What is Socialism?
Socialism is an economic system in which the resources are publicly owned and controlled rather than privately owned. Socialism aims at an equal society when it comes to property, income, and opportunities. Socialism can be broken down into two types:
- Market Socialism: in which there are still markets, although they are subject to certain conditions; and
- Non-market Socialism: which opposes markets as a method of allocation.
Socialism is also opposed to Capitalism, an economic system in which private owners control natural resources and the means of production. Socialism has been attributed as one of the causes of great historical events such as Socialism in Nazi Germany or Socialism during President Obama’s first term. Socialism is a broad term and can fall under Socialism, Communism, or Marxism. Socialism has been used throughout history as an economic system for countries, but certain companies have also used it to describe their work environment. It is most prevalent within corporations with strong labor unions enforcing workers’ rights, such as in Europe today.
Examples of Socialism?
- There have been many examples throughout history of Socialism being attempted, including Socialism within Nazi Germany and Socialism during Barack Obama’s first term as president.
- The Five Year Plans of the Soviet Union were somewhat Socialist since they provided: free healthcare, education, childcare, paid maternity leave, equal pay for equal work/workplace discrimination outlawed by gender/race under penalty of law with no exceptions other than “merit,” and they also provided a guaranteed minimum wage.
Features of Socialism
Socialism is an economic and social doctrine founded by Karl Marx at the beginning of the 19th century. It can be seen as a transitional stage between capitalism and communism. Socialism is now mainly used in reference to Marxism-Leninism, but it has also been taken up by Trotskyists, Maoists, or autonomist movements. Socialism is also one of the most relevant tenets of Socialism & Liberation, a modern party working in the United States for years.
Socialism is an economic system where some means of production are owned and shared by the community, without discrimination or social class. Socialism also involves a profound transformation of society through a new way to organize economy, politics, and culture. Moreover, Socialism considers human beings as being intrinsically free from all forms of oppression and subordination from birth.
In Socialism, every person would have the opportunity to reach their full potential without ever being exploited or oppressed by other individuals or institutions. In this doctrine, people would not be discriminated against based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or income.
What are the Features of Socialism?
- It calls for a state controlling all forms of production and distribution, which means central planning of the economy;
- After taking power, the working class should nationalize all property owned by private individuals, including housing and means of production such as companies and factories;
- Socialism prescribes a society without rich people nor poor ones;
- Socialism calls for full employment because this guarantees that Socialism is stable;
- Socialism calls for the abolition of the family, private property, and national borders.
Advantages of Socialism
a) Socialism has many benefits, including free healthcare, education, childcare, paid maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, etc.. Socialism strives for more equality between all people in society, which can help support social justice causes. Socialism is based on empathy rather than greed like in Capitalism, so Socialism promotes that everyone deserves to have what they need, at least for survival. It is based on the community rather than the individual, encouraging collaboration between all people in society, which can help with social innovation.
b) Secondly, Socialism has massive military benefits. People say, ‘oh, but what about North Korea?’, well first off, you can’t trust anything Kim Jong-Un says, so let’s not take him at face value. Secondly, why do we never hear about Laos or Cuba using their militaries to invade anyone? Socialism promotes peace and equality between nations which reduces conflict and therefore saves money on defense spending. Capitalism encourages countries with high military expenditures (e.g., USA) to bully those with low military expenditures (e.g., African countries). This leads to increased tension between nations and increased defense spending because the latter have no option but to protect themselves against the former if they are attacked.
c) Also, Socialism has massive economic benefits for society. For example, in a socialist country, everyone’s wages are equal, so there is no poverty or homelessness. Everyone receives an adequate amount of money from renting/buying a property or paying off debt. In contrast to capitalism, some people have more money than they could spend in 10 lifetimes, while others go hungry at night even though they work 40 hours per week. Everyone also gets paid when they are sick or on holiday under Socialism which improves happiness levels considerably. In contrast, under capitalism, when you lose your job after being sick for a month, you’ll be happy to get it back once your disability benefits package runs out.
d) Another critical advantage is that in a socialist country, the wealth is shared better among the population than in capitalism, where 1% of the world’s population owns 50%-99% of its wealth. This implies that money circulates within society rather than just being squirreled away into bank accounts or offshore tax havens by some corrupt capitalist bankers looking for ways to avoid paying their taxes like everyone else has to.
e) Socialism saves money on infrastructure because roads and rail networks are built with taxpayers’ money which all members of society then use so everyone benefits. In capitalism, only people who use things like roads or railways pay for them, leaving everyone who walks everywhere or uses a motorbike, not to mention it’s much more energy-efficient to use rail networks over roads because trains are driven by electricity. In contrast, cars run on gas which is a non-renewable resource that will eventually dry up.
f) Socialism is much better for the environment as public transport systems reduce pollution levels caused by traffic congestion. Lower speed limits under Socialism mean fewer carbon emissions are produced per mile traveled. It also means there are no traffic jams or rush hours in socialist countries, so people get to work on time every day without spending half their salary on petrol-induced stress. Capitalism encourages individualism, leading to selfishness and greed, leading to excessive consumption of limited resources like oil and water, eventually running out otherwise.
g) Finally, Socialism has massive health benefits too. For example, under capitalism, people can choose to buy whatever food they like, and it’s up to them whether or not they eat healthy meals every day. But if everyone acted like this, we’d all get fat and die before we retired due to lack of exercise and a diet high in sugar and fat. Under Socialism, however, the government would decide what food was healthy for you to eat every day so you wouldn’t waste away into an early grave at the age of 45. This helps save money on healthcare by preventing diseases like type 2 diabetes from spreading across society.
Disadvantages of Socialism
a) Knowledge is power. The United States of America was built, in part, upon the capitalist belief that its citizens should be able to educate themselves to further their knowledge and capabilities. Socialism seeks to take away this freedom instead of providing for everyone’s general well-being without much personal responsibility or liberty in return.
b) The majority of socialist policies are focused on wealth distribution rather than wealth creation. The entire system would collapse if enough producers refused to work, but everybody demanded their basic needs were met. Marxist countries have failed because they did not produce any goods or services worth having. For example, Venezuela’s oil exports are minuscule compared to the Soviet Union’s at the time of collapse–and people soon realized that even though there was no upper class, they were still poor.
c) Socialism leads to a lack of motivation, discouraging individual achievement and innovation, and a lack of incentive to work productively. There would be no incentive in a socialist system to work hard and become successful. There appears to be an equality of outcome, but this is only achieved by suppressing the achievements of individuals who might otherwise have improved everyone’s lot.
d) Socialist leaders preach equality, but their lifestyles contradict this:
According to The Guardian, Fidel Castro has a personal fortune exceeding $900 million despite Cuba’s faltering economy and lack of private enterprise;
Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez allegedly diverted $11 billion in oil revenue alone into secret bank accounts while his people struggled with rationing.
Under Socialism, nobody gets ahead unless someone else falls behind.
e) Socialism means the state controls the distribution of goods and services, which leads to price controls. If the state sets prices below market value, producers lose money and stop producing that good or service. On the other hand, if the state sets prices above market value, there is a shortage as no one can afford to buy. Government control also stifles innovation; this is the case in Cuba and the former Soviet Union, where private enterprise was banned for decades.
f) Interestingly, socialist policies only work on a small scale. Denmark proves you can combine capitalism and Socialism effectively because it has high taxes without suffocating regulation: its citizens accept that they will pay more tax in return for more social benefits–and they vote accordingly. However, it simply does not work once you try to implement Socialism across an entire country with 320 million people and complex economies of different sizes and types.
g) Healthcare is the biggest issue when it comes to the practical application of socialist principles. Healthcare costs are rising in capitalist countries mainly because there is an aging population, but this would still be an issue under Socialism–in fact, it might even get worse. As there was no incentive for doctors and scientists to research cures in Soviet Russia or Cuba, diseases could spread unchecked for decades. The production of medication depends on the profitability of selling existing drugs rather than investing money in researching new cures or vaccines that might not turn a profit any time soon.