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Introduction: Definition of Socialism
Socialism/leftism is a political and economic ideology that advocates for a collective regulation of the means of production in a given society. In other words, socialists believe that for a society to be successful, its wealth should be governed by society for the benefit of the entire community. In a different sense, socialism refers to a system where all people have the right to intervene in governing decisions that have a direct impact on them.
Today, many people are concerned with the question of whether socialism has been successful in countries where it is practiced. The answer to this question depends on what is agreed upon as “success” in this relationship. To some people, a successful political system is the one that offers a high level of satisfaction and the quality of living to its citizenry. As the paper reveals, despite its shortcomings, socialism is a feasible economic and political system that affords people high levels of happiness, job security, and consumer protection relative to people living in capitalist societies.
Socialism as a Feasible Economic and Political System
Socialism is a feasible economic and political system because it helps to eliminate greed in the society, hence preventing the accumulation of much wealth by a small proportion of the population. According to Schumpeter, socialism facilitates the redistribution of wealth, which in turn reduces income disparities in society.1 Presently, American society is suffering from income inequality whereby one percent of the population controls all the resources at the expense of the rest of the people.
As such, poorer people face hardships such as being unable to afford basic healthcare and proper diet. Conversely, in countries that have embraced socialism, people benefit from universal healthcare that is affordable to all. For instance, as Wedge and Currie reveal, healthcare in Canada focuses on universal coverage, which has resulted in better health for Canadians when compared to people in the United States.2 Consequently, healthy people are more productive.
Hence, they can drive economic success. Also, socialist countries post higher standards of education relative to their capitalist counterparts. Hahl, Järvinen, and Juuti present Finland as an example, which is one of the leading countries in terms of qualities of education and hence the view that socialism is a feasibility political and economic system.3
The Case of Present-day Social Democratic Countries
As revealed in the lecture notes by Seay, in socio-democratic countries, the basic needs of the people are met freely and with ease.4 Such needs include access to proper healthcare, diet, and housing. This goal is achieved by structuring the economy in a manner, which avails equal opportunities for all people. The basic tenet of socialism is the belief that it is unfair for some people to thrive at the expense of others.
As such, according to Williams, all resources are distributed fairly based on the need to satisfy people’s needs.5 Based on the lecture notes by Seay, this perspective is different from that of capitalists who focus on making a rip off on other people’s basic needs.6 Utilizing the example of healthcare insurance, the United States has failed in affording universal coverage because health care systems value profits over the health of the people. Hence, they are noncommittal to health outcomes. Also, in capitalist societies, only the rich can afford high-quality education offered by private schools as opposed to public education.
Socialism as a feasible economic system facilitates the mobilization of goods based on necessity rather than profitability. In this type of cost-effective system, the focus on genuine necessity eliminates potentially harmful behaviors such as hoarding and the existence of cartels. Thus, the existence of such unethical practices is evidence that the concept of “free markets” has been watered down by greed in capitalist economies.
Conversely, in a socialist society, goods are distributed based on a democratically laid down plan.7 Consequently, all people have access to basic goods whenever they need them. Importantly, because demand is managed properly, the threat of inflation is limited. As a result, socialist countries rarely face the risk of becoming bankrupt due to the reduction in the value of their currencies. An example of a capitalist nation that nearly became bankrupt in recent times is Greece.
International labor provisions on minimum wage are respected and emphasized in socialist nations. This situation proves that socialism is a feasible political system. As a result, people’s pay is commensurate with the amount of work they perform. The exploitation that is typical of capitalist societies is absent in the socialist world. As a result, people lead healthy lives because they earn more without having to take up two or more jobs.
Besides, being properly paid means that people in socialist setups have higher standards of living relative to their counterparts in capitalist societies. Silvasti provides an example of the Scandinavian nations where the citizens enjoy much higher living standards when compared to Americans.8 Also, the rate of unemployment in these countries is low because institutions and organizations work to create equal opportunities for all people.
Notwithstanding, opponents of Socialism such as Kaminski believe it leads to the production of poor quality goods since people are not motivated to put their best effort.9 Others also argue that socialism encourages laziness due to the absence of individual initiative. True, countries such as China and Russia lagged in the industrial revolution due to socialism.10 As the means of production are commonly held, there is no motivation to excel, as is the case with capitalism, whereby individuals feel the urge to outshine each other. However, laziness is in human nature. As such, it exists everywhere. Hence, it would be erroneous to blame people’s lack of motivation for socialism. The motivation to work is rather intrinsic and does not depend on an external political ideology to be exhibited.
Socialism leads to slow economic growth due to the lack of entrepreneurial opportunities. Major investments and technological research depend on the availability of massive resources such as those owned by wealthy individuals. For example, companies, including Apple and Tesla, have been successful because of the availability of disposable resources to carry out market research concerning the said products. Besides, this argument does not apply in the case of modern socialist states such as Finland and Norway, which are home to some of the most progressive companies in the world. Also, the economy of the Nordic countries cannot be said to be stagnant since they have high GDPs and impressive annual growth indices. Hence, the argument that socialism discourages economic or political growth is misplaced.
Communism has been both lauded and criticized with equal zest. Proponents argue that it eliminates greed hence, attracting income disparity in society. On the other hand, opponents believe that socialism encourages laziness and consequently, slows economic growth. However, despite its apparent drawbacks, socialism has been a success in countries such as Finland and Norway, with their citizens enjoying impressive standards of living, universal coverage in health care, and job security among other benefits.
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Hahl, Kaisa, Heini-Marja Järvinen, and Kalle Juuti. “Accommodating to English‐Medium Instruction in Teacher Education in Finland.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics 26, no. 3 (December 2016): 291-310.
Kaminski, Bartlomiej. The Collapse of State Socialism: The Case of Poland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.
Schumpeter, Joseph. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. London, England: Routledge, 2013.
Seay, W. “The Origins of Political Economy.” Lecture, the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 2017.
Silvasti, Tiina. “Food Aid–Normalizing the Abnormal in Finland.” Social Policy and Society 14, no. 3 (2015): 471-482.
Wedge, Richard, and Dayne Currie.”System-Level Reform in Healthcare Delivery for Patients and Populations Living with Chronic Disease.” Healthcare Papers 15, no. 1 (2015): 67-73.
Williams, Raymond. Resources of Hope: Culture, Democracy, Socialism. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books, 2016.
- Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (London, England: Routledge, 2013), 50.
- Richard Wedge and Dayne Currie, “System-Level Reform in Healthcare Delivery for Patients and Populations Living with Chronic Disease,” Healthcare Papers 15, no. 1 (2015): 67.
- Kaisa Hahl, Heini-Marja Järvinen, and Kalle Juuti, “Accommodating to English‐Medium Instruction in Teacher Education in Finland,” International Journal of Applied Linguistics 26, no. 3 (2016): 293.
- W. Seay, “The Origins of Political Economy” (lecture, the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 2017).
- Raymond Williams, Resources of Hope: Culture, Democracy, Socialism (Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books, 2016), 200.
- Seay, “The Origins of Political Economy”.
- Tiina Silvasti, “Food Aid–Normalizing the Abnormal in Finland,” Social Policy and Society 14, no. 3 (2015): 472.
- Bartlomiej Kaminski, The Collapse of State Socialism: The Case of Poland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 155.