Friday, March 11, 2016

Capitalism and Socialism


Recently one commentator in the Wall Street Journal reported that young voters don’t see much value in Capitalism. I suppose that this bias is one of the reasons for the remarkable turnout of young voters in support of the attempt on the part of Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders to wrest the Democrat nomination for President away from Hillary Clinton.

I would suggest that if young people want to see the value of Capitalism, they only have to look at the end of their arm and behold the ever-present cell or mobile phone in their hand. The iphone and its many imitators that have revolutionized the world are a product of capitalism. Despite last year’s drop in stock value, Apple Corporation remains as one of the world’s largest and most profitable companies.

Years ago Steve Jobs, Apple’s legendary founder, broke the virtual monopoly in the computer business enjoyed by IBM and Microsoft. He was a genius but he could never have built his company without capital. He either had to borrow money to bring his ideas to fruition, or offer shares of stock (partial ownership) in the company to build the business.

Moreover, practically every day these mobile phones and laptops have to be plugged into the electric grid so that their batteries can be recharged. Electricity is one of our basic human needs in the modern world but it is remarkably cheap compared to other things we buy. Although regulated to some extent by government agencies, most electric companies are privately owned, for profit companies whose shares are also bought and sold on Wall Street.

People hate their electric bills but most of us probably spend less on this vital resource than we pay on beer and coffee. Speaking of coffee, the ubiquitous Starbucks, where so many young people like to meet and hang out is also a product of Capitalism. How could this very popular company have grown from a small start-up in the North West to a worldwide phenomenon without capital?

Actually, the alternative to Starbucks for those college students at the University of Michigan who came out to vote for Bernie Sanders recently is university cafeteria coffee. Ugh!
On a recent trip to California we visited the magnificent campus of the University of California at Berkeley, a veritable training ground for young socialists. The campus is ringed by coffee shops and eateries serving an incredibly wide variety of coffees from all over the world. All of these places required capital to get started. Also, the more coffee they sell, the more valuable they become, and the more people they employ.

If Apple and Starbucks are good examples of Capitalism for college students today, these students might want to consider that non-profit colleges and universities like Berkeley are good examples of Socialism. It is these universities that produce the dorms and cafeterias that seem to be almost universally despised. So far three of my grandchildren have attended college and all of them took the earliest opportunity to get out of the dorms and live off-campus. All of them despised the campus cafeteria food and meal plans.

Of course, these schools and universities have become notorious centers of political correctness and thought control. They praise their commitment to diversity, but the faculty members are overwhelmingly liberal or even radical. The suppression of political views contrary to the party line is one of the main features of socialism.

Years ago when I taught at a small college here in Connecticut, a colleague was doing his dissertation on the kinds of periodicals read in communist China. He found that the magazines read by ordinary people contained largely factual and accurate information about America. However, the reading material of the Communist Party leaders and bureaucrats contained the most outrageous distortions and propaganda. It is no wonder that the Chinese version of socialism slaughtered over 20 Million people.


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