- Capitalism and Alternatives -

no relationship

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on September 28, 1999 at 16:03:00:

In Reply to: I agree that it is possible for capitalist states to be undemocratic and vice versa posted by Darcy Carter on September 27, 1999 at 01:44:27:

: ---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.

The 'link' is not only oversimplified, it doesn't exist. Capitalism and democracy are often opposing tendencies, just like justice and mercy. The United States right now ahs a mixture of the two. In theory it is possible to be politically egalitarian (democracy) and economically hierarchical (capitalism) but don't you thnk that the value of equality would tend to spill over from one realm into the other?

: ---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.

Spain was fascist, not capitalist, under Franco, yet they were in NATO, as was (largely socialist) Greece.

: 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

The differenec between Sweden and Vietnam is also incremental, not fundamental; both have a mixture of state ownership and private property, with substantial redistribution. I would call Sweden social-democratic, and not capitalist, because the values that motivate its government and society are antithetical to capitalism; because there is heavy unionization and state intervention in industry which tips teh balance of power in favor of workers; and because both in theory and practice, Sweden is dedicated to the principle of equalty and of providing social/economic rights for all.

:- although this may be changing for the better as the right of centre conservatives are likely to win the next general election in Sweden.

Centrist social democrats often win elections in Kerala, yet the state's socialist apparatus never seems to get dismantled. Sweden can survive a period of consevative rule; that's what democracy is all about, alternating power blocs.

: 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.

I'm quoting from Charles Humana's Human Rights Index, published c. 1991. This table counted things such as political rights, freedom of speech, and the freedom from intervenion in one's personal life. All in all, a fairly non-partisan definition of freedom. Sweden ranked highest, the US way down at #33, with I think Iraq or Libya in last place.

: 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.

Well, define 'capitalist', and then define 'democratic'. of course countries like teh US have never been purely democratic, but let's use teh term loosely for a moment. Is it not true, first of all, that partial democracy was saved in the US and other countries only when they reduced the power of capitalism and introduced social welfare, redistribution and progressive taxation. (1930s) Is it not true that democracy, in fact, was extended at teh same time that the US underwent these reforms to cut teh pwoer of capitalists. (around 1910). Is it not true that in terms of having a smaller welfare sttae, a more pro-business climate, etc. South Korea is more capitalist than the US or Britain, and at the same time holds hundreds of political prisoners. By teh same yardstick, isn't Sweden less capitalist and more democratic than the US or Britain? So what doe sthis say about the relationship of capitalism and democracy, even in the most developed countries?

Perhaps the best example of a powerful capitalist autocracy is SOuth Korea, which has becoem one of teh biggest industrial powers in the world under a military regime.

:The leading socialist states this century been despotic.

Not true. India? pre-1990 Yugoslavia? Urugauy? Nicaragua? all with more than 50% state ownership. Of course the number of powerful socialist states is minimal, so it's a small field to choose from.

: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.

At last, a definition of democracy. But no, there is a strong argument to be made that India and Nicargaua, both socialist, were mroe democratic than teh US in terms of the possibility for individuals to participate in government and to receive alternative viewpoints and ideas.

: ---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.

China is not socialist. Also, since your conslusion is false, your premises ahve to be false. What about the fact that if people are given a say in their government, they will naturally tend to demand an equal share of the goods and services of society? What about the fact that a society which recognizes political rights fro all will begin also to recognize their economic and social right?

: ---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.

Define what you mean by capitalist and socialist regimes, first of all, otherwise it's diffocult to marshal evidence for either side. Were the examples I gave not socialist? were they nnot democratic?

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