fredag 29 september 2006

Capitalist - Socialist: the false dichotomy

Are you a "Socialist" or a "Capitalist"?. There is a serious problem of definition. Strictly speaking, a "capitalist" is simply someone who uses capital. And "Capital" is nothing more than goods used for production or in course of production - such as a craftman's tools or a shopkeeper's stock.

The term "Capitalism" as generally used describes a system characterised by (1) free markets in goods and labour, (2) private ownership of land free of obligation to the community. It is possible to have the first without the second, as it is the second which gives rise to inequality and a perceived need for "protection" and"redistribution".

Socialism misses the point, as its advocates rarely question why wealth is not distributed in the first instance. What it then gives us is bureaucratic control, either by brutal methods as in communist systems or by softer systems as in Western Europe. Either way, the results are bad for people, it is just that the communist system has the larger body count; Social Democracy is benign and slow-acting, but still contains the seeds of its own destruction. The good news here is that where wealth has been redistributed by social democratic policies, there is still an opportunity to avoid throwing away the baby with the bathwater.

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