I have done some research in communist countries and observed some troubling things. For example, many people were on building projects and many of the workers stood around idle. Too many workers for the job, yet there were jobs for those who did not participate in labor. That created harsh tensions among workers. Looking at store shelves, there were very limited varieties or not many items. In fact, the shelves looked quite bare. I observed lines of people standing, waiting to go into food stores for bread, vegetables and meats.
Countries I observed that showed low levels of poverty, who had high employment, and the people seemed most satisfied by their own descriptions were the Scandinavian countries and northern European. I did not go to S. America. I did go to SE Asia, China and eastern and western Europe.
There are dozens of charts naming the happiest and healthiest countries and I see no communist country on them.
Denmark, Constitutional monarchy
Norway, Constitutional monarchy
Sweden, Constitutional monarchy
Netherlands, Constitutional monarchy
New Zealands, Constitutional monarch
Costa Rica, Republic
Canada, Constitutional monarchy
Australia, Constitutional monarchy
USA, Republic (… turned oligarchy)
You can use many different criteria to know which is best for the general population. And having a political label doesn't tell the whole story. A perfect example of that is the USA; it no longer has a Republic, in my opinion; money rules the country and those who labor for wages are becoming serfs to a wealthy class.
For example, many people were on building projects and many of the workers stood around idle. Too many workers for the job, yet there were jobs for those who did not participate in labor. That created harsh tensions among workers. Looking at store shelves, there were very limited varieties or not many items. In fact, the shelves looked quite bare.
Another joke they used to tell in the Soviet Union:
This is the worker's paradise. We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.
Now strictly speaking, they did get paid. They were handed a sheaf of colorful paper and a handful of coins of zero intrinsic value. But there was nothing to actually buy with that money, and since money is at base simply a way of denoting you've earned some goods you are going to to swap it for, then in fact you haven't been paid, you haven't received value for your work.
But honestly, a second's worth of thought should tell you the two situations you describe imply each other. Nothing to buy in the stores... in large part because nothing is being produced; and Joan saw an awful lot of nothing being produced.
I feel genuinely sorry for anyone trapped in such a system who actually did bust their asses out of some sense of idealism only to get the same reward as everyone else; he or she got pretend pay also and got to engage in the same life-wasting challenge of actually finding something to spend it on (I am told savings rates were high in countries like that; go figure), and their contribution was in essence divvied out among everyone in the country and they got some microscopic share of it back.
It is, plain and simple, slavery. Some bureaucrat, hundreds if not thousands of miles away is responsible for deciding what you shall be assigned to do and what you shall be paid for it. It has already been pointed out that someone decides these things, and that someone is very powerful. (In the Soviet Union they often had very low nominal salaries--Brezhnev's was not much more than a factory worker's--but tremendous perks.)
The people with the most ability and drive were expected to work entirely for the benefit of others ("From each according to their ability, to each according to their need"), and what I find puzzling is why anyone would hold this up as a moral ideal. I don't find puzzling in the least that workers would pretend to work in a system like that, nor why it would fail.
SteveInCO, you're exaggerating so much that you destroy your own case.
Soon after the Soviet Union crashed, my kid sister spent two weeks in Moscow and two weeks in Warsaw.
She said people waited in lines outside the store and negotiated: one would buy bread for two families and the other would buy milk for two families. Outside the store they would share.
They were learning the skills necessary for democracy better than we Americans.
C'mon, SteveInCO, tell us your agenda; your words are those of a Chamber of Commerce propagandist.
Mathew, the US of A has from 1787 subsidized business.
First, by redeeming Revolutionary War veterans paper at face value, not its lower market value.
Second, in the 1790s Yazoo land claims. (Check Wikipedia; follow up in Congressional history).
The list is too long to include here. It includes:
1) early and still-continuing taxpayer bailouts during many recessions and depressions,
2) massive grants of land to railroads,
3) a long history of opposition to the employees of business allies, and recently,
4) the US Supreme Court's granting of the rights of natural persons to paper persons (corporations).
In general, European capitalism is far kinder to people than American capitalism is.
So here is a semantic question.
Are these sorts of subsidies and favors to business (which you are right to complain about) a part and parcel of free enterprise, or a corruption thereof? The "ideal" or "laissez faire"capitalism is where government keeps its hands off the economy (except in cases of murder, negligent homicide, fraud and theft), but subsidizing business is not a "hands off" policy by any means. Libertarian types and others who believe in a laissez faire system abhor corporate welfare as much as they abhor the other kinds.
Other ways that government interferes in favor of (some) businesses are by erecting regulatory structures that favor existing companies over startups, sometimes blatantly so (via permits to operate). But this can be as subtle as simply enacting regulations you have to hire a lawyer to untangle. Technically all businesses in an industry are subject to those regulations, but the big established ones are the only ones who can readily afford that lawyer.
It has reached the point that a businessman wanting to simply compete without using the government has to play the game anyway or go out of business, because his competitors will. When the government assumes lots of power over businesses, the businesses will make it their policy to lobby the government, either out of self-defense or out of a desire to use this new method of getting ahead. This suggests that the true source of corruption in politics is politicians assuming too much power.
Steve, thanks for your quick reply.
You identified a few more of the many subsidies, some of them well-hidden, that American-owned businesses, and probably foreign-owned businesses in America as well, enjoy.
I do not share your belief that the true source of corruption in politics is politicians assuming too much power.
The true source?
Our blue-green algae ancestors eating each other--the stronger eating the weaker, of course.
In other words, corruption is built in.
The weak have a long history of devising means to avoid being eaten; democracy being one of them.
Libertarianism isn't a remedy; it merely restores some of jungle law.
Stop wishing for the impossible.
Mathew, please identify some of the people who are forgiving Obama and wanted Bush et al strung up.
I agree with your last point (plutocracy I think its called) about USA. I'd just add that some of these "communist" countries have been under trade embargos since the Cold War.
Well, in stateless communism there are no social classes, so there is no inequality and unfair income redistribution. There is also no government or control and that would mean total freedom for the people. When I said that it is the best place to live in, I meant it because of the equality that would be given to the citizens of such a society and the amount of freedom they would have.
Stateless communism of course suffers from the same situation god does. It doesn't and cannot exist.
Someone must allocate the wealth that is produced, and it's not the producers; it will ultimately be some individual who gets to do that, and they--and whatever mechanism exists for selecting them--will be the de facto government.
This is a logically impossible question to answer, since in practice neither ideology can function in their purest forms. For instance, communism ignores the fact that a given population and its resources are in constant flux, and that some group of people would have to be charged with ensuring everyone in the population is given their equal share, thus providing such a group with a great deal of power over the rest of the population. Similarly, capitalism ignores the fact that those who eventually become highly successful will, by their human nature, use their accumulating resources to deny others access to them.
A better question to ask would be: "Which ideology, when used as a starting point to develop an economic system, is more successful in balancing resources with the needs of the population: capitalism or communism?" My initial hypothesis would lean toward capitalism, based on my perception that "capitalist" nations (namely, the U.S. and Western Europe) have fared much better economically than "communist" nations (namely, the former Soviet Union and North Korea). China is somewhat of an exception, but only because of its shift toward more capitalist policies. This is not to imply that "capitalist" economies have, in fact, balanced its resources with the needs of their respective populations. We can all agree this is not the case. This is simply a hypothesis rooted in initial observation (perhaps biased) and would need further research.
Edison, you turned on a helpful light: neither system will be pure and they have similarities and differences.
Analysis requires: 1) recognizing that nature is competitive, 2) survival requires cooperation, and 3) corruption happens.
Communism in the USSR failed to acknowledge competition; capitalism in the USA fails to acknowledge cooperation.