Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Capitalism vs. Socialism

Rasmussen released a shocking poll last week about Americans' views regarding capitalism and socialism. Here's an excerpt from their report:

Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided.

These numbers clearly reflect some disenchantment associated with the poor economy. Still, these data startle and worry me. Do young people truly understand what socialism means? Do they recognize that, throughout our history, well-meaning Americans of all political stripes have worked very hard to build and defend our system of democratic capitalism. This economic and political system has brought freedom and posterity to many parts of the world. Socialism has brought nothing but ruin, and with it has often come dictatorship and oppression. As an educator, I worry that perhaps we are not teaching our young people the critical lessons of history. As educators, we should never flinch from teaching that capitalism is far superior to socialism, while acknowledging that people of different political affiliations may have different views on the form of capitalism that should be employed.


cv said...


I have a few problems with this research/poll, only one of which you mention. Very few Americans actually know
(1) what Socialism is,
(2) how Socialism works,
(3) how Socialism works in a democracy,
(4) how Socialism differs from Communism, and
(5) how Capitalism actually works.

Given these 5 points of ignorance, it's hard to imagine that a poll of average Americans tells us anything about whether they prefer Socialism to Capitalism, or which is inherently better. It's like those surveys about the number of Americans who don't believe in evolution. Those surveys indicate not a failure of evolution, but a failure of *education*.

It's hard to "know" that Capitalism is "better" than Socialism, when both are practiced in a democracy. Where democratic socialism is practiced, there is more gender equality, less social stratification, lower infant mortality, longer life spans, higher literacy, better healthcare and so on. Are these indicators of failure? I don't think so; ymmv.

When I teach international students-- you know, students from countries with democratic socialist governments & parties -- I am always careful not to denigrate the values on which democratic socialism is based. The execution may be flawed (as so often is the execution of capitalism), but the values are to be respected (whether or not one disagrees).

We have in business schools right now a very serious parochialism about how capitalism should be executed (e.g., the 'which variety' question) and we also have a severe/obstinate resistance to analyzing how and where captialism as practiced in the US is flawed/letting us down.

I don't think that the answer is to step up to the challenge of teaching students that captialism is far superior to socialism. I think that the better strategy is to teach students how to get in touch with their values, how to analyze systems, how to separate ideology from data, and how to make the world a better place.

Remember, I share will you a faith in the metaproject... even if we disagree on tactics.

Becky said...

I do agree with cv in that very few American's actually know what Socialism really is, which skews the stats somewhat.

I used to think that socialism was superior to capitalism- sharing the wealth sounded good to me. However, after doing some intense research and reading "Dominance & Delusion" by M.A. Curtis, I can see why capitalism works and socialism doesn’t work- why try if everyone gets equal amounts. I might as well not even try.

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Millie said...

Capitalism to socialism, is just a talk. The plan is in the making. You really think we have a hand to play? They want us all poor so they can take trips to Spain, breath so called cleaner air in their palace as we burn up because we create fumes up their noses by running our AC. Get rid of the coal and make the energy so high you can’t use it. You get what you work for, or so it use to be. That is why we are blessed as a nation or so it use to be. The incentive, move our jobs out of the US so now you can get a tax break. The rich will just move to another country. They are the reason for jobs anyway. So lets punish them and take away their rights to make money. They should not have been that smart anyway, being able to turn a dime into a dollar. STOP don’t go to collage, you can make as much making pies! Oh that is if there is a factory here. We are all mixed up. Boy I don’t understand why Jesus took that talent away from that man in Mathew 25:28 that did nothing and give it to the one that did make his grow? HUH? Well figure it out. The boy makes an A on his test because he stayed home and studied all evening and the boy makes an F because he partied and rode his skate board, but the teacher put it all in the pot and averaged it out, WOW he made a C, passed this is great. Don't know nothing but at least he did't have to work at knowing nothing. But the boy who made an A gets tired of doing all the work while he who makes an F plays but makes the grade anyway and gets the same reward. So guess what happened on the next test. They all fail. Yeah people socialism works. RIGHT-- Well it works well for those that don’t work, for a while anyway. Thats what we are all about, the NOW. If the agenda was not to destroy America by creating crisis, like destroying jobs, those that want to work would have a place to go. If you want to incorporate something bad enough in a country you will find a way if you have the power, you got money, you got the power. Hey socialize, lets Vacation in Spain, that’s a change that our kids need.