Capitalism vs. Socialism

Common understanding of the terms ‘Capitalism’ and ‘Socialism’ puts these ideas at odds. Socialism is an evil scheme to spread the wealth, forcefully giving the fruits of one man’s labor to others less deserving. Capitalism, on the other hand, is social Darwinism – only the strong and most adaptable survive.

Neither system can be found anywhere. These are terms that frame reality in a certain way intended to encourage certain behaviors. In the most optimistic viewpoint, those who use the term ‘socialism’ hope to protect minority rights and believe that certain human activities need to be strongly governed by a central authority. From a similar view, those who use the term ‘capitalism’ hope to protect current wealth and create more wealth through business ventures, unhindered by government intervention. The idea is that everyone gains when the few who directly benefit from capitalism share the wealth by paying presumably decent wages for work performed towards the success of the venture.

I believe that capitalism must necessarily operate within a socialist framework. There are certain human activities that cannot be and should not be ‘for profit’. The activity that tops the list is healthcare. No one should be making a profit from someone else’s suffering. That philosophy alone puts capitalism at a great disadvantage for many activities since the basis of capitalism is akin to a ponzi scheme – the few early birds get the worm, while late comers must work what by comparison are slave wages to break even.

There is no question that nobody knows exactly how to innovate or to be creative. Great discoveries have occurred under the auspices of dictatorships (the New World for instance) and big governments (the Moon landing). But great achievements are also accomplished by people who are the tinkerers and private scientists who build great things in their garage (Bill Gates).

Capitalists, though, need to recognize their limitations. That is the fatal flaw of this system. It does have limits and when not recognized, they lead to mass economic destruction. Anyone can deceive people and if their smart enough get away with it. The trick is to be honest and still make a buck. But there would be less a chance that people would resort to tomfoolery and trickery if basic human needs are taken for granted. Health care needs to be one of those. Leaving health care in the hands of people who have only profits as motivation can only lead to higher profits and not better health outcomes for people. It leads to the more expensive drug being prescribed, the more expensive procedure being recommended, and on and on. Again, the limits of greed know no bounds, which is why a strong government (as flawed as such an entity can be) needs to be attempted to provide this basic need. I see no way that people can pursue life, liberty and happiness if life itself is dependent upon a for-profit system.

That is not to say that doctors and administrators should not be paid handsomely for their hard work and expertise. Compensation should be fairly distributed to the more highly skilled. However, the difference is that instead of five houses and a yacht, the most skilled among us would just have the nicest cars, vacations, and but one very nice house.

That is not to say that all doctors and administrators go into the health care industry to take advantage of other people’s pain and live extravagant lifestyles. But the point remains – somebody makes too much money and only someone in a position of authority can make the determination of how much is too much.

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