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Is socialism a superior form of government?

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History: Does history show socialism´s superiority?

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Pro

  • Genuine socialism has greatly improved societies One example of this is the Spanish revolution. Even though it only lasted for 2 years before it was violently destroyed by a counter revolution conducted by a combination of fascists and statist republicans, the revolution was responsible for many successes. In Aragon, Levant and Castile there were about 1,650 collectives and more than a million people (Sam Dolgoff has estimated that 10 million participated wither directly or indirectly in the Spanish revolution) and 70% of the rural population of Aragon lived in Collectives (organised voluntarily). According to Dave Markland "agricultural production and deliveries were strongest in the anarchist areas" of Spain ("Spanish Anarchist through a Participatory Lense" in Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century - edited by Chris Spannos). For example, In Aragon productivity rose 20% during the time of the revolution. [see extended argument on argument page]. Another case is Kerala, at state of 30 million people in southern India, that has been socialist for many years, getting progressively more socialist, and since 1998 has had an experiment in decentralised participatory planning. This has all been a massive success and in terms of social indicators, Kerala is beginning to look like a first world country, even though it began as one of the poorest regions in impoverished India - [see extended argument page for details].
  • Examples cited as socialism are usually not socialism Socialism, in it's purest form, means a classless society where everyone owns the means of production. To argue that this was the case in the Soviet Union would be ridiculous. The Soviet Union was more akin to a military dictatorship. Examples of true socialism include the Spanish revolution, the Zapatista revolution in Chiapas, southern Mexico, the Israeli Kibbutzim and examples of things that have got, or are getting, close to socialism include the recent Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions involving large federations of communes etc., the recent democratic planning experiment in Kerala, India and many others. If you look at all these examples you will see that they have, at least partially if not greatly, improved the lives of the people in them.
  • Failed attempts at socialism do not disprove its potential. It is incorrect to say something doesn't work just because it doesn't work in one small experiment (i.e. the Plymouth Plantation). There are certainly cases in which socialism has failed, but there are also many examples in which it has succeeded, such as as the Spanish revolution, the Zapatista revolution in Chiapas, and in southern Mexico.
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Con

  • Soviet Union demonstrates failures of socialism. Richard Ebeling. "The Failure of Socialism and Lessons for America." The Future of Freedom. March 1993: "Socialism's failure in the former Soviet Union and in the other socialist countries stands as a clear and unquestionable warning as to which path any rational and sane people should never follow again. Government planning brought poverty and ruin. The idea of collectivist class and ethnic group-rights produced tens of millions of deaths and a legacy of civil war and conflict. And nationalized social services generated social decay and political privilege and corruption."
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Human rights: Does socialism uphold all the important human rights?

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Pro

  • Socialism is ideal for protecting human rights. The argument that socialism cannot protect human rights since it seeks the good of the people is ridiculous. Surely, human rights is one of the most important aspects of the good of the people. Any truly socialist society would protect, and has protected, far more human rights than capitalism has in the best circumstances. And since major decisions would be made by everyone, not corporations or states, then they would obviously seek to promote their human rights. Socialism also protects from the tyranny of the majority (see the decision-making structure section for an overview of participatory planning which is an excellent method for protecting society from the tyranny of the majority).
  • Socialism seeks social justice. Socialism seeks to redistribute wealth and to ensure that the means of production are at the service of the whole of society, so that all can benefit and none will go without. This ensures social justice.
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Con

  • Socialist leadership cannot protect human rights effectively. This type of utilitarian framework neglects appeals for human rights and any other framework of deontology, morality, ethics, etc. Capitalism is able to embrace the utilitarian framework while not precluding any form of decision calculus in policymaking to protect human rights.
  • "Collective Good" is a category error. In that who benefits from any situation or policy is an individual. Ascribing a benefit or right to a group can only be done (as a shorthand) if that group is defined by the criterion of holding the benefit or right. Socialism holds the rights of the fictional collective above the rights of an individual just as theocracies place the rights of their proclaimed divine above that of individuals.
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Decision-making: Is socialism superior to other forms of government?

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Pro

  • Socialism puts planning into the hands of the people. In collective socialism workers' and consumers' councils interact through the participatory planning process to determine what is produced and consumed. In this system of planning, each workers' or consumers' council (in their federations) make a proposal for what they want to produce or consume and other workers' and consumers' councils can approve or reject the proposal. If the plan of an individual council is rejected then it is responsible for editing and resubmitting it. This process means that what is produced is exactly what the consumers demand and what the workers are happy to produce. It means that each person takes part in a decision to the degree they are affected, solidarity is encouraged, democracy and self-determination is promoted, and a plan comes together that everyone is happy with. It means that social costs can be respected and plans can be made without domination. It also means that the plans will be fair since they have been made by everyone involved to the degree they are affected. See Participatory Planning for the best overview of this process and for more detail see Economic Justice and Democracy by Robin Hahnel and Parecon: Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert.
  • Socialism can effectively respond to crises. A truly socialist society would be far more versatile and flexible than any capitalist one. Since there would be no classes and decisions would be made by the people, they would be able to make decisions that would best avert the crisis for the average people, not the elites (like in capitalism or fake socialism). And since decision making would be truly democratic it would be easy to change things about the society if everyone wanted it.
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Con

  • Socialism poorly adapts to change. Life is unpredictable. Socialism promises predictability - or what else is there to imagine under this "right to live"? But there is nobody who can tell what tomorrow will bring, nobody and nothing that can guarantee well being. The basic premise of socialism is therefore as realizable as perpetuum mobile. Sometimes, the crops may be bad, natural disasters can strike, new technologies can emerge so your knowledge or skill is no longer valuable. Capitalists usually quietly and peacefully (though, of course, not necessarily lightheartedly and easily) accept these changes or losses as a thing that life brings, and learns how to adapt to the new circumstances. Socialists, on the other hand, usually begin a fruitless and absurd search of whom to blame for (not predicting) these abrupt changes, with the "outcome" of this "search" usually being "the capitalist behaviour" of some individual or a group of people, against whom the aggressive anger of the "common people" is subsequently senselessly turned.
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Incentives: Does socialism provide the right economic incentives?

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Con

  • Socialism removes the incentive to excel. This is a driving force essential for the development of human society. Some people are clearly gifted more than others, from the very moment of birth. As unfair as it may seem (or even as unfair as it is), the only sensible thing one can do about it is to help the more gifted people to excel (while, of course, building upon the not so extraordinary, yet valuable work of others), and learn something new from them. By promoting a classless society, Socialism inevitably hinders the individual development and excellence, forging people into one uniform gray mass. Capitalism, at the very least, doesn't principally prevent an individual from excelling.
  • Socialism punishes effort and subsidizes laziness. Milton Friedman: "We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork."[1]
  • Socialism wrongly labels wanting and ambition as wrong. The behavioral schema that was all-too-common in real socialism was like follows: "You will not want anything from me, I will not want anything from you, and we will all solidarily wait until the end of the working hours".
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Economics: Does socialism make an economic sense?

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Pro

  • Socialism has shown itself to be very efficient. A prime example of this is the Spanish Revolution. Information and explanations are given on the Spanish revolution in the argument (and argument page) genuine socialism has greatly improved societies (in the history section) and information on how socialism in the Spanish revolution not only brought prosperity and improvement of life to the Spanish people, but also economic efficiency is given. To take a few examples, In socialist Aragon, in which 70% if the rural population had voluntarily collectivised (the rest had chosen not to and were given the freedom to do so), productivity rose 20% during the time of the revolution. According to Dave Markland "agricultural production and deliveries were strongest in the anarchist [socialist] areas" of Spain (see extended argument page for more examples). And all of this was achieved while fighting a civil war and a against a counter-revolution, both of which caused massive drains on the resources of socialist Spain. More information can be found in the argument page of socialism has greatly improved societies (in the history section).
  • Socialism provides people with what they actually want. In collective socialism workers' and consumers' councils interact through the participatory planning process to determine what is produced and consumed. This means that what is produced is exactly what the consumers demand. And since people take part in decisions to the degree they are affected, what is produced moves even closer to what is socially wanted and responsible.
  • Unplanned capitalist economies undergo dramatic volatility. Economies in capitalist systems are essentially unplanned, so they often crash, producing depressions that damage the lives of millions. Socialist economies are planned, which means that problems can be foreseen and prevented. Ultimately, socialism guides with the aim of human happiness in mind, rather than the glorification or gratification of a particular individual or class.
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Con

  • Competition produces more valued goods more cheaply. Competition yields better products and more efficient processes in all fields of man's activities. No system that limits competition can be truly economically efficient.





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Vs capitalism (See also Debate: Capitalism vs socialism)

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Pro

  • Capitalism has fostered imperialism, exploitation, and suffering The economic rational behind this is simple. In order to make profit and achieve enough growth to outcompete opponents both capitalist nations and corporations have had to subjugate and exploit people in what are now unkindly called third world countries. In an Interview with L'Humanite, economist Samir Amin describes the relationship between capitalism and colonialism thusly: "Capitalism has been colonial, more precisely imperialist, during all the most notable periods of its development. The conquest of the Americas by the Spaniards and Portuguese in the 16th century, then by the French and the British, was the first modern form of imperialism and colonization: an extremely brutal form which resulted in the genocide of the Indians of North America, Indian societies in Latin America thrown into slavery and black slavery through the whole continent, north and south... During all the stages of capitalism, the plunder of the resources of the peripheries, the oppression of colonized peoples, their direct or indirect exploitation by capital, remain the common characteristics of the phenomenon of colonialism." See also here for a short overview of why capitalism fosters imperialism.
  • Government in capitalism is not compassionate. It usually serves the interests of (and is comprised of) the elite. The elite in capitalism means the people who benefit from the system: the people who own the means of production and the people who have a monopoly on empowering jobs. They use government to protect their interests and bring themselves further profit and better conditions. The conditions for the poor must be worsened as a by-product because in capitalism to increase my wealth I have to take wealth from someone else. See here and here for explanation and analysis of government in capitalism.
  • Capitalism places profits above moral judgement Michael Moore: "One of the most ironic things about capitalism is that the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang himself with. Actually they will give you the money to make a movie that makes them look bad, if they believe they can make money off it."[2]
  • Capitalism rewards many people in perverse ways. Some footballers or company chief executives earn a thousand times more than nurses. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. A good explanation (with statistics) is given of this in the inequalities section.
  • Income and rewards in capitalism are unequal A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth. The 3 richest people in the world own more financial assets than the poorest 10% of the world’s population combined. Do the people in the richest 10% of the population work 425 times harder than the people in the poorest half? Or do the people in the richest 1% of the population work 2,000 times harder than the people in the poorest half? Or do the 3 richest people in the world work 200,000,000 times harder than the people in the poorest 10% of the population? Certainly not. So, capitalism produces a very unequal society that does not correlate appropriately to work-ethic and merit, and which depends in large part on the exploitation of the poor by the rich.
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Con

  • Capitalism is more successful than socialism historically Richard Ebeling. "The Failure of Socialism and Lessons for America." The Future of Freedom. March 1993: "Earlier in this century, the Austrian economists demonstrated that socialist planning would fail. Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek showed clearly and irrefutably that when private property was nationalized and market competition eliminated, economic irrationality would result. [...] The arguments of the Austrian economists against socialism have been proven correct in every country in which central planning has been instituted. Whether it has been in Russia, Cuba, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Poland, or Mongolia, wherever the planning model has been imposed and has supplanted the market economy, economic disaster has occurred. The types and varieties of goods and services produced by the state have borne no relationship to the types and varieties of goods and services actually demanded by "the masses" in these people's republics. Store shelves have been empty of the things people wanted; and they have been stocked with what no one desired. Resources and labor have been misallocated and wasted. And the customers, who are "always right" under capitalism, have been reduced to a life of long lines at state-retail stores and to a daily hunting for the essentials of everyday life in these socialist paradises."
  • No transaction happens in capitalism unless both parties benefit. Milton Friedman: "The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit."[3]
  • Capitalism allows for greater personal fulfillment. Socialism presents a "mob rule" where the collective (or whomever controls the government) outweighs any decisions made by individuals concerning their own lives. Individual "needs" are dictated by the state and so niche markets are prevented from forming. This causes a lack of innovation and social progress because major trends and even fundamental changes in society and technology start in niche markets with very specific needs that would not be considered "efficient" for the state to provide.
  • Capitalism incentivizes higher productivity through reward The drive to succeed as an individual is the strongest motivating factor a human being can feel in their work. When work is uncoupled from reward, or when an artificial safety net provides a high standard of living for those who don’t work hard, society suffers. The fact that individuals are driven to succeed is in all our interests.
  • Socialism wrongly incites antagonism b/w classes. Richard M. Ebeling. "The Failure of Socialism and Lessons for America." The Future of Freedom Foundation. March 1993: "2. Collective or Group Rights. For the advocate of socialism, the idea of individual rights has been a bourgeois prejudice and deception. For socialists, human relationships in society are defined and determined by class relationships and antagonisms. The idea of individual liberty has been considered a smoke screen to blind those who are exploited and oppressed from understanding the 'true' nature of the social order. It was for this reason that Martyn Latsis, a senior officer in the newly founded Soviet secret police, said in 1918 that, in judging the guilt or innocence of an accused, 'the first questions that you ought to put are: To what class does he belongs What is its origin? What is his education or profession? And it is these questions that ought to determine the fate of the accused."
  • Capitalism is necessary condition for political freedom. Milton Friedman: "History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition."[4]
  • Capitalism divides and diffuses the power to oppress. Socialism places both the control of wealth and the control of coercive force in the same hands, the state. A truly capitalistic state places wealth and its means of production in private hands which do not have the authority to use coercive force, while placing the authority and means use of coercive force exclusively in the hands of the state which does not have the authority to directly involve itself in economic enterprises. The private sector can then oppose state tyranny by financing opposition while the state may oppose private sector inequity with force backed law and the threat of confiscation of property.
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Vs communism

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Public opinion: Where does the public stand?

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Con

  • Public opinion is immaterial. We should not judge the system according to the public opinion; there are more important values to note.

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