Pundits keep talking about America's capitalist society. We don't live in a capitalist society, first and foremost, because capitalism is not a type of society; it is exclusively an economic system.
The economist Karl Marx, arguably the father of 19th century socialism, considered capitalism the best of all economic systems. The problem is that it is only an economic system and a well-balanced society depends many strong independent systems, including political, religious, educational, among others.
Capitalism is the best economic system because it produces more money than any other, so a few of those who run it become obscenely rich. This wealth allows the capitalists who have more dollars than sense to gain control of other systems. They are particularly interested in the political system whose primary job is to regulate the all social systems.
Economy is the basis of everything in society: the political, religious, educational, and all other systems, right down to families and individuals. Nothing can be done without money.
America, like all other countries on the planet, has a mixed socialist-capitalist economic system. On the capitalist side, we have relatively free markets, several stock and commodity markets, and privately owned companies that thrive among those that are publicly owned.
On the socialist side, we have banned child labor, have a centralized credit bank (the Fed), free public education, and a progressive income tax—four of the ten measures listed in Chapter 2 of the Communist Manifesto, Marx's blueprint for a socialist society. We also have unions, a minimum wage, workplace safety rules, social security, a labor department in the administration, and taxpayer supported health care for people under 12 and over 65. None of these are capitalist notions.
We hear much about how many have died for freedom and democracy. We seldom hear about the hundreds who have died for the right to form unions, the 8-hour workday, 40-hour work week, and decent salaries. From 1850 to 1970 labor unions held thousands of strikes, protests, and demonstrations for these principles in which hundreds of Americans gave their lives.
In 1850 the garment workers in Manhattan went on the first strike that cost two tailors their lives when police confronted a crowd of about 300 strikers with clubs. The last strike with fatalities occurred in Houston in 1936 when two strikers were killed during a walkout of the Gulf Coast maritime workers.
Capitalism arose quietly, unopposed in the US, but hundreds died for socialist labor rights—thousands around the world. DIED. They died at the hands of anti-union police, company guards, random hired goons, and detectives from companies like the Pinkerton detective agency.
We have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we are a capitalist society far too long. It is time to stop all the name-calling against those who want to regulate capitalism and turn our attention to the real issues that these two philosophies raise. The 2019 Democratic debates are bringing them back into the light: a living wage, equal pay for equal work, universal health care, childcare, and debt-free college education among others.
In fact, modern democratic socialism concedes that capitalism is the best economic system, as Marx himself claimed, and support a mixed economic system. But capitalism must be carefully and intelligently regulated by government, so that we all benefit from the riches we all produce, and not just the few who control the economy.Sunbury Daily Item, November 10, 2019