There is No ‘Debate’ Between Socialism and Capitalism – The Chief’s Thoughts

I am often amazed at how, more than two decades after the Cold War ended, people can still talk about capitalism and socialism as if they are legitimate competitors in the battle of ideas.

While this is evident in the West, it is especially nonsensical here in the Third World. Extreme poverty abounds, clearly, as a direct result of excessive government intervention in the economy, yet the excitement and colorfulness of socialism still captures the imagination of the masses. The idea that prosperity can be academized into existence is alluring!

The fact of the matter is, however, that there is no ‘debate’ between these two fundamentally different concepts.

Whereas free market capitalism is an economic state of affairs, socialism is a political ideology. While capitalism does have many ‘theories’ and ‘ideas’ within the philosophy that developed around it, without any conscious intervention or development, it would still exist. Children, without knowing any of the ‘ideas’ of capitalism, share and exchange for mutual benefit.

Socialism, on the other hand, is so foreign to human nature that it required philosophers and intellectuals to create it out of thin air. And hundreds of millions have had to die in the pursuit of this ideology. The Khmer Rouge of Cambodia is perhaps one of the most striking examples of this.

In just four years between 1975 and 1979 the Communist Party in Cambodia slaughtered up to two million people in an attempt to create a fundamentally ‘new’ society. The regime even formulated the notion of ‘Year Zero’, where practically all Cambodian history, tradition, and culture had to be destroyed and the society effectively ‘restarted’ in the socialist image. Anyone who the regime believed was potentially incompatible with their socialistic vision for Cambodia was summarily killed – intellectuals, people who wore glasses, and generally anyone who was urbanized. Those who escaped slaughter became ‘New People’ (and the regime despised the new; it sought a return to Cambodia’s mystical agrarian past), who were effectively slaves. The regime said of these ‘new’ people, “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.”

Now, try to think of a regime in history which ‘implemented’ ‘capitalism’ in the same way.

Augusto Pinochet’s regime in Chile is definitely not an instance of this. ‘Suppression of socialism’ does not equal ‘implementation of capitalism.’ The United States’ slaughter of Native Americans was not an instance of this, as that could more more easily be ascribed to the socialistic mentality of control-based growth. In fact, I doubt either of these two oft-cited examples were done in the pursuit of capitalism. The South African Apartheid regime is also often cited, yet Apartheid leaders condemned the free market throughout the period of their rule.

Capitalism ‘becomes’ implemented when government steps back, in the same way that light is ‘implemented’ onto a surface when an obstruction clears out of the way. Free market capitalism is the result of the mostly unconscious conduct of ordinary people which occurs without them being libertarians or’conscious’ capitalists.

Socialism, on the other hand, needs to be implemented. Mind you, it can never work – socialism has never achieved its purpose of equality and prosperity for all, whereas capitalism, which has no purpose, has consistently led to relative prosperity.

These two ways of thinking about the world are not legitimate, bona fide competitors in the battle of ideas. Capitalism won the battle of ideas when the first blood was spilled in the name of socialism. Just like there is no ‘debate’ between rape and consensual sex, or a ‘debate’ between drinking water or cyanide for your health, there is no debate between socialism and capitalism. And we shouldn’t treat it like a debate.

This post was written by Martin van Staden.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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Martin van Staden is the Editor in Chief of Being Libertarian and RationalStandard.com. He has a law degree from the University of Pretoria. His articles represent his own views and beliefs, and not that of any of the organizations he is involved with.
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  • Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell

    This is one of the most idiotic articles I’ve had the misfortune to read.

    “I am often amazed at how, more than two decades after the Cold War ended, people can still talk about capitalism and socialism as if they are legitimate competitors in the battle of ideas.”

    Implying that the only form of socialism is the totalitarian Soviet model and that this completely invalidates socialism as an ideology for all time.

    “While this is evident in the West, it is especially nonsensical here in the Third World. Extreme poverty abounds, clearly, as a direct result of excessive government intervention in the economy, yet the excitement and colorfulness of socialism still captures the imagination of the masses. The idea that prosperity can be academized into existence is alluring!”

    Complete nonsense.

    Extreme poverty abounds in the Third World partly due to the corrupt system of neoliberal capitalism that has been forced upon these countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, which have been compelled to open up their economies to “free trade” to the benefit of countries that historically became rich thanks to protectionist tariffs. The results, from Chile to South Africa, have been nothing short of disastrous.

    “The fact of the matter is, however, that there is no ‘debate’ between these two fundamentally different concepts.”

    Alright then, in that case I suppose the likes of Chomsky, Zizek, Varoufakis, etc are all just wasting their time. And if there is no debate between the two ideas, why do libertarians keep debating it?

    “Whereas free market capitalism is an economic state of affairs, socialism is a political ideology. While capitalism does have many ‘theories’ and ‘ideas’ within the philosophy that developed around it, without any conscious intervention or development, it would still exist. Children, without knowing any of the ‘ideas’ of capitalism, share and exchange for mutual benefit.”

    Utter trash.

    Capitalism did not come into being on its own. It came into being because of systematic repression, exploitation and regulation over the centuries by the modernising states of Europe. The Enclosure Movement is an example of this in action. Peasant-proprietors were thrown off their lands in an act of state-sponsored socio-economic violence and made to became wage slaves and enrich their capitalist overlords. The idea that capitalism is somehow “natural” to human beings and socialism isn’t is a great deal of baloney. It also commits the appeal to nature fallacy – the fact that something is natural does not make it a good thing. Furthermore, capitalism is not simply “sharing and exchange”. It involves private ownership of the means of production, namely, theft in the form of private property. Without a state to repress some groups (i.e. labour) and elevate others (i.e. capital), capitalism would not exist.

    “Socialism, on the other hand, is so foreign to human nature that it required philosophers and intellectuals to create it out of thin air. And hundreds of millions have had to die in the pursuit of this ideology. The Khmer Rouge of Cambodia is perhaps one of the most striking examples of this.”

    What a ridiculous assertion.

    Socialism came into being because of the material conditions in the industrial West which made socialistic ideas relevant. Do you think the likes of Robert Owen, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Karl Marx, Saint-Simon etc single-handedly created the ideology known as “socialism” ex cathedra, out of their own heads, or did they actually study the material conditions of society and formulate their ideas based on that? Do you think their ideas would have gotten a hearing unless the material conditions in society at that time had made their arguments relevant? The idea that people were perfectly contented with capitalism until evil socialist intellectuals came along and stirred up trouble is dishonest to the point of malice. People did not enjoy working like slaves in dangerous factories. People did not enjoy being torn away from the land to go and live and work among thousands of strangers in unfamiliar urban environments. People did not enjoy being exploited and treated like they were sub-humans. Socialism came into being for a reason. It was not the creation of a few intellectuals, but arose from a natural and organic sentiment among men who were repulsed by the conditions of the society in which they lived, and for good reason.

    “In just four years between 1975 and 1979 the Communist Party in Cambodia slaughtered up to two million people in an attempt to create a fundamentally ‘new’ society. The regime even formulated the notion of ‘Year Zero’, where practically all Cambodian history, tradition, and culture had to be destroyed and the society effectively ‘restarted’ in the socialist image. Anyone who the regime believed was potentially incompatible with their socialistic vision for Cambodia was summarily killed – intellectuals, people who wore glasses, and generally anyone who was urbanized. Those who escaped slaughter became ‘New People’ (and the regime despised the new; it sought a return to Cambodia’s mystical agrarian past), who were effectively slaves. The regime said of these ‘new’ people, “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.””

    This commits the strawman fallacy. Not all socialists support the murderous, totalitarian methods of the Khmer Rouge. Their Maoist ideology is completely at odds with the forms of socialism espoused by the likes of Proudhon (libertarian socialism) or even Attlee (democratic socialism).

    “Now, try to think of a regime in history which ‘implemented’ ‘capitalism’ in the same way.”

    Hmmm…the British government during the Enclosure Movement? All early modern European states? The American government of the 19th-century which sided with robber barons and engaged in the systematic suppression of wage labour and organised labour groups like trade unions? The Russian government of the 1990s, in which President Yeltsin literally set tanks on the legislature? The Chinese government? The Singaporean government? Pinochet’s Chile?

    “Augusto Pinochet’s regime in Chile is definitely not an instance of this.”

    No True Scotsman fallacy. Pinochet implemented your beloved capitalism and its effects on the population were disastrous. Half of the population was plunged into poverty, thousands killed and a wealthy few grew even wealthier. What’s more the country ended up in two depressions and enjoyed the worst economic growth in Latin America. Recovery as only made possible due to the copper industry being under state control (rofl).

    “‘Suppression of socialism’ does not equal ‘implementation of capitalism.’”

    But that’s precisely what Pinochet did. After overthrowing Allende he implemented capitalism. This is a distinction without a difference, done from dishonest motives. Pinochet acted with the support of the wealthy Chilean upper-classes who were threatened by Allende’s reforms. That is a fact which nobody can deny.

    “The United States’ slaughter of Native Americans was not an instance of this, as that could more more easily be ascribed to the socialistic mentality of control-based growth.”

    The No True Capitalist fallacy, again. Tell me, what is the name of the economic system that operated in the United States during this time period if not capitalism? Or are you saying that capitalism has never existed? In which case there is no empirical basis for saying that capitalism is superior!

    “In fact, I doubt either of these two oft-cited examples were done in the pursuit of capitalism.”

    Well they were. The Native Americans were thrown off their land which was then enclosed by capitalist American settlers who implemented mercantilist policies with the help of Western-style property rights which the Native Americans had no concept of. And Pinochet implemented capitalism at the behest of the United States which had feared Allende’s Marxist reforms. Ever heard of the Chicago Boys?

    “The South African Apartheid regime is also often cited, yet Apartheid leaders condemned the free market throughout the period of their rule.”

    To claim that South Africa under apartheid wasn’t capitalist is frankly idiotic. Regardless of whatever restrictions on the free market existed, South Africa was most certainly operating under a capitalist economic system. The deregulation imposed by the Mbeki regime has, if anything, made South Africa even more capitalist than ever before.

    “Capitalism ‘becomes’ implemented when government steps back”

    Nonsense. Capitalism could never have been implemented without government.

    “Socialism, on the other hand, needs to be implemented.”

    So the socialistic communities of early human history were acting unnaturally?

    “Mind you, it can never work – socialism has never achieved its purpose of equality and prosperity for all, whereas capitalism, which has no purpose, has consistently led to relative prosperity.”

    The Nordic countries seem to be doing alright to me. How is Bolivia working out? And Chile is doing much better under socialist governments than it ever did under Pinochet.

    And capitalism may have led to relative prosperity, but none of that changes the fact that in order to work it depends on a massive, impoverished underclass.

  • Angry Wasp

    DO not worry, you’ll enjoy the gulag we send you to.

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  • Dave McGlashan

    Laughably illogical, as you would expect from a libertarian. Libertarianism has no logical principles, it’s just me me me. Of course capitalism, and the style of capitalism, there is more than one, has to be implemented. The rules of competition have to be enforced. Capitalism would have self destructed if it were not for the considerable inputs of government, market failure for instance, and boom and bust cycles for another. Much more blood has been spilt in the global establishment of capitalism too. British and European colonialism, for example, caused many millions of deaths. America’s hostile foreign policy has continued the same process. So much rubbish in Martin’s article, not enough time.

  • random

    Communism is not the only system with blood on its hands dude, death caused by inaction is still death.

  • jqcitizen

    To what length and depth does this free market capitalism go? For example, someone is selling a good or service and you want it. The buyer and seller cannot come to a fair agreement on price. is it OK for the buyer to get some of his burly friends and use their “muscle resources” to convince the seller to provide the goods at a lower price? In a purely free market, this would be allowed. But no, of course not you might say. “Laws” or “Civilization” or “The police” should step in to prevent this type of activity, however, Laws, civilization and police are all socialist concepts.

    • Bad Cop Bad Cop Show

      That’s beyond ridiculous. What you are advocating is immoral behavior, the behavior of force, which is socialism. Libertarians and capitalists recognize the need for there to be a court system to protect the rights of citizens. That is not socialism, that is leveling the field so all can compete fairly. You’ve described socialism with your “muscle resources” comment, not capitalism.

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