Economic and political/social systems: Compared
Some conservatives believe Barack H. Obama is trying to convert the United States from capitalism to socialism. Everyone is free, so far, to label what they think is happening the way they please; however, some Government 101 refresher may be in order. Because the “political classes” in this country tend to polarize to the hard-left and to the hard-right, let’s review both socialism and capitalism in their purest forms:
Under pure socialism, the means of production (business and industry) are owned by the government. Severe limits are placed on the accumulation of private property (caps on earnings). The government plans, regulates and manages the economy. The size of the welfare system is enormous.
Communism and socialism have much in common; however, communism operates under a dictatorship that severely limits the kind of freedoms that we Americans have spelled out in our Constitution and in our Bill of Rights. When it comes to political/social issues, the socialists take a relaxed view of what people can do when it comes to art, entertainment, marital status and even in their sexual preferences. Socialist societies tend toward pacifism.
Under pure capitalism, the means of production (business and industry) are privately owned. There is no limit on the accumulation of private property (no caps on earnings). The government does not plan, regulate or manage the economy. There is no welfare system. When it comes to social issues, capitalist societies are supportive of traditional, family-oriented values. Politically, capitalist nations are quick to defend freedom-of-the-seas and other national interests.
But what about fascism? Fascism was the creation of the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, who began, as did Adolf Hitler, as a socialist. In the 20th Century, socialism often paved the way toward fascism.
Mussolini, who only claimed to be socialist, did not want to own the means of production; he just wanted to tell Italian business and industry what to do and how to do it. Famously, Mussolini made the notoriously tardy Italian trains run on time.
Then, along came Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers Party, NSDAP. The “D” stood for Deutsch (German), and the “A” stood for Arbeiter (workers). The nickname “Nazi” grew out of how Germans pronounce the word: “Nationalsozialistische.”
What then, were the political/social practices of Nazi Germany? Hitler collected all the guns so only the police, military, and licensed hunting guides had firearms. Of course, the criminals hid their guns. Hitler shut down freedom of speech. If liberal talk radio or TV had existed back then, Hitler would have closed it down. So-called decadent art, night clubs, stage productions and publications were banned. People were classified according to religion, ethnic background, ability to do manual labor, and even sexual preferences.
Nordic-looking females were forced to serve in the Lebensborn (fountain of life) Project which was designed to produce more of what Hitler thought of as the Aryan Race. Lebensborn was a popular R&R program for Nordic-looking German soldiers on leave.
The people Hitler deemed undesirable were hauled off to concentrations camps and killed. Hitler gave Mussolini’s invention a very, very bad name.
Even before the invention of the TelePrompTer, Mussolini and Hitler were spell-binding speakers – able to create the illusion of being all things to all people.
Again, neither Hitler nor Mussolini took over the actual ownership of their means of production. So, in that sense, they were true fascists, not socialists. Hitler claimed to be pro-labor; however, shortly after coming to power, he took over the socialist-led labor unions. In order for Nazi officials to supervise union elections, Hitler did away with the secret ballot.
So, there you have it: a comparison of the economic practices of pure socialism and pure capitalism, to include a comparison of the political/social practices of socialism, capitalism, communism and fascism. Does any of this seem familiar?
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today, studied at Harvard’s JFK School of Government. Dr. Hamilton is a former assistant professor of political science and history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
©2009. William Hamilton.