Capitalism Versus Socialism
For a brief moment in July 2010, we were reminded of the Elián González's story that a decade or so ago created great anguish among Cuban Americans. According to the 16 year old Elián, he is happy and a devout supporter of the Castro Regime. From the perspective of Cuban Americans and everyone else in our Country, he is a brainwashed marketing tool. Given recent reactions to issues like healthcare reform and the push to privatize socialist elements in our society, even though they have existed since the beginning of the United States, it would seem Raúl Castro is trying to reignite his brother's revolution instead of transitioning Cuba into a more democratic society while the world once again courts the pursuit of socialism.
Then again, it is important to remember Communism is a dead husk of a ceremonial governing philosophy that serves as the front for a slightly more benign form of dictatorship. While Cuba may grasp onto this form of government for years to come, communist nations, i.e. China, North Korea, Vietnam, etc. are only successful when they adopt sweeping capitalist reforms. Certainly, there will always be primarily socialist countries like Venezuela that will use their vast natural resources to profit then try to undermine all forms of capitalism and world powers like the US. In fact, every country does and will embrace socialist elements to improve the lives of their Peoples, but current and emerging capitalist principles will dominate the global economy in the foreseeable future. In the summer of 2009, "Wired" magazine published an article by Kevin Kelly entitled "The New Socialism" in which he looked at the effects of social media and projects like Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, and Open Source to conclude a stateless form of socialism has developed. Although I'm not sure the use of the socialist term can be so over generalized, the premise demonstrates why people in our society will not accept a Communist government nor a socialist regime that forces cooperation. That is, American ideals, which very much value the individual as a unique person, have infiltrated the vast majority of the modern world to the point servitude to an elitist class is a notion that would be met with great resistance.
As such, I must add to Mr. Kelly's underlying premise. The writer needed to fully explore the evolution of capitalism in order to offer a more complete look at this reincarnation of "socialism." Profiteering in our modern world is not the same as it once was. Remember, an individual can contribute to the economy with, at least, three forms of capital: labor, novel intellectual property, and wealth. We have focused on the latter form of capital over the past few decades, but hard work and innovative ideas are now more equitable in a globalized, well connected internet based world constantly changing. Consequently, we do a lot for free to get "paid" these days. The emerging dynamic may be some sort of socialism, yet this new form of information bartering is also a form of capitalism. Meanwhile, traditional corporate structures as an example of old school capitalism will always have their place, but startups and smaller corporations will rule the roost. This means capitalism is also evolving toward a more individualized and customizable, yet more connected, industrial model.
Therefore, the socialism that survives in the Twenty-First century will be the kind which compliments, instead of undermines, capitalism. The simple reason for this transition is that the modern person will not accept the notion that he or she must obey the collective as everyone must be able to control the collective, i.e. we're looking for a far more democratic world. When we hear political leaders in the United States rally against socialism in our Country, they are really attacking the superficial use of the socialist term. All governments, including the US, have and always will embrace some socialist policies. Opposition to a supposed trend toward a socialist America may continue to rage, but the socialist and capitalist aspects of our society have already been implemented in a far more cooperate fashion than much individuals recognize. It is our understanding of both terms that needs to be reconciled, because both capitalism and socialism are concepts we fail to understand in broad terms. Moreover, American brand capitalism and socialism continue to change as we move forward, but tomorrow's understanding of capitalism and socialism will be far more complimentary than our views in the Cold War, as well as the post Cold War, era.