I am trying to remember my Economics courses from college. (Two certainly does not make me an expert by any means.)
As I remember it, capitalism, communism and socialism are ways in which goods and services are produced and distributed. In capitalism, private ownership produces goods and services. They then sell these on the open market for whatever price the market will pay for them. In pure capitalism, government has no role in production or distribution.
Communism is the opposite. In this system the state is in charged of production and distribution. The prices are set by the government. There is no private investment or private ownership.
Socialism is a kind of hybrid system. There is room for private ownership of the means of production and distribution. But the government plays a much larger role in this system than in a purely capitalistic system.
There are some who think that socialism and communism are synonymous. They are not. This is complicated by the fact that countries that have tried a communist system have been totalitarian and authoritarian governments. In the U.S. we were taught that communism was the enemy. I still believe that communism is a bad economic system. It almost requires a totalitarian government to make it work and even then, it does not work. It takes away too many freedoms and it eliminated the incentive to work hard and be bright so that you can make a better life for you and your family.
But pure capitalism is cruel. It is based on greed. It separates people into the haves and the have-nots. It would have a working class stuck in poverty and hopelessness while a few with the means to invest would become more and more wealthy. This economic system often degenerates into what is called an oligarchy. Then a very few wealthy people control the entire system with no regard for the human needs of those who are poor. This can be just as totalitarian and mean as any communist system.
But as I stated, socialism is not the same as communism. Nor is it the same as pure capitalism. It seeks to blend private ownership of goods and services while building a system or regulations that make it a more humane system. The U.S. is already a mix of capitalism and socialism. If you drove on a road today, If you slept in the knowledge that there is an army and navy protecting us, if you know that the police and the fire department are there if you need them, if you went to a public school, if you are getting or (hopefully) will get social security, if you ate food that was safe to eat, if you drank clean drinking water, f you are a minority who was allowed to rent a house, if your bank did not go belly up striping you of your life’s savings, if you were not forced to go to work when you were 10 for a dollar a day, if you are driving a car that is safe, and many more things that we take fro granted, then you are already enjoying some of the fruits of socialism.
Gas and electric and cable and water and sewage are all regulated by the government. That is socialism. So the discussion now about capitalism and socialism is not new. We are trying to find the correct balancing point. And the issue that gets my attention the most is medical care and drugs. If utilities are regulated by the government, then why should drug companies be allowed to charge whatever they want for medicine that people need to survive? If the electric company must get government approval before raising prices, why should it be any different for the company who is making insulin?
Now we are hearing that the price of an inoculation for corona virus will be expensive once it is ready. Does this mean that we will cling to capitalistic ideas and let the poor die while the rich are protected and the drug companies make an even bigger profit? I think we as a people are better than that.
I don’t know if socialized medicine will work or not. I have friends in Canada and family in England who thinks it does. They pay more taxes, but they spend nothing for prescriptions and doctor and hospital visits. I DO know that for many, a pure capitalistic approach does not work. Can we find some balance? Maybe it would help if we quit labeling and demonizing other systems as un-American.
Reagan said that government is not the solution to our problem, Government is the problem. That is probably true if you are wealthy enough that you don’g need help. But for the majority of us that is not the case. Government can’t fix everything .But then again, neither can a few greed driven few billionaires and the lackeys they put in office to protect their interests.
I do not want us to be a communist economy. I also do not want an uncontrolled capitalistic system. So if we want to talk about economics, let’s do so with reason and openness and concern for all.