on modern democratic societies, and its effects will only continue to increase within the next few years.
Written by MWR writer Robert Ciprian Rusu, edited by the MWR team