Letter: U.S. needs balance of socialism, capitalism

The S-word. It’s a powerful word that everyone seems to have a powerful reaction to. Its use, once so taboo that even discussing it could land one in jail, has been on the rise as of late. The word? Socialism. 

Its definition, according to Merriam-Webster is, “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Despite describing “various economic and political theories,” socialism is often seen as being equivalent to communism, when in reality, communism is only one of many different socialist frameworks.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Oh great, another one of those people,” but hear me out. As a math major, I pride myself on my ability to think rationally and consider every possible case before coming to a logically sound conclusion. 

Let’s first consider socialism in its purest form, communism. The ideas of equality and sharing are the strongest points that communism has to offer. I mean, who in their right mind wants to see others suffer or be treated as if they’re inherently worth less than someone else? In theory, communism creates a classless society in which everyone is equal.

But, in practice, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to impose something like this because the equality always seems somewhat artificial. Another criticism of communism that I believe has merit is that such across-the-board equality could slow the rate of technological advance. Without some sort of incentive, the risk of spending time and money on innovation may well outweigh the benefits such an innovation might bring. It would seem that a purely socialist framework leaves something to be desired, so let’s see if we can this something better in capitalism.

Capitalism, according to Merriam-Webster, is “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.”

If we consider capitalism in its purest form, we seem to have solved the problem of incentive. A system that lets the free market run its course provides an enormous incentive to innovate. In such a system, an especially remarkable innovation has the potential to take the market by storm and provide massive rewards to the innovator.

But, notwithstanding the tremendous loss of equality, the capitalist framework has its downfalls as well. Market instability is a real concern in a purely capitalist society. In pure capitalism, there are no subsidies to stabilize the market, which in turn makes things like farming more financially risky.

Without agricultural subsides, any one year could make or break an entire operation, which could in turn cause the prices of basic necessities, like food, to fluctuate wildly from year to year or even month to month. So the economy of an entire nation could rise and fall with a single industry, which doesn’t sound like a very sustainable or desirable outcome.

So, it would seem that neither a purely socialist nor a purely capitalistic framework would work well in practice. Having eliminated both ends of the spectrum, it seems that the only options we have are somewhere in the middle. We need a system that boasts the benefits of both socialism and capitalism. We need a system in which one can get ahead but also one in which one cannot fall behind. We need a system that works for all people. We need a system that is balanced.