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Is America’s future capitalist or socialist?

By Vox

Steve Pearlstein, author of Can American Capitalism Be Saved? and Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of the socialist journal Jacobin, debateRead full story

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  • David Donhoff
    David DonhoffCEO at Leverage Planners

    The dividing line is Dunbar's number... Roughly 150ish.

    Above that, and capitalism is the socially sustainable norm. Below that (nuclear families, faith communities, fraternal organizations etc) and collectivism (socialism, fascism, communism... Of a "friendly sort" if you will) prevails.

    Both exist simultaneously, at different social scales. Collectivism will never dominate at the State level, individualism will never dominate in families.

  • It'll be somewhere in-between. History shows that full-fledged redistributive socialism concentrates too much power in the hands of too few people, leading inevitably to autocracy and collapse. However, history also shows that all-in, unregulated free-market capitalism has exactly the same problem: instead of concentrating power in the upper echelons of the state, it concentrates it into the control of a handful of monopolists.

    The only sustainable relationship between the state and the economy

    It'll be somewhere in-between. History shows that full-fledged redistributive socialism concentrates too much power in the hands of too few people, leading inevitably to autocracy and collapse. However, history also shows that all-in, unregulated free-market capitalism has exactly the same problem: instead of concentrating power in the upper echelons of the state, it concentrates it into the control of a handful of monopolists.

    The only sustainable relationship between the state and the economy is for the state to act as guarantor of competition. Americans realized this once before, in the early 20th century. Figures like William Taft and Teddy Roosevelt woke the government up and dismantled the monopolies which strangled the middle/lower classes throughout the Gilded Age of roughly the 1880s to the 1920s, and the result was decades of prosperity and skyrocketing living standards. When trickle-down economists started getting their way in the late 1970s, a short term boom was followed by intense social stratification, stagnant wages, and declining standards of living-- bringing us to where we are today, in a Second Gilded Age of roughly the 1980s to the 2020s.

    A lack of competition in the private sector is incredibly damaging to the fabric of both the economy and society. For example, the railroads once colluded to raise prices and carve out areas of control, and the major telecommunications companies do the same today. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies work together to artificially raise the costs of healthcare to obscene levels. Oil and coal companies use the government as a weapon to destroy their competitors. The list goes on.

    We already know the solution to our socioeconomic malaise, and many of the needed laws are already on the books. Now we just need to elect leaders who have the spine to enact them.

  • I’m absolutely dumbfounded by the popularity of socialist ideals in our country right now. I am certainly on the outside looking in on this movement.

  • The problem with socialism and capitalism is that they are ideologies. Ideologies don’t have to have deal with nuance.

  • David Garnett
    David Garnett

    Democratic Socialism is neither all Socialist nor all Capitalist. It is a combination that has worked here and is now working in other countries, especially Scandinavian countries.

  • Adam Keasey
    Adam KeaseyIT Specialist at US Army

    If we want human potential to be fully realized, then socialism will prevail.

  • Matthew Dale Grant
    Matthew Dale GrantDesign at you don't need to know.

    The future of America should be that of a mixed system of socialistic and capitalist systems. But the super weathly will try to stop this at all costs. Eventually they will fail. But not before drawing out this poinless conflict for decades to come.

  • I was born under communism. Romania, a Soviet satellite at the time and during my young years.

    The system did not work for anyone except the communist elites. Most others pretended to go along with it out of fear and had to rely on dishonest actions to make ends meet.

    The system called itself Socialist.

    Shortages were constant, poverty was prevalent. Rights were non-existent; especially freedom of speech.

    A doctor’s salary was the same as a street sweepers. Equality distributed to all citizens

    I was born under communism. Romania, a Soviet satellite at the time and during my young years.

    The system did not work for anyone except the communist elites. Most others pretended to go along with it out of fear and had to rely on dishonest actions to make ends meet.

    The system called itself Socialist.

    Shortages were constant, poverty was prevalent. Rights were non-existent; especially freedom of speech.

    A doctor’s salary was the same as a street sweepers. Equality distributed to all citizens destroying incentives.

    It ruined Romanian agriculture since forced collectives were part of socialism. It ruined Romania and it is still ruined today.

    There are important telling lessons to be learned about communism/socialism. The people that are calling for it in the US should study these lessons first.

  • In the posthumously published personal diaries for the Soviet ambassador to Britain from 1932-1943 Ivan Maisky, edited by historian Gabriel Gorodetsky, it recounts a fascinating conversation on this very matter.

    While having a private conversation with Anthony Eden, then Conservative MP, later PM, during the late 30’s Maisky told him, “capitalism is a spent force.” A statement that was hardly uncharacteristic for a member of the Bolshevik party. Much to the ambassadors surprise, Eden agreed with

    In the posthumously published personal diaries for the Soviet ambassador to Britain from 1932-1943 Ivan Maisky, edited by historian Gabriel Gorodetsky, it recounts a fascinating conversation on this very matter.

    While having a private conversation with Anthony Eden, then Conservative MP, later PM, during the late 30’s Maisky told him, “capitalism is a spent force.” A statement that was hardly uncharacteristic for a member of the Bolshevik party. Much to the ambassadors surprise, Eden agreed with him.

    In paraphrasing Eden’s words, he said roughly: Yes capitalism, in its present form, has had its day. What will replace it? Full socialism? Half socialism? Complete socialism? Three quarters socialism? Perhaps it will be a distinctly unique form of British socialism.

    That was a very telling statement, and it’s exactly what happened to his nation not a decade later. It is still as such in the UK today, with several bumps and refinements along the way. In his own subtle form, Eden understood that a nation must find its own singular way to such reforms. No two applications would be the same in either form or degree.

    In the case of the US at present, the question has never been an absolute choice between capitalism or socialism. Instead, it’s a matter of finding the best way to utilize the wealth capitalism creates to best support greater social supports for all Americans.

  • jubilee Briscoe
    jubilee BriscoeFounding Member at TogetherTec

    Any future we hope to co-create needs to help the individual and the group. In the past capitalism focuses on the freedom of the individual while socialism was about the needs of the group.

    With technology we can have both. People can be their own unique selves looking after their own needs and be helped to discover what groups they naturally fall into that will support them and the group.

    We do not need to choose between the group and the individual. The future (if we co-create it) will be individualistic

    Any future we hope to co-create needs to help the individual and the group. In the past capitalism focuses on the freedom of the individual while socialism was about the needs of the group.

    With technology we can have both. People can be their own unique selves looking after their own needs and be helped to discover what groups they naturally fall into that will support them and the group.

    We do not need to choose between the group and the individual. The future (if we co-create it) will be individualistic AND group oriented.

    It only works if it is voluntary and it only succeeds if it can our compete the individualistic capitalists.

    I am looking for people to co-create such a world together

  • Henry Tobias Jones
    Henry Tobias JonesEditor of Dyson on: at Dyson

    Where we’re going we won’t need roads...

  • Ewan Lillicii
    Ewan LilliciiSenior Political Officer at USA

    Definitely Capitalism. UTOPIANCAPITALIST COM

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