The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

An Ugly One-Two Punch

02/26/2020

If Bernie Sanders leads us into socialism, could the next “Trump” lead us into communism?

Socialism and communism are not the same thing.  While all communists are socialists, not all socialists are communists.

The traditional definition of socialism is state ownership of the major means of transportation, communication and production capabilities.  Note that it is an economic term, not a political term.  The socialist economic system can be combined with different political systems, like democracy or authoritarianism.  For example, socialism and democracy were combined with great success early in Israel’s history.  This is the combination of economic and political systems advocated by Sanders, called democratic socialism.

The combination of socialism and authoritarianism has traditionally been called communism.  History of this combination has also  been favorable but only in the short run.  Working people initially enjoy great benefits from communism, but it cannot last long.  Unfortunately, the short-term appeal is difficult to resist.  Economic systems are all about the allocation of resources – something ponderous governments can never do efficiently for very long.

The unlikely combination of capitalism (state capitalism) with authoritarianism has served China well, up to this point.  The long term prognosis is still questionable.  Our American combination of capitalism with democracy is sometimes called “free enterprise” and has served us well for almost 250 years.

Remember:  Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  Plus, socialism with a bully quickly becomes communism.

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