Free Markets, Free People


By A Small Majority, Americans Think Capitalism Is Better Than Socialism

This should disturb a good number of you – it certainly did me. It shows you how effective the indoctrination of our youth has been. Don’t forget the radical students of 1969 are the tenured professors of ’09.  It also demonstrates something else just as disturbing that I’ll get too at the end of the post:

Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.

Investors by a 5-to-1 margin choose capitalism. As for those who do not invest, 40% say capitalism is better while 25% prefer socialism.

As you’ll note, the older someone is, the more likely they are to understand what socialism is and how it is inferior to captialism. The under 30 crowd, with no wisdom and little practical experience outside of academia – not to mention having not yet completly traded their utopian fantasies for the best practical system which has been shown to work – have a large group who either believe socialism is better or just aren’t with it enough to have an opinion.

Once past 30, and having put a few years under their belt in the real world, suddenly the utopian scales begin to fall from their eyes and they have a bit of an epiphany. As for those over 40 being so strongly for capitalism, most of them remember the old USSR and how well socialism worked there.

As you might imagine, there’s an ideological divide as well:

There is a partisan gap as well. Republicans – by an 11-to-1 margin – favor capitalism. Democrats are much more closely divided: Just 39% say capitalism is better while 30% prefer socialism. As for those not affiliated with either major political party, 48% say capitalism is best, and 21% opt for socialism.

Compare the results above to a poll taken in December of 2008:

As the incoming Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership scramble for ways to right the U.S. economy, 70% of U.S. voters say a free market is better than one managed by the government.

Just 15% say a government-managed economy is best, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.

Question: In the intervening months, what system and what players has the Obama administration demonized?

Answer: Capitalism and capitalists.

Gee, I wonder why?

~McQ

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61 Responses to By A Small Majority, Americans Think Capitalism Is Better Than Socialism

  • Not “indoctrination” (again, you’re stuck in the 20th century) but ignorance.  In my intro classes I go into intense detail about the evils of Soviet communism, I cover the Cambodian genocide as a case study.  Students don’t know Stalin killed more than Hitler did (he was our ally, after all).  I keep telling you, yelling “socialism” is passe, people don’t connect with those terms any more.

    And believe it or not, it’s people like me who are pointing out the total dysfunctionality of communism, how centralized power leads to corruption and abuse of rights, and trying to make sure people learn these lessons of history.   Believe it or not, people who are “liberal” also agree that communism was horrible, and that markets are usually better than government central planning.  Though, obviously, both left and right agree that some areas require government — how much and exactly where is what gets  debated.

    • Erb, you’re a bald-faced liar.

      I’ve SEEN you on this very blog gloating that “people will now realize that capitalism doesn’t deliver just results”

      • There are many Erbs, with many different voices, and many different ideas. All that they have in common is the need to go on at length.

        The Erbs are the neverending summer cold, a running nose, a dry cough.

    • My complaint is that Scott seems to imply that communism is socialism.  That is clearly not true.  It is possible to be anti communist while embracing socialism.  It is fair to say that Europe is further along the continuum and more socialistic than the US.  There are a number of us who believe the country has traveled further along the path to socialism that we like.

      Hayak warmed us against socialism in the Road to Serfdom.  Freidman followed up with Capitalism and Freedom.  I wonder if Scott even mentions these books in his course.

      Rick

      • I think Hayek is a genius.  I have great respect for the Austrian school, and the notion of information flowing through markets that is impossible to achieve with bureaucratic planning (which in fact tends to serve the interests of the bureaucrats and thus leads to stagnation) is the strongest argument yet for market capitalism as the best means to run an economy.   I do think markets are not perfect, nor are their results always best for society, and hence I see a role for a government.   And yes, I do mention Hayek (not Friedman) in my course in looking at why markets are better.   I also find the argument made by Mark A. Martinez in “The Myth of the Free Market,” to be persuasive.  I think a lot of people make a simplistic jump from Hayek’s insight to a belief that absent the state markets would run naturally and effectively.  That is contrary to historical evidence. 

        I think the 20th century created a kind of false dualism in thinking between socialism and capitalism.   European Social Democrats are far more “liberal” (in the philosophical sense — embracing markets over the state) then they were at any time in the last century.  My own thinking is probably more like a European conservative.  That may be one reason why people seem confused by me in these commentaries.  They try to fit me into “left” or “right” but my thinking isn’t ideological.  So when I say something that sounds “leftist” they say “that’s the real Scott, a leftie,” but when I say something more conservative they respond “that’s not how he thinks.”

        • Scott, I can’t speak for others here, but I know precisely how you think. I am all too familiar with your forays into “free market” thinking that you take back seconds later with your “I also see a need for government, Obama is a real leader, the Reagan era failed.”

          Hayek would have told you straight up that the U.S. had about all the government it needed circa 1950, and probably needed to dump a little after that. So don’t try that “I think Hayek is a genius” bullsh*t when I’m around. Or use that “Myth of the Free Market” business, as if we were starving the government of its “necessities”; the federal government eats 20% of the GDP, and that’s heading toward 30-35% toute suite. 

          You are perpetually interested in and dedicate yourself to only two things: socialism and anti-Americanism. When you try to show otherwise it is painfully transparent. You’ve always tried to run around the side to sit on other people’s positions, especially after you’ve gotten a good beating.

          At the new “Who Is Scott Erb?” blog, maybe there will be topic dedicated to the peculiar psychology of it all.

        • I have not read “The Myth of the Free market”, so I cannot comment.  But, I will argue the role of government in markets should be limited to insuring a level playing field.  Whenever government goes further and tries to direct the market, chaos and sub optimum results follow.  We can talk all we want about the sub prime debacle, but I don’t believe that market would ever have emerged absent government’s desires for banks to lend into the less credit worthy markets and to increase home ownership.  All those CDS and MBS were pretty much a reaction to that and got way out of control.  Still, the concepts of CDS and MBS will remain just as the concept of junk bonds lasted beyond Milkin and Drexel.

          MITI didn’t work out at all for the Japanese.

          Rick

  • Erb, while i conceded the point that the real problem is ignorance, indoctrination is the account for why they don’t stay ignorant is it not? If your ignorant, and no one tells you otherwise, you stay ignorant of the entire issue. Its ignorance and blind belief in educators as the final authority that leads to the indoctrination.

  • Two words: public schools.

    And Erb, it’s people like you who are manifestations of the total dysfunctionality of communism.

  • Well, I think what happens is schools cover US history reasonably well, but very rarely do they get into world affairs.  Most students have never heard of Cambodia when we start that case study.  They get the holocaust as standard fare, but nothing about Stalin’s crimes, or the cost of Mao’s forced industrialization (famines that killed more than even Stalin).   I don’t think schools are purposefully trying to cover up any of this, they just focus on US history, the civil war, the holocaust, and US government.   

    In economics, its even worse.  This week I explained how ‘free trade saved capitalism’ when, after WWII, many thought capitalism had led to depression and fascism.  I have learned that I have to spend at least ten minutes driving home to them just how prosperous the West has become, that in the industrialized West the last sixty years has seen the biggest growth in material prosperity in the history of the planet.  Even the poor amongst us live a life style that relative to almost all of history and most of the planet is one of prosperity and wealth.  People don’t understand the context of our times.  They learn quickly, but high schools seem to leave a gap concerning both economics and world history/events.

    • Anyone who has spent sufficient time reading you, Erb, knows very well that you are a fount of incoherent, confused, and sophomoric thinking, and a bottomless pit of disinformation.

      You’re very lucky that your students show up not knowing anything, because that’s what keeps them from finding out that you are as dumb as a toad.

    • True, there is quite a gap coming out of high school.   It is a public service to explain that poverty in this country is great wealth throughout history.  There is the tendency for students to take for granted what we have today.   

      Rick

    • “Well, I think what happens is schools cover US history reasonably well…”

      No, I think this unlikely – and world history is even worse. My own experience was abysmal.  My wife – who taught HS history at a well respected, public school – was very thorough, but we also know that a good share of her colleagues were not.  HS history education is spotty at best and often depends on the presence of a dedicated, motivated teacher willing to work very hard to cover a lot of material.  America tends to get criticized for poor math and science education compared to the world, but there’s no easy way to compare the quality of history education. If there were I think we might actually find it’s the poorest taught subject in high school.

  • So, you’re telling them Communism is BAAAAAAD, except it’s NOT Communism the Soviets HAD,  it was SOCIALISM.

    Might help if you were teaching them that.  And screw Cambodia, that has much less to do with Socialism and much more to do with a whacko running a country and cloaking it in Socialist doctrine (for reference, SEE North Korea).  There is NOTHING about Socialism that necessarily MUST lead to a Cambodia, or Maoist forced industrialization, or a Soviet style mass crimes a’la Stalin.  Every example you cited is one of ruthless bastards playing at being God and no common men having the power to stop them, and those who DO have the power, being willing bitches of the tyrants.  All dressed up as Socialist governments that were effectively the classic examples of Tyrannies as the Greeks knew them.

    Socialism, obviously a lot of people STILL think it can work.  Generally people who plan on being on the higher levels of the great socialist pyramid, or people who don’t understand how much their birkenstock wearin lives will change if a socialist system is implemented. 

    The bloody problem with Socialism is it LENDS itself to tyranny, it’s proved to be tyranny’s willing handmaiden.   It doesn’t prevent people from amassing wealth, it just allows the animals that are more equal than others to amass the wealth, allegedly on behalf of the state, and to repress the animals that aren’t favored to keep them in their place so they don’t upset the social order.

    Now, you just need to re-engineer the American psyche so we think of ourselves as serfs or plebes again and we’ll toss out 1500 years of progress towards individual freedom.  We can go back to bitching that our betters know what is best for us and subsume our dreams to the dreans of the city state, embodied by the dreams of the more equal animals.

    You’re on your way,  keep telling the kids the Russians and Chinese and Cambodians were COMMUNISTS instead of SOCIALIST tyrannies.

    • Socialism, which is what Lenin and Stalin and the gang called their gig, was synonymous with Communism when it was part of the international socialist movement. Mussolini, born into a socialist family and then a leading socialist intellectual in Italy, broke with Italian socialists to create a national variant of socialism he called Fascism. Hitler took a small fringe political party in Weimar Germany and rode it to power, the National Socialists. Stalin, not liking the rise of competition, demonized the Italian and German variants as “right wing.” Hence the labeling by the Left since of anything it doesn’t like as “fascist” and the frequent insistence that Hitler was a “right-winger.” In fact, German communists were frequent, plentiful, and strong converts to Hitlerism. These political religions are all variations on the same theme.

      All that introduces my point that I don’t agree that socialism can be non-violent. It is always violent, but the violence sometimes need be only implicit, as in an armed robbery, where the guns are drawn but not fired if everyone cooperates while the money is taken. If you take a look at contemporary Europe, overrun as it is with the “social democracy” variant of socialism (Obama’s plan for the U.S.), things are getting pretty damn oppressive, especially in the U.K., where individuals are pinned under the rocks of that socialist state (Thatcherism is dead and nearly completely buried).

      • Not to be a socialist proponent, but it doesn’t have to be that way.   It could be different, just re-engineer men to be born to always think of how they can help society before they think of  themselves and their offspring.

        I agree though with you though, it’s the threat of force by the state that keeps it all ‘in line’.  Extortion can be as effective as threatening violence, witness banks who didn’t need the money knuckling under to taking TARP funds.   

        “It would be a shame if my brother Dinsdale were have to audit you, maybe tie up your business”,
        isn’t that far from
        “It would be a shame if my brother Dinsdale were to feel bad about not being paid to protect you and started to break things”

        • I think governments are really ineffective at “re-engineering” folk.  Cultures aren’t easily steered from the top, Stalin’s effort to create the “new Soviet man” failed miserably.  The big mistake of activists everywhere is to think grabbing governmental power is the key to change.  Governments tend to either reflect the culture of their state or, in the case of elite tyranny, the interests of those few who grab on to and hold power (with the ‘citizens’ being just pawns or objects used by the leaders for their own ends.)  

          • The state can re-engineer some things, but they often forget the unintended consequences.  A good example if the constant promotion of home ownership in the United States. People respond to incentives, especially financial ones.

          • So is that an “I no longer think Castro is still better than Batista,” Scott? Or is it too soon in this new era of your new thinking to go that far?

          • And, yes, I realize that there just might be someone who is a new reader here who is ready to buy in and begin chasing you around the mulberry bush. But you are getting close to the tipping point, where your effort to find such a person will be like the old second marriage, the triumph of hope over experience.

    • This is all semantics:  SOCIALISM or COMMUNISM.  You have two (actually – three) flavors:  Soviet style when all of the means of production belong to the state (not government but state) and everything was controlled by the state run enterprises.  Even though they called themselves communists – they always emphasized that they lived in the 1st phase of the communism called socialism with the Marx-Engels principal of  “from each according to their abilities  – to each according to their labor” vs. communist motto: “from each according to their abilities – to each according to their needs.” The other end of the spectrum is the fascist (national-socialist) model where private enterprises existed but all the did was to work on a government  contracts.  State bureaucracies decided what to produce and how much.  In Western Europe circa late 20-th century the model in some industries (not everywhere) was something in between Soviet and Nazi  model – closer to Nazi than to Soviet style.

      I think piling up the terms like Socialism and Communism on regular folks is confusing – if you gonna distinguish these two and ask most of the people in America – the ones who said that they are for Socialism would for sure say that they are absolutely against Communism! Of course this is my subjective opinion.  The problem with this approach is in something that you have already pointed out.  One leads to another and Communism does not exist without Totalitarian Dictatorship.

      All these talks about how the Socialism was badly implemented in Soviet Union or Cambodia and the real Socialism is much better – is complete crap! Mostly spread among university professors who stay in the schools as living proof of saying “Those who cannot work – teach!” The implementation of the socialism in Soviet Union was the exactly  matching the idea of man being able to control all aspects of production, distribution and consumption without corruption and bloodshed and millions of dead and tortured.
      People advocating for socialism do not understand that this system incredibly attracts those type of semi-humans who turn themselves into the tyrants and feed upon the blood of millions under them. All these lenins, stalins, maos, pol pots and others will come out of the woodwork the moment the system becomes susceptable to the socialism/communism. This is human nature that the social theoreticians always ignore. They always refer to people as masses ignoring individual thoughts, talents dreams, and aspirations and lumping them all together. When you are dealing with the masses instead of groupof individuals – it’s much easier to slice and dice that mass – make it look like almost scientific experiment and not what it really is – butchering and slautering people.

      The basis for the all these horrible social experiments I see in the complete Godlessness that most of those regimes exibited. The idea of building paradise on earth withe Man as as the center of the Universe always leads to these tyranical socialist/communist heavens where half of the society is  sacrificed in order for the remaining half to live through and realize that the only way they can achieve the fairness and equality is to be equally poor and miserable. So as long as your neighbor is in the same $#@thole as you – you are happy. Churchille said that Capitalism is unequal distribution of wealth and Communism (read Socialsm) is the equal distribution of povetry. You cannot multiply by dividing – you cannot multiply wealth by dividing it between everybody.

    • Though you constantly dismiss this, I think you need to think about the impact of having an interventionist foreign policy, with all the power centralized to the executive in the last sixty, especially last eight years, and ask what that says about individual freedom.  There seems to be a sense from some of you that centralized power and less liberty is OK in some instances, but bad in others.   You do not get a major world power like that of the US and maintain true liberty.  Massive power on the international scene means you’ll also have an interventionist domestic policy.

      • Such vague generalities and empty rhetoric, Scott, and about your own field of international politics.

        The U.S. plays a very important and distinct role in the world, and that role is not particularly “interventionist” because the stability created by the role mitigates the need for intervention.

        The U.S. is the status quo superpower and the guarantor of strategic peace. That means that it will act to restore serious breaches of the status quo within the sovereign state system, a service for which the need has been remarkably rare since the U.S. began performing it, and as the guarantor of strategic peace the U.S. holds the trump card in strategic weaponry in all the big theatres. The U.S. is the guarantor of Europe via NATO and of the Pacific Rim, less formally, but with individual ties with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan. We also now have a building strategic partnership with India. Africa and South America are not currently strategic problems, which leaves the depleted Russians, the worrisome Chinese, and of course, the most unstable region in the world, the Middle East. The current situation with Pakistan (which combines the Muslim agonies of the Middle East with those of the Indian subcontinent) has a level of uncertainty to it that probably makes it the single most troublesome state in the sovereign state system.

        We are involved militarily in two minor but important wars, both of them of the long counter-insurgency type, in Iraq and Afghanistan. What we have learned in our successful prosecution of the minor war in Iraq is probably the most significant set of military lessons with concomitant tactical development since Vietnam and perhaps since WWII. We have one certifiable military genius in the tradition of Grant, Eisenhower and Marshall in David Petraeus, whose work in Iraq should be mastered by every aspiring general entering West Point.

        Congress, of course, plays a heavy role in our international policies, since it pays for them, though it is constitutionally the President’s job to make the actual policy, which is a good responsibility for the office.

        The U.S. has done an excellent job in this role and helped make the world more prosperous by keeping it in a relatively peaceful state during a great time of development. What a shame that Europe has entered its senescence, and won’t be identifiable as itself for too much longer. I guess having its security provided by the U.S. for 60 years has shown the disadvantages of an adult child living at home with his parents, as VDH has put it.

    • Socialism was only intended as a step to pure communism, which as envisioned by Lenin was actually -at the end of all the transformation – intended to be stateless.  Of course it didn’t quite work out that way.

  • Typical of Erb. The whole article is about Socialism vs. Capitalism and he never used the word Socialism once, just skipped right to Communism.

    How about using the example of post WWII UK instead of Cambodia, etc.? Of course that example, without all the murders, wars, secret police, etc. might be a little more realistic and plausible to the sudents, and we wouldn’t actually want to discourage the younguns from actually liking Socialism and thinking it would work, would we?

    • Good point about the UK. The tragedy there, interrupted for a decade or two by Thatcher, is in many ways worse than what happened in Cambodia.

      Do I have to explain that?

      O.K., think of the greatness of the U.K. and the Brits, now reduced to a dissolute, whiney, social services off ramp.

      I’ll say it again: Europe is in its death throes and as its last act it desperately wants to drag America down into death with it, like the suicidal mother who believes her children must die along with her.

      Obama is here to arrange it.

    • Totally agree. People do not remember that in the seventies in UK they had nationalized everything including Electric power production.  So  for several years they had rolling blackouts – no electric power after 9 pm in many rural areas and London as well.

      That’s what socialist system does. The very first thing they do is get rid of the competition. Why would state support several producers when they can deal with just one. After all, it’s wasting of the government’s (people’s) funds.  The next you know – the designated monopolist drops all quality standards – why bother?  They have multi-year contract anyway! An of course you immediately get shortages of everything! It is impossible to foresee the exact demand and over-production is always synonym for waste so goods and services are under-produced and delivered! It’s that simple!

      Just ask anybody who lived under or experienced socialism/communism in person. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure this thing out. Yet we are constantly fed with this garbage through most of the media how terrible Capitalism is and how great the alternative (read Socialism/Communism could be)

      Oh and one more thing – guns. If you are pro 2nd amendment – you will be happy to know that the first thing the will do is will take your guns away! They always did. In Russia, Germany, Cambodia,  China… but this is a different topic.

  • You know, it’s kind of sickening actually.

    After all, we have ALL SORTS of evidence just floating around that socialism is a wild success /sarcasm

    In the meantime, the people who said capitalism wasn’t better than socialism answered the pollsters question, and then went back to playing with their Ipods while watching TV or surfing the net, or texting their friends about where they wanted to meet up for some after-dinner drinks.  Nope, no evidence that capitalism works, none at all.

  • “Question: In the intervening months, what system and what players has the Obama administration demonized?
    Answer: Capitalism and capitalists.
    Gee, I wonder why?”

    Why, because he’s a Socialist-Marxist-Communist-Nazi-fascist-Community Organizer…whatever you want to call the breed, they’re all the same to me, so why don’t we just give them one classification, Anti-individualists, because that’s what they are. They just can’t stand the threat of those who are comfortable taking care of themselves.  It’s a job security issue perpetrated by the lie of their advanced education.

     

  • I suspect that the right wing is partly to blame for socialism’s relative popularity  (or at least uncertainty about capitalism).  Obama is popular and he keeps getting called ‘socialist’ by the right.  So a lot of people conclude, gee, if Obama is socialist and I like Obama, then socialism might not be so bad.  Of course, Obama isn’t socialist, he’s just a pragmatic left of center President.  But the left demonized Bush, so you guys have a pass to go overboard against Obama.

    • the left demonized Bush

      Like calling his policies imperialistic? I can’t seem to remember…did anyone around here repeatedly make that claim?

      Don’t start your moral preening around here, Erb. Everyone knows you too well.

      • Even neo-conservatives realized that our policies were  a kind of imperialism, and many of them embraced the term.  So that’s not demonization or just the left, that was across the board description of the policies (including policies under Clinton — Albright’s desire for NATO as a world cop, etc.)

        • Even neo-conservatives realized that our policies were a kind of imperialism, and many of them embraced the term. And no, I don’t have to find any links to back that up. I decree it.

          So that’s not demonization or just the left, that was across the board description of the policies (including policies under Clinton — Albright’s desire for NATO as a world cop, etc.) Now you dense righties may object that the dictionary defines imperialism as “the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies” and claim that driving out a dictator and then giving a country back to its people doesn’t remotely resemble that, but that’s just because you don’t really understand post-modernism (as I’ve told you many times before).

          See, post-modernism says that if we strongly feel that a word means something, then it does. It’s the same deal with “fascist” which I was using earlier this week. It means “something I don’t like associated with the right.” I decree it, and any dreary old dictionary definition is beside the point. Especially if I can point out one or two useful idiots on the right who agree with we vast legions of wise leftists.

          Likewise, we wise leftists have transformed the meaning of “imperialism” to “foreign actions we don’t like” and your stodgy old dictionary will avail you not. For we are wise leftists with magical godlike powers of political science, including the power to redefine words any time we want and make those meanings stick through our control of the media. Suck on it, righties.

          So using the term “imperialism” is in no way demonizing anyone. Especially because we post-modern wise leftists have redefined “demonizing” to mean either “the left’s justifiable and totally acceptable hatred of Bush” or “irrational attacks on leftists from those thick righties.”

          There. Now aren’t you happy I came over and dedicated my valuable time to educating you dense righties on these matters? And I did not either do it because I’m a narcissist who can’t resist posting here to boost my own internal self-worth!!! Stop saying that! I’m not the one with psychological problems!! That’s the ex-military basket cases that are front page posters here!!! DON’T YOU GET IT???!?!??!!?!?! NOW STOP SAYING THAT!!!!!!

    • “getting called socialist” by the right.

      And if you were doing a decent job of explaining socialism, the kids would understand it’s NOT a compliment to say he’s a socialist.

      That which as been demonstrated.

  • “And today class, let’s talk about how evil Communism is, and how Capitalism can lead to inequities in which everyone doesn’t get their fair share.  You all probably remember how your mother told you that sharing was always the nice thing to do, right? ”

    Today’s Lessons in the Poly Sci classes at the UofM Farmington will be identical to all preceding classes. 

    NO!  Wait!  Strike that.  Today we’ll be discussing the POLL as evidence that the great Professor is right about socialism.

  • Found your little blurb via NYT and very quickly I wanted to pop over and say I strongly disagree. You sound like my parents and many others from that generation who have been victims of the hegemony of Capitalism. You draw connection between Communism and Socialism which are misleading and false. I am over 30, your magic number for having gained ‘wisdom’ and I can say with out a doubt that the socialism in Europe is by far a better system than the capitalist system in the US. Especially here in Sweden where I have lived for several years. I can’t imagine ever going back to the US now that I have experienced the difference. Sweden puts the US to shame. Punkt Slut.

    • The “hegemony of Capitalism” … love that, just love it.

      Look, there are those who flourish in a system which requires one take risks and reap the rewards and there are those who prefer to live as risk-free a life as possible and let the state take care of them. You chose the latter. That’s hardly an indictment of capitalism, but more an indication of your chosen lifestyle. Obviously you wouldn’t flourish here – it requires drive, initiative, risk-taking, and a willingness to work hard to fulfill your dreams.

      If you like Sweden then I can’t imagine you ever coming back here either – which, interestingly, turns out to be a plus for us.

    • I am over 30, your magic number for having gained ‘wisdom’ and I can say with out a doubt that the socialism in Europe is by far a better system than the capitalist system in the US.

      There’s an old Churchill quote that distills down the argument pretty well. (It actually predates Churchill, but it’s usually attributed to him.) The most common version goes something like this:

      Any man who is not a socialist at age 20 has no heart.
      Any man who is still a socialist at age 40 has no head.

      So hang on a while, and see if you still feel that way. You’ve still got a few decades left to see the light, and at the rate Europe is deteriorating financially under their welfare states, you might not have too many years to wait.  Another old saw might apply to you someday: “A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.” (Though we’re more libertarian than conservative around here.)

      By the way, I’ve been to Sweden. Stockholm is one of the most run-down major cities I’ve ever visited, especially for one that is the capital of a supposedly successful socialist welfare state.

      • Footnote to that: I knew that he had been a Leftist when he was younger, but Thomas Sowell wrote the other day that he was a Marxist through his 20s, which is pretty amusing given the depth and scope of his understanding and advocacy of markets today (he’s now about 78).

        I guess one of the advantages of being a Marxist when you’re young is that you can make it through a university without being harassed or beaten down by the professariat. Of course, there’s always a danger that you won’t recover and you’ll stay that way.

        I was most fortunate to have never been a Marxist, per se, but anyone who understands the 1960s and 70s knows that all you had to do back then was breathe the air, especially around a university, and your lungs would be filled with both economic and cultural Marxist premises. The New Left successfully finished the transformation of American liberalism along Marxist lines, and you see that today, in Pelosi, Obama, Barney Frank et al.

        That’s why I say to never, ever allow the Left to lay the premises for a debate. Never. Ever. Sometimes it happens implicitly, as a precipitate from the media and the air around us, but those premises must be dug out of the flesh of any argument that moves forward on them.

        • …Thomas Sowell wrote the other day that he was a Marxist through his 20s, which is pretty amusing given the depth and scope of his understanding and advocacy of markets today …

          Like you, I never went through that phase, probably because (1) I read a lot of Heinlein as a teenager, and (2) I’ve had an individualist streak and an extreme aversion to being pushed around all my life.

          But here’s a comparison that may explain Sowell. Willie Mays was one of the best baseball players who ever lived, but he wasn’t a very good coach. He could not articulate how to play good baseball. He just did it.

          Some of the best coaches were those who got where they did because of figuring out how baseball worked instead of relying on talent. They could explain it well because they had to figure out for themselves how it all worked.

          I think of Sowell as being a bit like that. He went through a phase where he had to figure out capitalism vs. socialism purely intellectually to shuck off his younger emotional attraction to socialism. So, having gone through that process he can explain exactly how to think about it.

  • “…not to mention having not yet completly traded their utopian fantasies for the best practical system which has been shown to work” (sic)
    - presupposing the “best practical system” is US-style capitalism – what about European market socialism, which one could argue functions much better??

    “As for those over 40 being so strongly for capitalism, most of them remember the old USSR and how well socialism worked there.”
    - The USSR was communist, not socialist.

    The blog entry is just rife with inaccuracies and half-truths.

    Your condescension for those under 30 is laughable considering the  mindless drivel posted here.

    Tja, die Amis …

    • Social – isms are always transient states of affairs once governments adopt authority. Then, they never stop growing and taking from the individual. The ultimate end is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s a matter of how clearly and rationally you think. Some younger people are able to flush the academia induced garbage quicker than others.

    • How does “European market socialism” function “much better” when it is clear that Europe has suffered worse in this recession than the US? And, of course, then there’s the standard of living, isn’t there?

      I’m always amused by those who beam in and claim “the blog is just rife with inaccurracies and half-truths” and then provide nothing to back the assertion. Be advised, however, that claiming the “USSR was communist, not socialist” will earn a horse-laugh and dial your credibility to zero.

      As for the alleged condescension, how about providing some examples of the under 30 crowd’s supposed understanding of the power of capitalism v. socialism. If you have a better explanation for a grouping as it was outlined in the survey, provide it. Waving off the explanation, however, isn’t much of an argument.

      Thanks for stopping by …

  • How does “European market socialism” function “much better” when it is clear that Europe has suffered worse in this recession than the US?

    Hah.  Come one now, Bruce. 

    European markets are being hit by a recession with clear origins in the doldrums of our own anti-regulation financial markets, our own untethered capitalist greed.  It’s a pretty weak claim to insist that European “socialism” functions more poorly because it is more susceptible to exogenous shocks induced by the market failures associated with a large, more free-market capitalist economy.  “European ‘socialism’ is weaker than capitalism because when large capitalist economies utterly crash due to endemic market failures, the European socialist economies suffer more than the capitalist systems.”  Nice, well-considered logic.

    Aren’t you supposed to be the “wise” old fart of these parts?  For someone who so decries the possession of “no wisdom” by my generation, you seem to suffer from a severe dearth of it yourself.  Maybe your egregious reliance on thinly veiled rhetorical fallacies has dimmed your supposedly incisive ability to properly “understand” these issues.  Or maybe you’re just getting a little too old and the cobwebs ‘up-there’ are stifling any form of analytical thought not indelibly bound to your dogmatic alliance to free-markets?

    Cheers,

    -Youthful Naïveté

    • Heh – always fun being lectured on “logic” by someone who begins the lecture based on false premises like these:

      European markets are being hit by a recession with clear origins in the doldrums of our own anti-regulation financial markets, our own untethered capitalist greed

      and:

      “European ’socialism’ is weaker than capitalism because when large capitalist economies utterly crash due to endemic market failures, the European socialist economies suffer more than the capitalist systems.” Nice, well-considered logic.

      False premise one – the financial markets (both in the US and Europe) are unregulated and that’s what led to this problem. That’s simply laughable on its face. Financial systems are the most highly regulated markets on the face of the earth and have been for decades. To pretend this situation is the result of a lack of regulation defies both logic and reality and points to someone with at best a superficial understanding of what has happened. You might be able to make the case that the regulation was in some cases poor, but to pretend “lack of regulation” was key is simply absurd. Such a claim also ignores the fact that government actually incentivized the behavior which brought this financial situation about. Of course, ignoring that is key to the false premise you are pushing here.

      That leads to false premise two and a common rhetorical practice of those without an argument but who can’t resist the urge to comment – because I don’t accept what is obviously not true, my logic is suspect.

      By the way Nick, I noticed your attempt to wave away the point I made by instead questioning my logic – i.e. that the European nations have suffered more than the more capitalistic US. That’s simply true, you’re hand-waving avoidance notwithstanding. I take it you have no answer for that?

      Finally, I particularly enjoyed this:

      Aren’t you supposed to be the “wise” old fart of these parts? For someone who so decries the possession of “no wisdom” by my generation, you seem to suffer from a severe dearth of it yourself. Maybe your egregious reliance on thinly veiled rhetorical fallacies has dimmed your supposedly incisive ability to properly “understand” these issues. Or maybe you’re just getting a little too old and the cobwebs ‘up-there’ are stifling any form of analytical thought not indelibly bound to your dogmatic alliance to free-markets?

      Thank you Nick, for (inadvertently I’m sure) making the point of the post. If ignorance is bliss, you must be among the happiest of people.

  • I too linked over here from the NYTimes article and read through the thread.

    It seems like we get caught up in rhetoric and finger pointing too much over terms, phrases, and what we believe we know of another person’s ideology —  it seems to be counter-productive.

    There are lessons to be learned historically from each attempt at various organizational systems, and we should recognize that the absolute application of any one ideological system will still be no panacea.  Our systems, like everything else in the world, are evolutionary and riddled with successes and failures — sometimes a previously successful trait will cause you to fail depending on the dynamics of the moment, and sometimes the opposite.  

    I think we should take cues from Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”, that no matter what the circumstance, we should work tirelessly on bettering ourselves individually, but while realizing our responsibilities to one another as social beings.  “Capitalism” or “Socialism” or “Social Democracy” is relative and besides the point.  We should instead be continually working towards a circumstance that realizes the need for individual growth and social responsibility.

    • All true to a point, but capitalism isn’t a “ideological system” even though there are those who would like to label it as such. It is, instead, the basis of what has been characterized as a system of spontaneous self-organization. A study of trade through the ages displays capitalism at its most basic – a practical system that works and has worked for ages. And, to your point, it has, for the most part, been individuals ‘working tirelessly on bettering” themselves which have made the system work.

      But understanding that seems to be an exception rather then the rule, with polls like the above a consequence of that fact.

      • Well, first, we probably shouldn’t use “capitalism” and “markets” interchangeably.  I know you probably understand the difference, but I just wanted to emphasize that they indeed are different.  Capitalism as a system hasn’t been around all that long, but of course markets and trade have existed in some form or another since ancient times.

        In terms of whether or not it can be considered an ideological system, I guess it’s probably a grey area.  OED defines ideology as “1) a system of ideas and ideals forming the basis of an economic or political theory. 2) the set of beliefs characteristic of a social group or individual”.  At the very least the implementation of Capitalism is certainly ideological, but in the end deciding whether it is an ideology or not we probably could agree is a somewhat trivial cause.

        In terms of bettering oneself, I think it’s clear that Marcus Aurelius is mainly speaking in regards to the individual’s internal “self”, and views the pursuit of the amassment of wealth in and of itself ultimately misguided.  That’s not to say that physical work and production isn’t important, it definitely is, but should be done with the intention of the betterment of ones community and society rather than the goal of excessive material gains.

        • “In terms of bettering oneself, I think it’s clear that Marcus Aurelius is mainly speaking in regards to the individual’s internal “self”, and views the pursuit of the amassment of wealth in and of itself ultimately misguided.  That’s not to say that physical work and production isn’t important, it definitely is, but should be done with the intention of the betterment of ones community and society rather than the goal of excessive material gains.”

          Great, come and mow my yard for free, you’ll be a better man for it.
          Twice a month on Wednesdays will be fine.  

        • Capitalism as a system? That suggests something which has been imposed by man. What part of “spontaneous order” don’t you understand (see Frederick Hayek)? It isn’t a man-made system like socialism (in the sense that it is the result of a man-made theory put to work), but one that has been the natural “system” of free trade for centuries, one that evolved rather than being imposed. Some “systems” are cobbled together by man. Others are discovered (or acknowledged). I assume you can work out the inherent weakness in the former.

          Additionally, the fact that certain ideologies or ideologues choose to adopt the word as theirs doesn’t make what they espouse or claim to be “capitalism” any more than calling a dog’s tail a leg make it a leg.

          While the OED definition is interesting, it too misses the point by assuming capitalism, like socialism, is a product of man’s construction. Obviously capitalism’s reach can be enhanced by man through the recognition of its power to help “the many” and protection of fundamental rights that enable that process. The founders of this country understood that government’s job is to protect those rights, protect its citizens from force and fraud and otherwise get out of the way. They also understood how markets work, something apparently isn’t well understood by most.

          As for Marcus Aurelius’ thrust, the internal self is bettered by helping one’s self (and family) materially and anyone who doesn’t understand that has a very narrow definition of self-help. Doing so also has the added benefit of, if a person is successful, of providing the means and opportunity for others to better themselves as well.

          Capitalism has provided the platform which enables that sort of betterment for centuries. And that sort of betterment provides benefits for both the community and the society which enables capitalism’s power and protects fundamental individual rights as well. Poor societies rarely focus on developing the arts, philosophy or music since they have much more basic needs to satisfy. And totalitarian societies rarely have the time or interest (unless the arts can be bent to the service of the state which, sa you might imagine, has a tendency to kill any individualism or real creativity).

          Capitalism doesn’t require one to amass wealth simply for the purpose of amassing it. It makes no sense, conceptually, in terms of what capitalism is about. But it is something those who oppose it seem to enjoy trying to impose on it as a failing. And even if that is what some do, unless you think those who do amass wealth keep it in coffee cans buried in their backyard, that wealth is at work, through investments, creating opportunities for others.

          • (Key)

            “Capitalism has provided the platform which enables that sort of betterment for centuries. And that sort of betterment provides benefits for both the community and the society which enables capitalism’s power and protects fundamental individual rights as well. Poor societies rarely focus on developing the arts, philosophy or music since they have much more basic needs to satisfy. And totalitarian societies rarely have the time or interest (unless the arts can be bent to the service of the state which, sa you might imagine, has a tendency to kill any individualism or real creativity).”

            In a word, Opportunity.

          • Well, yes, Hayek thought that the free price system was of spontaneous order, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that Capitalism is as well.  Again, there is a difference between markets and Capitalism.  Capitalism describes where wealth is held and where that wealth is created, that’s all.  Yes, we’ve had markets forever, but throughout history there have been quite a lot of ways of organizing and creating wealth, Capitalism just describes one of those distinctions.

            The OED definition I supplied has nothing to do with Capitalism, it’s just the definition of “ideology”.

            And by no means am I suggesting that everyone just go work for each other for free.  That’d just be crazy.  Nor am I saying that being wealthy is inherently evil — of course it isn’t.  But what I am saying is that no matter what system we have — whatever we want to call it — we should focus on improving our individual self, with the recognition that we also have a responsibility to our society and community.  It’s the view that our world is an ever-evolving dynamic system on all levels, and the implications that that realization has for how to conduct oneself as a social individual — with a major one being that we shouldn’t subscribe to inflexible world views no matter what their form.  Everything needs room to breath. 

          • Hayek thought much more than a “free price system” was spontaneous and he wrote copiously about the phenomenon.

            Capitalism describes where wealth is held and where that wealth is created, that’s all.

            Actually no, that’s not all, and that was my point.

            The OED definition I supplied has nothing to do with Capitalism, it’s just the definition of “ideology”.

            Heh … I couldn’t have said it better myself.

            But what I am saying is that no matter what system we have — whatever we want to call it — we should focus on improving our individual self, with the recognition that we also have a responsibility to our society and community.

            Not really – we have no inherent duty or responsibility to anyone but ourselves and those with whom we choose to freely associate and interact. Societies and communities are merely constructions and outgrowths of those choices (and, back to Hayek, spontaneous creations which are tailored to the needs and choices of the individuals who make it up). The most dangerous societies in history claimed their citizens had a responsibility to “society and community”, aka, the state.

            In a free society, what we choose to invest in our society and community should be done via choice and free will, not some imposed universal “responsibility” others decide we “owe” and enforced through the power of the state.

  • I don’t view society and the community to be one and the same as “the state”, and do believe one of the ultimate goals is an open, stateless system.  But again, my original intention was to say we’re ill-served by a deterioration into quarreling over the fine details of what is and what isn’t the term for what we’re discussing, it’s just counter productive (and is what has happened yet again to this thread).  

    All I’m saying is we should recognize that we’re part of a larger system, which ultimately just means act responsibly and don’t fuck it up for everyone else because of our self-centered interests.

  • I don’t view society and the community to be one and the same as “the state”, and do believe one of the ultimate goals is an open, stateless system.  But again, my original intention was to say we’re ill-served by a deterioration into quarreling over the fine details of what is and what isn’t the term for what we’re discussing, it’s just counter productive (and is what has happened yet again to this thread).  

    All I’m saying is we should recognize that we’re part of a larger system, which ultimately just means act responsibly and don’t mess it up for everyone else because of our self-centered interests.

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