- Capitalism and Alternatives -

I agree that it is possible for capitalist states to be undemocratic and vice versa

Posted by: Darcy Carter ( The link is not automatic, but... ) on September 27, 1999 at 01:44:27:

In Reply to: Capitalism and Democracy posted by Nikhil Jaikumar on September 20, 1999 at 00:13:17:

: No, i don't think i will "pull a rabbit out of my hat and call in Susan", since I don't knwo how, first of all. But there are a couple of points I would like to answer.

: You seem to be confusing capitalism with democracy. In fact, however, they are not related in the least. Historically, there have been plenty of socialist democracies as well as capitalist dictatorships. Democratic socialism or communism existed in such places as Kerala, Bengal, Nicaragua, Chile, a few African countries, parts of Italy, and to some extent Yugoslavia. These states were all quite liberal. capitalist dictatorships have included Pinochet's Chile, Guatemala, Somozist Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, malaysia, Idnonesia, and formerly taiwan and South Korea. In the pre-modern ear, of course, tehre were many mroe capitalist tyrannies such as Belgium, Bismarck's Germany, and other European states.

---You are right that I over-simplified the link between capitalism and democracy. I agree that it is possible for capitalist states to be undemocratic and vice versa.
: So the link you attempt to draw between capitalism and democracy is not clera to me. Is it that the most advanced capitalisms today also possess liberal democracy? But this is also not true. The most capitalist societies are not the most democratic. Scandinavian counrties have substantial social welfare systems and state ownership, and wealth redistribution; I would not call them capitalist. They are also the freest countries in the world.

---Scandinavia certainly is capitalist. Without a capitalist system, it could not operate as part of a political / free trade block such as the European Union with states like UK and France. The difference between the economies of Sweden and USA is incremental, not fundamental. There is redistribution and progressive taxation in USA and Sweden; just somewhat more in Sweden - although this may be changing for the better as the right of centre conservatives are likely to win the next general election in Sweden. I would also doubt that it is the most free country in the world. In a recent Economist article, the UK was near the top of this tree, with Sweden some way down the table.

South KKorea, Brazil and Chile, on teh other hand, are more capitalist than the US, and they are hardly very liberal. South korea still restricts freedom of speech, for example. No democracy has yet existed without substantial restrictions on the power of capitalism; for example, laws that provide a safety net, protect human rights, etcetera. The US become democratic only as it passed laws that limited corporate power in teh late 19th and early 20th century.

: Thus, your statement taht capitalism has proved more fertile ground for democracy seems to be invalid.

---Despite that fact that capitalist states have not been, and still are not, universally democratic, the leading capitalsit states this century have been democratic. The leading socialist states this century been despotic. The fruition of democracy, in terms of universal suffrage and political rights, has also taken root most strongly in the rich, capitalist states rather than under any alternative system.

---This in itself does not prove an automatic link, but I would argue that capitalism ,with its emphasis on self-determination and relatively small government, must tend towards political freedom. Socialism, where the state must intrude into far more areas of society and individual activity, tends away from political liberty. Capitalsit thuggery and depotism has mellowed into democracy in the world's leading states this century. Lesser capitalist states are gradually following in their wake. The largest country in the world, China, remains repressive and socialist.

---I also agree that there can be no freedom without government restrictions on capitalism that prevent the natual tendency towards monopoly and other distortions of free trade. However, although this might be incompatable with libertarianism or anarchy, it is not incompatable with liberal capitalist democracy as seen in the Western world. The state has a role to play, both in providing a safety net and preventing monopolies. The fact that capitalism would be unmanageable in its "pure", theoretical extreme, does not mean that the kind of "capitalist" systems operating in the US / UK are not the best yet devised or that they do not tend towards democracy.

---Although the link is not automatic or simple, a straw poll of citizens of capitalist and socialist regimes in 1999 would undoubtedly find that the former had, on average, immeasurably more freedom than the latter.

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