Posts Tagged ‘regulations

25
Jun
10

Socialism vs Capitalism vs Communism (and a quick note about the tea-party)

According to some pundits the US is currently locked in a struggle between its so-called Capitalist, free-market heritage and the looming threat of Socialism. Keep in mind that the term ‘Socialism’, while once synonymous with ‘Communism’, is currently used to describe a country where the majority of property lies in the hands of the government. Now as you can see by simply looking at some of the policies being enacted by the current administration that the US isn’t moving towards Capitalism or Socialism. Property isn’t being privatized or nationalized to any major extent. What has happened is that the federal government has been increasing in size and power, leading some elements on the right (namely the “tea-party”) to begin making dire predictions of an oppressive Orwellian future.

Now before I start, I feel that I should comment a bit about the tea-party:

Now I don’t have a problem with people protesting big government. As a Communist, I’m as opposed to a powerful central government as much as the average member of the tea-party, perhaps even more so. The problem is that the tea-party isn’t protesting big government! Where was the tea-party when the Bush administration pushed through the Patriot Act? The simple reality of the tea-party is that it’s not about resisting big government, it’s about resisting Democrat big government (in the same way, many of those who protested the Patriot Act have failed to complain about the increases in Government power under Obama- yeah the rule applies to Democrats too).

Now back to the point.

Despite the typical, melodramatic slap-fight between the Democrat and Republican parties, it can’t be denied that every once in a great while, the issues of privatization versus regulation of the markets comes up. On one hand there are the Libertarians who state that government involvement in all areas of life should be minimized. The markets should be allowed to boom and crash of their own accord and government interference only exacerbates existing issues and prevents natural growth (an argument Adam Smith first came up with). On the other hand, there are Socialists and Progressives who point out that history has shown businesses to be corrupt and dangerous if not regulated.

It seems more and more that the public is seeing this debate as an either/or dilemma- free market Capitalism or government regulation?

The sad truth of the matter is that both options are equally awful. Consider this: if there’s no government regulation of business (or as anarcho-Capitalists and objectivists would have it, no government at all), what’s to stop the meat industry from selling dangerously unclean meat? What keeps the pharmaceutical industry from selling us untested cough medicine, or even flavored sewer water labeled “cough medicine”? It is true that history has shown us, time and again, businesses have only one goal in mind- profit. Child labor, slavery, dangerous working conditions, chemical dumping, pollution- what would the state of our world be in if there were no laws against these things? If there were no regulations or watchdogs?

At the same time, regulating the free market has serious side-effects as well. Corporations will do anything to get around labor laws or environmental regulations and the like, and the government will find itself forced to constantly increase the number of regulatory departments and their power and extent of jurisdiction. The result is an inevitably gargantuan, bureaucratic government. State capitalism- as the USSR has demonstrated- is inefficient and oppressive.

But despite what the proponents of free market Capitalism and regulated Capitalism would have you believe, it’s not an either/or situation! Communism advocates the abolition of both Capitalism and the state, offering instead a system based on public property and public choice.

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26
Aug
09

Vox Populi… (Part 1)

It has been said that “the customer is always right”. That seems to make sense- after all, in a Capitalist society, supply-and-demand (with the emphasis on the “demand” part of the equation) is the driving force of the economy. Companies, corporations, businesses, entrepreneurs- everyone caters to the consumer. Naturally this sounds like an excellent system- the people demand a product or service and the companies develop and create it. Simple, efficient, and like most things in the Capitalist system, deeply, deeply flawed.

It has also been said that “the voice of the people is the voice of God”, essentially an earlier, Roman version of “the customer is always right”. The problem with that phrase however (and indeed, the entire supply-and-demand theory) is that humans are far from divine. Supply-and-demand looks great until we look at the things we demanded over the past ten-thousand years or so. Slaves, narcotics, war, segregation, excess, genocide, nuclear arms- just to name a few. Let’s use war to study the issue a bit more. Humans love war- we can’t get enough of it. Since the dawn of time we’ve been trying to find quicker and more efficient ways of clubbing each other. Obviously with such a massive demand for war, there are those who- like the good Capitalists they are- make a living off of conflict. They sell mercenaries, arms, guns, knives, mines- anything and everything to anyone willing to pay for it. Naturally, this only intensifies the horrors of war, it perpetuates the violence and weakens the chances of peace and diplomacy. If guns are used to slaughter minorities, or if grenades are pushed into the hands of child soldiers- who cares? If weapons are demanded, then they are supplied- the voice of the people is the voice of God!

Now obviously we can see that this is horribly wrong. Now I am not attempting to argue that any demand is wrong- humans have, after all, basic needs. Catering to humanity’s baser appetites doesn’t satisfy them, it only creates a greater hunger. Regulations? Regulations are an interference with the free market system- a form of “corruption” as Milton Friedman is attributed with saying.

Is supply-and-demand such a great idea? I submit that we cannot have our every whim met, that to supply every human demand would be the equivalent of granting a three year-old’s every wish. Anyone even remotely familiar with human history can tell you that we as a species have a difficult time figuring out what’s good for us.

Quite simply, we can’t always get what we want.