Photo credit: Webster University
Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.
–Alexis De Tocqueville
NOTICE that in this famous quote, Capitalism is not mentioned. Why? Because it is not an ideology that has equality in mind. Democracy and Socialism are both equal kinds of systems but somehow during the 20th-century Capitalism too became considered to be egalitarian and that simply is not true. Our political relationship between us and our governments (Democracy) is a pretty egalitarian system but the relationship that’s between the employees and employers — or the Proletariat and Bourgeoisie in Marxist terms (our economic relationship) — even in Western countries is still as unequal as it was in the 17th century when the system of Capitalism was introduced.
Democracy — particularly in places like Western Europe, North America and so on — has been very limited in its application. It’s been limited to the residences where we live, to the political side of our lives. It has been excluded — systematically and almost a hundred percent — from the economic aspects of our lives. Particularly where we work, and that’s interesting, isn’t it?
Because where we work, five out of seven days, for most of us. The best hours of those days, for most of us. If you count the eight hours we typically work, with another hour or two for transportation, and then another hour or two to get ready, dressed and all the rest for work — it’s the bulk of our lives as adults that’s spent in a place from which Democracy is excluded. So to say that Capitalism is either; the same as Democracy, or that Capitalism and Democracy go together, simply won’t do.
That isn’t accurate. That isn’t acceptable.
–Richard D. Wolff
It is almost comical to think that for the last three hundred years, the poorest people on the planet have had to survive the most extreme cases of poverty by collectively believing in the same invented dream: One day all of them will eventually be rescued from their woes as long as they work a little bit harder. This concept is purely Trickle Down, or Neoliberal economics. It is severely misunderstood, even more than Socialism is. Trickle Down is perceived differently based on one’s own class and opinions. It is the bedrock on which Capitalism has sat since the 1970s but now the effects, which justified individualistic Capitalism, are becoming more easily evident and clear to the public.
With the lowest class being able to see the numbers and overall statistics regarding financial inequality, especially on the internet, is starting to perpetuate the eventual collapse of the whole social-class stratification by everybody realizing that it’s all too unjustifiable to continue. Neoliberal economics basically means: There are pigs up at a top level of the barn and they are consuming everything that’s consumable. Then the chances are very good that some pieces of the good stuff will trickle down and help feed the starving mice that are on the ground. It’s a delusional belief that affluence is something like a contagious pathogen and that success is transferable between us… Even though it may be a juvenile wish — wanting to get something that’s better than what you already have — it is what has kept most disgruntled workers on track for centuries.
This kind of economics keeps us desperate and selfish. The end result in the 21st-century is an ingrained social disbelief in ourselves as workers and a deity-like reverence that we give to elites which rule us. It’s a completely catatonic commitment and it’s becoming less and less noticeable the longer that the relationship lasts. We’ve got to snap out of it. If there are 6.9 billion poor people and .1 billion rich people — it is totally obvious that this system is not working correctly. What has the Capitalist cohort (the bourgeoisie) done to grant them such an angelic praise? How is it that the oppressed are asking for more oppression? How is it that we’ve been bamboozled into believing in something that isn’t real?
Their place within the economic spectrum is at the top, gaining billions of dollars in profits and the workers are at the bottom, desperately trying to keep sane with what little expendable cash they have. Was it a coincidence that all these people fell into the place they are or are there other factors determining the position of people? Class Warfare is a topic of discussion which cannot be avoided if you want to understand the economy and society. Under current conditions without the proletariat, the bourgeoisie wouldn’t have anything to work for and without the bourgeoisie, there wouldn’t be a proletariat to do the work.
The complex dynamic in which they both cooperate together to keep society running is a staggering human achievement. I’m not in any way denouncing it. It got us where we are. But the mere possibility of getting an infinite amount of money is so astronomically powerful—psychologically—that under the guise of a natural selfish desire to be rich, that simple thought of eternal wealth will eventually drive any person to the brink of insanity. Unless they look for alternatives. Capitalism isn’t made for poor people, it’s made for the rich. It’s finally time that the majority of the population got together and realized that they are living in a society — a country — which is not designed for them to be happy. It’s made for the few people who can afford the luxury of happiness.
The 27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft said “Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that today is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity.”
Clearly understanding what Socialism means is essential to anyone who wishes to understand the Capitalistic economy that we live in today. Just like when you learn any new word, like the word happy for instance, you must also understand what the opposite is—in this case it’s the word sad. I think that not many people know, or want to know, about the inter-workings of the economy itself. And I get that. It can get quite boring. Most people just want to live day by day, not concerning themselves with how everything is working—as long as its doing the job of producing and supplying the commodities they use—why even bother thinking about out it?
Well it’s because the economy is a very interesting and important thing. It is how we really interact with each other and it’s the underlying reason for our civilization to exist. It is so interesting in fact, that the reward for totally embracing and utilizing the economy at play is greatness. If transforming an economic system takes many people and the many radical ideas from those people. Then one person can not transform the entire function in which seven billion people operate as a manufacturing species. It takes revolutions of populations to instill that.
Professor Wolff is by far the most outspoken Socialist activist in the U.S. Just go on to YouTube and search his name. Get ready for hour-long lectures, but if you’re prepared to learn that shouldn’t be too much to ask. Here’s one of his responses:
Q: Most non-economists only have a rather vague notion of capitalism. In the US, for the sake of argument, let’s state that most Americans associate capitalism with freedom. Does capitalism actually have anything to do with ensuring a free society?
A: Capitalism usually overthrew its predecessor system (often feudalism, sometimes slavery or still others) violently and accompanied by slogans of “freedom” as in the French revolution’s “liberte, egalite, fraternite” or Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation.” Capitalism represented itself as freeing serfs, slaves, etc. Freedom became capitalism’s self-celebration which it largely remains. Yet the reality of capitalism is different from its celebratory self-image. The mass of employees are not free inside capitalist enterprises to participate in the decisions that affect their lives (e.g., what the enterprise will produce, what technology it will use, where production will occur, and what will be done with the profit workers’ efforts help to produce). In their exclusion from such decisions, modern capitalism’s employees resemble slaves and serfs. Yes, parliaments, universal suffrage, etc. have accompanied capitalism – an advance over serfdom and slavery. Yet even that advance has been largely undermined by the influence of the highly unequally distributed wealth and income that capitalism has everywhere generated.
And here’s what Noam Chomsky has to say about this topic:
Q: How should we define socialism in the 21st century?
A: Like other terms of political discourse, “socialism” is quite vague and broad in application. How we should define it depends on our values and goals. A good start, fitting well into the American context, would be the recommendations of America’s leading 20th century social philosopher, John Dewey, who called for democratization of all aspects of political, economic and social life. He held that workers should be “the masters of their own industrial fate,” and that “the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication” should be under public control. Otherwise, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business” and social policy will be geared to the interests of the masters. That’s a good start. And is deeply rooted in significant strands of the society and its complex history.
Why is it important for Americans to understand what awaits them at the bottom of the slippery slope liberals are pushing our economy down? It is important because lurking at the bottom of this slippery slope is socialism, and history has shown over and over that socialism does not work. Writing for THE FREEMAN, Mark J. Perry had this to say about the ultimate failure of socialism wherever it has been tried: “While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery”…
Self-interest is one of the most powerful motivators known to man. It is a subset of the survival instinct. Some individuals will sporadically operate on the basis of group-positive altruism, but only a few and rarely on a consistent basis. In truth, it is the rarest of individuals who puts the group ahead of self on a regular basis and in a dependable manner. Rather, humans are programmed to follow their survival instinct. It is this instinct that makes capitalism the more viable economic system when compared with socialism. Capitalism is based on principles of human nature such as the survival instinct, while socialism is based on principles that require individuals to defy human nature.
What the French Revolution did was not usher in Capitalism. It ignited the dreams and aspirations of regular poor people to want more in life than being a peasant. They (some) were free, finally. They were no longer held down by the noble class which oppressed them for so long. In France, the aristocrats — with their over spending and lack of any social recognition for the welfare of the mass of citizens in the country — essentially led to the revolution and it was the majority of people who did the revolutionizing.
Today, some 300 years later, the world is now up against a few plutocrats — “the 1%”. Try to think of them this way: Capitalism is to Individualism as Socialism is to Society. Communism means Community. So, Socialism and Communism are basically the same things but it depends on who you are asking. They both want the same end result in the end: Equality. The difference between them is how to attain the end result: A Communist society not a Capitalist one. Some would say that Communists are more revolutionary or violent and Socialists are reformers like Bernie Sanders but even that is a total stretch of definitions.