Communism and Capitalism by Thomas O’Malley
The 20th century saw a serious challenge posed to the free market system in the form of communism, an ideology which proved to be the most bloodthirsty in history. Communism is rightfully seen today by the vast majority of Americans as a terrible ideology and economic system. But it still has its defenders, who make several common arguments in favor of communism and against capitalism. The following is an attempt to disprove some of those arguments. First I will define what I mean by “communism” and “capitalism”. By “communism” I am referring to the Marxist-Leninist variety which was the governing system of Russia, China, and other communist states of the 20th century. By “capitalism” I am referring to the free market system. The term “capitalism” was created by Marx and Engels as a pejorative to describe the free market system, however I am using capitalism because both defenders and critics of the free market have come to refer to it as such. Some might argue that I shouldn’t compare an ideology (communism) to something that isn’t an ideology (capitalism). However, I am doing this to demonstrate that the free market is superior to communism because it is built on human nature and not abstract ideology. Some might also argue that this article is simplistic and uses straw-men and no citations. However, the point of this article is to refute and debunk communist arguments in the simplest terms possible. If you ever have the misfortune to find yourself in an argument with a communist, you can use the arguments found in this article off the top of your head.
One argument is that capitalism has caused more deaths than communism, because of wars, famines, slavery, and genocides that have occurred under capitalism. This is not true, and it is inaccurate to say that anyone has died as a result of capitalism. Capitalism is merely an economic system, whereas communism is both an economic system and an ideology. Capitalism is not an ideology. Capitalism, or an economy based on the free market and free enterprise, has existed since time immemorial. People have always exchanged their labor for goods and services, or money to buy those goods and services. Those who are said to have died because of communism died because of what followers of that ideology did while trying to implement it. No famine has ever been caused by capitalists trying to impose their ideology on a country. In contrast, the Great Chinese Famine of 1959 to 1961 would not have occurred without the communist government trying to put into effect its ideology. The tens of millions of people who died as a result of that famine would not have died otherwise.
Capitalism and communism are completely different creatures. Capitalism can exist strictly consensually. Communism relies on the whole owning the production of others, and therefore necessarily requires force to be implemented. Communism is inherently violent, because the only way to bring it about is through violent revolution. Most communist thinkers, including Marx himself, believed this. Most communist rulers have believed this as well. Lenin said, “not a single problem of the class struggle has ever been solved in history except by violence.” Mao said it didn’t matter if half the world died in a nuclear war, because the whole world would become communist afterwards. There are many examples of communist terrorist groups, such as the Red Guards, Black Panthers, Weathermen, and more recently Antifa. In contrast, there has never been a capitalist terrorist group. No one has committed acts of terror for the free market. No one has ever hurled a bomb in the name of Adam Smith. It is true that some capitalists have been violent, and that some capitalist states have practiced violence. However, this violence was not motivated by a desire to spread capitalism, but for other reasons. Violence is not inherent to capitalism, as it is to communism.
Another argument is that communism does indeed have flaws but is still superior to capitalism. Some point out that there was no unemployment and no homelessness in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc under communism. Perhaps, but under what conditions? They contrast that to poverty in the United States and other capitalist countries. However, Americans who live in poverty have a higher standard of living than most people in the world. Many communists compare modern prisons in the United States to the Soviet gulags. However, prisoners in the United States are in jail because they committed crimes which warranted their arrest and imprisonment, whereas prisoners in the Soviet gulags were put there because they were political dissidents. They further argue that concentration camps have existed in capitalist states as well as communist ones. However, almost all communist states have had concentration camps of some kind, whereas only some capitalist states did. Repression is a bug in capitalist societies, and a feature of communist ones.
When warning of false prophets, Christ said “by their fruits you shall know them.” Setting all else aside, let us look at the fruits of communism and capitalism, and judge them accordingly. The greatest argument for capitalism and against communism is to compare capitalist countries with communist ones. If communism is better than capitalism, why are capitalist countries almost always better places to live than communist countries? Why was West Germany a better place to live than East Germany? Why is South Korea a better place to live than North Korea? Why did so few people move from West to East Germany? Almost all migration was the other way around. Why did East Germany need to build a wall around West Berlin to keep their own people from leaving? Why do so few South Koreans defect to the North, and so many North Koreans defect to the South? Why even today are people from Mainland China so eager to move to Hong Kong and not vice versa? If the United States is such a terrible place to live because of capitalism, why have so many Cuban and Vietnamese boat people risked their lives to make it to our country? The answer to these questions is simple: because capitalism is superior to communism. One doesn’t need to be an expert on economics to know this, only to have common sense. Compare the track record of communism with that of capitalism. Capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system, and enabled great scientific and technological advances. Communism has been discredited since its collapse in 1989. It was seen to have been a disaster, and has been abandoned. Today only five countries in the world are officially communist, and China is communist in name only. It became prosperous after abandoning communism, embracing capitalism, and opening up trade with the West. Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, which have been capitalist for much longer than Mainland China, are much better places to live.
Lastly, many communists argue that true communism has never been tried, because there has never been a classless society where the workers own the means of production. That is true, however there have been numerous attempts to create such a society and they have all ended in catastrophic failure. If true communism has never been tried, and every attempt to implement it has ended in failure, maybe communism is a utopian pipe dream?