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13 Dec 2010
Capitalism vs Socialism: History and Predictions.
In Western Democracies there has always been a stigma about Socialism. Far too often it is
associated with Communism and the ideals behind it often disregarded before they are even
considered. In contrast, Capitalism has always been the blessed child of Democracy and Liberalism
and due to its promise of individual success it has always been accepted with wide open embraces.
Both Capitalism and Socialism are not just economic systems but they reflect ideologies of the people
they represent. Throughout history we have been plagued by various economic and natural disasters
and each of these two systems has been affected. Both systems have dealt with different crises in
their own way, and it would make in interesting comparison how each situation was dealt with. This of
course refers to the fall of the Stock Market in 1929 and the Ukrainian famine. In order to successfully
compare and analyze these two systems one has to do it from a perspective of someone who has
lived in both systems. It is fairly easy to theorize and analyze, but one has to be affected by both
systems, both physically and intellectually, to judge and predict on the topic at hand. Both systems
have their advantages, while Socialism has many advocates among scholars, intellectuals and
academics, Capitalism also has many supporters. Some of these supporters are entrepreneurs,
leaders and intellectuals as well. What separate us from animals are our values and our morals. We
are a society driven by excess, individual success and ultimately greed, we have swapped our values
for personal gain and this is a result of, mostly, Capitalist ideals. Socialism on the other hand is a
system driven by equality and although morally sound it is very unstable once put into practice. In
order to support this more needs to be said on each and one must come to a conclusion from the
information provided.
Socialism as a movement arose somewhere between 1825 and 1850. It was a response to
remarkable changes brought on by the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was an
extreme change in the life of a common worker in Britain. Britain as a Society was mostly agricultural
and somewhere between mid 18th and 19th century this changed. The number of factories suddenly
rose in urban Britain and as the demand for jobs was raised, more people moved away from the rural
areas. Technological advances directly influenced the Industrial rise; an example could be the
invention of steam power. Steam power paved the way for the rail and that in turn sped up the
transportation of goods, which in turn expanded the industry. This sudden change brought on a new
class of people. These people who had been up till then agricultural workers were now living in an
urban area and had nothing to live off except their labor. This sudden exodus of people from the rural
areas forced some families, which were living in same villages, to now crowd themselves in shacks,
which were built in slums. Very quickly the situation in the cities became dire. The cities became crime
havens, diseases reached epidemic levels and poverty among the working class was a fact. Socialism
was a response to these effects of Industrialization. Three main influences contributed to socialism:
the ideas of Robert Owen, the development of trade unions, and Chartism. These three movements
contributed to the rise of Socialism as a response to Capitalism, but the writings of Karl Marx and
Friedrich Engels were fundamental in establishing Socialism as a movement. Although their ideas
have been changed and argued for over a century, they represent the basis of Socialist thought. One
should keep in mind that not all Socialists are Marxists, Karl Marx presented a more extreme view of
what Socialism should be. Marx believed Socialism would eventually bring about the fall of
governments. He wrote that governments represent the means by which a dominant class exploits
another class. Marx also believed that competition for profit would mean that fewer and fewer people
would control the means of production and that an increasing number of people would be exploited.
The system (Capitalist) would in addition withhold resources, which would in turn bring on poverty.
This would eventually lead to revolution of the "proletariat" (Karl Marx). The working class would take
over the production until all needs have been satisfied and this would bring on the fall of the
government. Although the theory Marx predicted has not been fulfilled, some of his ideas influenced
non-Marxist Socialism. Compared to non-Marxist Socialism this may be viewed as revolutionary,
because the change would be sudden and extreme. Most Socialists believe that change is necessary
but should be done legally. This change should, for example, be done through proper channels, like
the parliament, and should not be forced upon the people if they do not wish so. History cannot
provide us with successful Socialist states, but learning how the biggest Socialist economies failed
can teach us what needs to be done to do it successfully the next time. Russia was the first state to be
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