On One Hand

May 5, 2005

Communism vs. Capitalism in the perspective of the philosophy of science

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:58 am

This is why I refuse to accept any economic ideology, and vehemently oppose pure ideologies when formulating opinions on specific issues.

The world is full of economic ideas, but Western society and debate seems to focus on two extreme categories: pure socialism/communism and pure capitalism/libertarianism. Most adherents of each allow for certain qualifications, but anyone who identifies as one or the other lies dangerously close to the extreme. The two groups staunchly and bitterly oppose each other, but they are much more alike than different: each group believes strongly in an idealistic purity of human potential, and each is strongly utopian in nature. Each believes that it is somehow an exception to the flaws that all systems have. Each tends to confront only extreme examples of the other in debate rather than addressing more moderate positions that only lean toward the opposing side. Each side believes it has the perfect system that will work forever, for all people and all time, regardless of culture, environment, religion, history, or any other circumstances.

The two views for utopia go like this:
Communism holds the utopian ideal that complete abolition of private property is a good system that can work out for both individuals and the whole of society. They believe that all individuals, as complete and utter equals, can mutally agree to share all resources justly and fairly, without violent conflict. A little-acknowledged fact about Marxim is that they are absolutely NOT totalitarian; they are actually anarchists (which is the complete and utter opposite of totalitarianism), which is explicitly stated in the Communist Manifesto. Communism holds the utopian ideal that anarchism can work; that people can work together, sharing everything, with no conflict. They often believe that communist revolution is inevatable, and true communism, once achieved, will dominate the Earth forever.
Libertarians utopianistically believe that completely free markets are the best possible system and that they will work to the best ends for both individuals and the whole of soceity. They believe that when welfare systems are dismantled, each individual becomes empowered, and will then have a fair chance at economic success if he or she chooses to pursue it. Many libertarians insist that every wise individual can use his or her income to invest, thus becoming both a capital-holder and a worker at once, thus avoiding the stratification that occurs naturally when the two groups are divided. Libertarians believe that sociopolitical circumstances that an individual is not responsible for would not usurp any person’s individualistic identity, motivation, ambition, and fair chance. They seem to believe that the world is arranged in such a way that a free market, run completely by some pseudo-nature created by mass application of the individualist spirit, will prevent individuals from taking too much control of the market and qualifying the freedom of others to avoid poverty or achieve success. They also believe that this free market will somehow prevent the exhaustion of resources or environmental disaster.

A philosopher of science would notice a paralell between old forms of scientific dogmatic paradigms and these modern sociopolitical ideologies: old theories such as geocentrism, Newtonian Physics, creationism, and uniformitarianism were once accepted as staunchly as these modern sociopolitical theories are. An intuitive scientific philosopher would insist that both the communist and the libertarian is paradigmatically imbedded in his or her respective utopian theory, which does not prove either theory false, but it does prevent better theories from moving into acceptance. Modern perspectives on science agree that there is no true or perfect theory (something that hardly anyone understands) and that all theories are more or less utilitarian rather than Actual Truth. Theories are not accepted because they are “true;” theories are accepted because they “work.” A new theory, when found to explain observations better than the last theory, will ideally usurp the old theroy. None are considered permanent. If something as rational and objective as science, which seeks to explain material reality in as concrete terms as possible, can be so far from objective “truth,” how can a political ideology claim objective truth value when it is founded on little observation and much opinion?

Communism is not perfect. History has proven that Communism is nearly impossible to achieve – pseudo-communist states like the Soviet Union and China show that truly equal brotherhoods are always threatened by the ambitious, who take power from others, often resulting in massive bloodshed and oppression. This is the opposite of what communism seeks to achieve. Inasmuch as communism has been achieved, many cite a decrease in human productivity (though from an environmental perspective decreased productivity is more sustainable and there is no evidence that a more wealthy/affluent society gives its members higher enjoyment of life), and socialist economies like Norway and Belgium are poor economic competition for nations like the United States.
Capitalism is not perfect either. History has proven that pure capitalism, like communism, is nearly impossible to achieve: even in countries where capitalism is given godlike value, people support social programs and prove that their actual views are not exactly what they profess. As is true with communism, there has never been a purely capitalist economic system. Inasmuch as capitalism has already been achieved, stratification and personal disempowerment is clearly present, indicated by an overwhelming mass of evidence uncovered through sociological science (though many libertarians would claim that much of this stratification is due to the fact that capitalism isn’t “pure enough”) and hundreds of years of historical observation.

I challenge anyone who holds any ideology, including communism, libertarianism, and any other, to approach his or her theory with an open mind and honest skepticism. Open-mindedness means seeking new, better theories that “work” more effectively than the previous theory or existing theories. If it can happen in science, which is perceived as utterly concrete, it can then happen is something as vague and opinionated as economic politics. A perfect society and a perpetually sufficient economic system will never be achieved; change is written into the very nature of the Universe, and all life and movement would ceace to function without it – there is no “end theory” that will answer everything. Ideological dogmatism needs to be shed if any progress is to be made.

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6 Comments »

  1. Puedo anadirte?
    I like you…

    Comment by indigofirefly — May 7, 2005 @ 12:16 am | Reply

    • I know some spanish but not “anadirte.” What’s up?

      Comment by ononehand — May 7, 2005 @ 6:17 am | Reply

      • it’s a Reflexive verb… Anadir- to add… i wanted to know if i could add you to my friends list lol.

        Comment by indigofirefly — May 7, 2005 @ 2:32 pm

      • Oh, yes, go right ahead.

        Comment by ononehand — May 7, 2005 @ 11:24 pm

  2. I haven’t read it, but I tend to appreciate anything that has such an observational, all-things-considered approach.

    Comment by ononehand — May 7, 2005 @ 6:29 am | Reply

  3. Thoughts on the Economic Essay

    Matt, I remember when I found your site through Chris M, and you downplayed your intelligence. I knew that you had it. As for the subject, I was in my second sophomore year at Penn State (I changed majors many times!) when I first started into the social sciences. It wasn’t this much, so you’re well ahead of me.

    My first thought is a quote from FDR, back when a reporter asked him if he were a capitalist, a communist, or a socialist.
    “Then what are you?”
    “I’m a Christian and a Democrat.”
    There’s a president who followed the same advice. Find the right mix and keep it open to change.

    My second thought is that religion runs the same. I can recall at one time when I’d thought that Catholicism was the definitive sect of the definitive religion, even though I did have the curiosity to find out about others. Now I see the fascist theocrats in action, and I await their downfall. It’s just amazing how slow others are to perceive the modern Pharisees like Falwell, Robertson, Swaggert, and the rest of the ayatollahs of the American Taliban. Ironically, (and as a fellow ex-Catholic you’d appreciate this) they are the ones who are promoting atheism, because others actually see them as representing Christianity. (I’ll avoid commentary on Benedict XVI.)

    Comment by buddyoverstreet — May 7, 2005 @ 11:08 am | Reply


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