Is it Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism, Totalitarianism? You tell me.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Read the blogs, the protest signs and there are proclamations for and against the forms of economics and governments in the title of this post. There are assertions and objections being made all the time. Do you really know what they mean? Here are the definitions according to Webster.

Totalitarianism - centralized control by an autocratic authority

Communism - a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics b : a totalitarian system of GOVERNMENT in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production

Fascism - 1 a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic GOVERNMENT headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

Socialism - 1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

Capitalsim - an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

Now let’s put those definitions to the test. I’m going to give you some political scenarios and you tell me what direction government and the economy are moving.

1. A loan from the government to a private company is used by the government executive to take majority ownership of companies in the auto, banking, and insurance industries.

2. Push for and establish regulations and laws to allow the executive of a government to seize control of any private financial institution it deems to be in danger of collapse

3. The executive of a government establishes authority to determine the wages of employees of a private company

4. The executive of a government establishes authority to fire employees of a private company

5. The executive of a government requests authority from the legislature of a government, to bring the IGs who provide oversight of the government executive, under the executives direct control

6. The executive of a government proposed that the supply and production of energy be set to a specified limit set by the executive

7. The executive of a government seeks to end the private market for student loans

8. The executive of a government promotes legislation that would allow the executive to determine the supply and production of health care to lower costs

9. The executive of a government uses money authorized to bail out financial institutions to nationalize the car industry

10. The executive of a government uses and establishes positions of power that answer directly to the executive

If you answered capitalism, wanted to answer capitalism, or tried to find a moral equivalent for why capitalism is like or worse than the government executive, then you are likely to be supporter of totalitarianism.

If you just learned that you support totalitarianism, then you probably have a Philosopher-King mentality. I’ve often referred to the Philosopher-King mentality in my posts. It comes from Plato’s Republic. Plato philosophized that the best form of government would be a philosopher-king system, where a single individual, with unlimited power would be in control of all aspects of government (this was the king side). That individual would be very intelligent, always put the needs of the people first, and would make nothing but rational decisions (the philosopher part). Doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Perhaps you feel this way about our current President. You believe him to have a superior intellect. You trust him. You are certain he has the people’s best interest in mind. You have no problem with him taking the helm of important issues in your life and you feel that you are better off for it. That’s your right and you might even be correct to do so.

The problem with Plato is that he never thought about the Philosopher-King in the long term. The truth of history and rulers is that for every great, kind, and self-less authoritarian there are thousands of horrible, selfish, and petty authoritarians. Any one ruler may achieve the impossible and bring about peace and prosperity for their nation. I won’t say it’s not possible, but I will ask, for how long? Who will take the mantle after? Just look at hypocritical republicans. Those that had faith to hand the keys of power to Bush now fear what that power means in the hands of Obama. Those that had faith to hand the keys of power to Obama will fear what that power means in the hands of Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin.

There is something interesting in the definitions of Communism and Fascism (socialism too, since Marx argues that it's simply the second stage before communism). They both have the tenants of totalitarian rule in them. I wonder why?

The history of the world is crystal clear that all forms of government save those based on individual liberty and free markets, lead to some form of totalitarianism. You are your own guardian of your rights and property. They do not require a government to fulfill them, just a government that cannot interfere with them. A government that cannot interfere with individual rights is one that is checked by individuals who are working to ensure that government stays within its limitations. By the way, for those of you confused and there are many of you. Individual freedom does not equal anarchy - 1 a : absence of government b : a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority c : a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government. If you need proof, go get a history book on the US.

22 comments

What a great post, you have material here that I will refer to in the future. And this is the slimmed down 1x a week Cgen???? I can tell that you have been exercising your mind in search of your MBA.

September 21, 2009 at 5:11 PM
Teresa said...

Awesome Post!!! Very interesting article!! I think Obama's ideology consists of fascism, communism, socialism, and totalitarianism all rolled into one. It seems like he take bits and pieces from each of these definitions.

September 21, 2009 at 8:53 PM
TAO said...

Your definitions are a little misleading and kind of all stacked in such a way that capitalism is the only alternative to everything else.

You need to view economic systems as feudalistic, capitalistic, socialistic, and communistic.

Then you need to view political systems as anarchy, totaltarianism/divine rule (which would also include fascism), oliarchy, and then democracy.

Communist Russia, was a fuedalistic totaltarian system. Most european countries are socialistic democracies and the United States would also fall into that category.

Nazi Germany was a fascistic state, with centralized economic control but with private ownership of the means of production and private property.

Marx believed that the Industrial Revolution was the beginning of the end for feudalism and the dawn of capitalism. He also believed that capitalism would create such extreme excess value that this in turn would lead to socialism.

As capitalism had no need for child labor then we had laws against child labor and public schools developed. When capitalism needed educated and trained workforce then we saw the rise of college student aid. The same holds true for social security, medicare, and medicad.

There is a natural assumption amongst conservatives that somehow the political system and the economic system are in conflict with each other but that is not and never has been the case. When the government broke up Standard Oil the company actually grew and the same thing holds true with AT&T.

The same argument could be made for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FDIC, and the Federal Reserve...all of which have allowed our financial system to grow and take risks, which in turn created economic growth.

Our whole history is one of cooperation between the economic and political system. Obama is not CHANGING our economic system from capitalism to socialism as the naive want to believe but rather he is just one of numerous Presidents who supported and promoted business interests in this country.

The real argument should be whether or not BUSINESS INTERESTS represents the best interests for future economic growth for the country as a whole.

But that is neither an issue of capitalism vs. socialism but rather one of whether our political system represents the interests of the citizens as individuals vs. the interests of corporations.

Plato argued for an organized and regimented society. Philosopher Kings were to be trained at birth to rule and lead (and there was to be a group) then you had those who were to be trained to be soldiers, and so on and so forth.

His idea for the Republic was based upon the distain that he had for 'democracy' as defined in Athens at the time over the death of Socrates.

If you look at the Supreme Court today you basically see a fine example of Plato's Philosopher Kings with the fact that over 60% graduated from the same University and 90% had the same career path to their positions.

September 21, 2009 at 10:20 PM
The Law said...

TAO pretty much nailed it, so I really have nothing to add except some over your examples obviously allude to the government takeover/restructuring of the banks and the car industry. The one simple fact that you omit (as do conservatives in general) is the government didn't take those companies over, those companies, at the time they failed, opted NOT to participate in capitalism. If the did, AIG, Chrysler, and GM would not exist today in all likelihood. All of those companies chose to accept money from the government that came chock full of stipulations and strings attached. Thus these companies benefited by choosing to bypass a capitalist death by appealing the the socialist democracy side of our government when asking for bailouts. All you have to do is look at Ford and Chevy who were doing just as bad, but decided against taking government money. They didn't want the strings and stipulation and the government played no part whatsoever in their operations.

Therefore any claim that Obama is a socialist or has socialist tendencies is a gross distortion of the truth. The notion that he could be a "philosopher-king" is quite an exaggeration, because he has wanted to bring the left and right to the table together all along. At least Eric Cantor recently stated on Good Morning America that Obama did leave the door open for talks in the healthcare bill for example. That is an important step, towards maximizing the potential of our democracy; all players must be involved.

If at any point Obama said "your company isn't working, I'm taking you over and there's nothing you could do about it, the conversation would be quite different.

September 22, 2009 at 4:05 AM
Teresa said...

THE LAW- Now, Obama is pushing for a government takeover of pretty much everything gradually. He expanded the takeover of car comapnies greatly. Obama may say that he has left the door open for talks but he hasn't listened to Republicans suggestions at all. Or as the words go in one ear, he lets the words go out the other ear. He is still pushing for his public option when a clear majority DON'T want it. And, everytime he talks the polls go lower. He needs to start from scratch and actually bring Republicans to the table right from the beginning instead of letting Harry Reid or Pelosi( the left) come up with the bill. He ran as a centrist so he needs to start acting like a centrist. Unless, he's followed suit and is a liar and covered up his true ideology during the election, which is what I suspect. He's no different than the rest of the Democrat politicians.

September 22, 2009 at 5:52 AM
TAO said...

In regards to healthcare, the Baucus Plan was developed by the "Gang of Six" three democrats and three republicans. But their who focus was not on healthcare as much as on economic advantage.

This whole healthcare debate started from the wrong premise because it did not start from an agreement of fundamental principles. We need to ask ourselves if we truly believe that healthcare is a right of all citizens.

Without a shared starting point then you have no chance of developing any sense of bi partisanship. Not one person ever asked the simple question: Do we, as a society, have an obiligation to provide medical/health treatment to all members of society?

Of course I realize that by starting at that point then you have to reaffirm out commitment to Medicare, Medicad, and Social Security. But we are also going to have to deal with those programs very shortly so why not throw them all in the pot and ask ourselves what are our responsibilities as members of a civil society?

But rather than ask the true basic questions, we just turn everything into some argument over sound bites and terms.

Do we as a country have an obiligation to take care of our elderly, our infirm, our poor, and our young? As a country do we have an obiligation to export democracy to other countries and people? As a country are we under any obiligation to defend other countries from the threat of communism?

We want to gripe about Obama, socialism, and all of the other popular issues of the day, and just a few short months ago it was all about nation building, war on terror, and freedoms of people in other countries...

So we end up with eight years of one side vilifying the other for being empire builders and then we spend eight years with the other side accusing its opponent of being socialists...

The whole time the focus is actually on keeping one side from achieving anything in fear that that could strengthen them in elections. Thus, our whole political process is not about governing or leadership but rather all about winning...for obviously nothing more than the sake of winning.

September 22, 2009 at 7:36 AM
The Law said...

TAO said: This whole healthcare debate started from the wrong premise because it did not start from an agreement of fundamental principles. We need to ask ourselves if we truly believe that healthcare is a right of all citizens.

ding ding ding!!! that is the correct answer! I've said this all along, our constant failure to treat the symptoms, not the disease is the problem with almost every debate we have in America. There is no way to come to a consensus if we're not even having the same argument. And even if we have to debate to determine what the goals for a plan could/should be, then political posturing and name calling slows the process down to a snail's pace. I have not seen one conservative blogger, journalist, or otherwise, clearly articulate what reform looks like. If we are trying to make real progress on healthcare, this is a problem.

September 22, 2009 at 2:09 PM

sheer brilliance ty! been busy..tryin to catch up!:)

September 22, 2009 at 2:17 PM
The Law said...

@Teresa, He expanded the takeover of car companies greatly.

Please explain how he did this. Or better yet, please allow me to ask you a question. Let's say we're best friends. Having having a tough time financially because I didn't spend my money responsibly. I'm a habitual gambler, video game addict, I skip work often, and I would rather buy a 50" TV than pay my bills. But we are best friends, so I ask to borrow money from you, let's say $5000 to pay my bills, and get my life back on track. Do you give me that money unconditionally? Or do you ask that you give me a large sum of money on the condition I a)kick the gambling habit, pay my bills, find a job, and repay you within 3 years?

If you didn't chose the latter option, well, God bless your soul. But most people do, otherwise Judge Judy wouldn't have many cases to decide.

I could just as well say, you know, thanks, but no thanks. I'm not going to take your money. I got myself in this mess and I'll get my self out. If I choose this path, I owe you nothing, and you'd have no right to interfere with my business.

But I do accept your money, you have every right to be involved with my decision making process because it is your money. Because if I loan you money, and I spend it in a way that violates our verbal contract, I will indeed lose the case if you sue me.

Back to politics, the "takeover" of the auto industry is exactly the same. We made the mistake of giving the banks a boatload of money without oversight and they blew it and asked for more. Takeover is really the wrong word too, because the company was not commandeered. All GM and Chrysler had to do was say, I don't want your money and file for bankruptcy which would've allowed them to restructure independent of the government. The government was simply you in my scenario above, offering to help on the condition that certain criterion were met.

September 22, 2009 at 2:23 PM
Teresa said...

@The Law

First, originally Obama would not accept a deal that the car comapanies agreed to on the so called premise that it would hurt the unions. The President caved into the unions demands in order to keep them as Democrat voters. Obama pressured the GM CEO to resign also. And then, at least one car company ended up filing bankruptcy anyway. If the car companies hadn't been more than willing to file bankruptcy then I would agree with you, but they were in some sense strongarmed by the White House not to go that route in the beginning due to the influence of the unions.

Your right. The car companies must accept responsibility for their actions and follow certain rules. That same principle should apply to people as well. If there are certain strings attached to obtaining the money then the person must be willing to abide by them in order to receive the money. But, a friend or family member is different. There should be much more flexibility.
Yes, the government after any company files bankruptcy has the responsibility and obligation to oversee how the company handles the money, at least for a period of time. Does every company who files for bankruptcy have the White House looking over there shoulder? Most likely the government, but not specifically the White House. So, in that sense I believe that the White House did overstep its bounds.

September 22, 2009 at 3:45 PM
The Law said...

Does every company who files for bankruptcy have the White House looking over there shoulder? Most likely the government, but not specifically the White House. So, in that sense I believe that the White House did overstep its bounds.

And here's the crucial point to be made here. If GM and Chrysler asked for money once, and the White House pressured them, I think your point is well taken. But they asked for more, and more, and more. They asked the White House. If after the first round GM said, you know, thanks for the help, we'll pay you back, but we'll figure this out on our own, that would be the end of it. They didn't, and let the gov't get deeper into their affairs which include the firing of the GM CEO and the UAW thing (both situations I am on the record for disagreeing with).

CGen coudl do a great job of explaining th details, but there is definitely a format to filing bankruptcy in which you have benchmarks to meet at a prescribed time. The reason GM and Chrysler didn't do that was because they wanted to protect their (which ironically became damaged anyway). My overall point is we can't scream socialism when it was indeed the car companies, not the government, that abandoned capitalism in favor of government assistance in order to keep the auto industry solvent.

September 22, 2009 at 4:20 PM
Teresa said...

I don't necessarily think that the government imposing penalties and oversight etc. on the car companies is an example of socialism by itself. But the fact that he has chosen to encroach on certain freedoms afforded to us by the constitution, is what I would classify as a combination of a lesser form of fascism and with communism. But, even that is just a guess based on how I see the Obama administration with the way they handle the opposition and in other areas of our society. Example- asking for fishy information and the White House requesting the NEA to promote their agenda through their art-that one may even be illegal?

September 22, 2009 at 4:40 PM

@ Everyone - Wow! I absolutely love my readers and the good debate going on. I don't have time to hit on everything, especially Tao who has some good points so I'll have to come back. I did want to comment on my good friend tL :)

Lets be honest...I'm going to flip the below around.

"The one simple fact that you omit (as do conservatives in general) is the government didn't take those companies over, those companies, at the time they failed, opted NOT to participate in capitalism. If the did, AIG, Chrysler, and GM would not exist today in all likelihood. All of those companies chose to accept money from the government that came chock full of stipulations and strings attached. Thus these companies benefited by choosing to bypass a capitalist death by appealing the the socialist democracy side of our government when asking for bailouts. All you have to do is look at Ford and Chevy who were doing just as bad, but decided against taking government money. They didn't want the strings and stipulation and the government played no part whatsoever in their operations."

If we were talking about a poor welfare recipient who is choosing a government check over participating in welfare, would you be making the same arguement when Darth Cheney seizes control of the welfare recipients house because Haliburton needs to build a new warehouse for war manufacturing? The scenario is not all that far off from the car manufacturers.

Your argument is a means justifies the ends premise. It doesn't matter how well intentioned we are when we suddenly take control over that auto industry or banking industry. What matters is, whether or not this brings us to a dangerous place. What precident does it send? Where are we moving on the scale of centralized government and is that good.

"The notion that he could be a "philosopher-king" is quite an exaggeration, because he has wanted to bring the left and right to the table together all along."

Actually, and I posted on this, Eric Cantor and congressional Republicans wrote Obama a letter stating that they wanted to come to the table on health care. Obama ignored it. However, I don't believe Obama thinks he's a philosopher-king, I believe many of his supporters are happy to cast him in that role.

The point of the piece is not actually put Obama on the spot. I know there are many that think he's doing a great job. However, what happens when he's gone? What machinery of potential abuse are we laying down? I think that's a worthy question that the right should have been asking when Bush was President and the Left should be asking now that Obama is President. The opposing point of views will be thinking about this like crazy so they are a given.

September 22, 2009 at 5:09 PM

Correction *not participating in capitalism instead of welfare as written.

September 22, 2009 at 5:10 PM

@LAW GM and Chevy are the same company and they did take the money. The only domestic auto manufacturer not on Obama's teat is Ford.

September 23, 2009 at 12:31 PM

@Law, I think you are a good guy, I think you think for yourself. But I don't think it really matters if they came asking for the money or if they were forced. The crappy 2 didn't take an oath to defend the constitution, our elected (non)representatives did, and this violates that oath. Simple. End result = Collectivism. Statism. Whatever you want to call it.

September 23, 2009 at 12:34 PM
CJ said...

The power of the executive branch seems to be increasing all the time. I generally trust President Obama, but I don’t want the president to have any more power because Sarah Palin or someone like her could be the next president.

I am not convinced that property rights go hand-in-hand with other rights, but property rights are important. From a strictly practical view, government isn’t that good at managing property, even if I supported the idea ideologically.

September 23, 2009 at 1:45 PM
Andrew33 said...

This was a great post and great comments by all. KOOK reposted it over on our blog too. TL, I agree with KOOK. I often disagree with you, but I think deep down you are a good person and as KOOK said you do think for yourself and that is a quality needed from all sides of our political spectrum.

September 24, 2009 at 4:24 PM

The US has been a mixed economy for some time. Capitalism highly regulated by the state.

Therefore, as a nation we have been and continue to be moving to a more statist nation. In actuality we have been trending toward fascism for some time.

Even though the current Oval Office occupant is more closely aligned with a socialist/statist philosophy it is likely the backlash will be such that we will continue our trending to fascism. An excellent book on the subject is The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff.

As for generally trusting Obama, while that may be okay, I generally hold with the belief government is not to be trusted and this particularity holds true, at least in my mind, with respect to the Chief Executive.

Great post and good comments.

September 28, 2009 at 11:47 AM
John said...

TAO said,
"When the government broke up Standard Oil the company actually grew and the same thing holds true with AT&T."
You need to look at the history and you will find out that Standard Oil was formed and became a trust by John D Rockefeller and 6 other partners. When it was ordered by the Supreme Court to be dissolved into 34 separate companies JR owned 42% of each of these new companies. Whether Standard Oil actually grew, even today, is a subject that is still a matter of considerable debate. It is widely speculated that had the break up not taken place Standard Oil would be worth in the neighborhood of a Trillion dollars.

AT&T also did not really grow.
AT&T was formed as a subsidiary of the Bell Telephone Company. AT&T bought the Bell Telephone Company and became the parent Company of the Bell Telephone Network. AT&T was force to divest the Bell network in 1984 into seven different Bell Companies (Ameritech which ran services in IL,MI, WI,OH), Bell South, Bell Atlantic, NYNEX, Pacific Telesis, SW Bell and USWest. Four of these Baby Bells Ameritech, SW Bell, Pacific Telesis, and SNET an AT&T operations company merged to form SBC Communications. Bell South purchased Singular. SBC Comm merged with AT&T and Bell South was also purchased by AT&T. So as you can see AT&T simply reacquired all but three of its original divestitures. NYNEX was purchased by Bell Atlantic which was purchased by Cellular and USWest became part of Quest Communications.

October 9, 2009 at 4:52 AM
G.G. Vandagriff said...

You all might be interested in the little known tale of how Austria declined into fascism from its democratic experiment between the wars. Those who don't study history . . . etc. Some interesting parallels with today. See http://last-waltz.com. My graduate professor in Russian studies said that the best way to understand a period in history was to read a novel that is well written about that period. That's why I wrote The Last Waltz.

October 23, 2009 at 12:41 PM

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