Socialism vs. Capitalism
We'll start from the beginning. Here are a few premises that I want you to keep in mind (or refute, if you care to and can).
- Man does not survive in stasis.
- A man is an individual, sentient and conscious unto himself.
- Production is the result of man's effort.
- Freedom is the condition of being free: that is, having the ability to choose every aspect of one's circumstance within one's means.
- The ultimate choice (choice to which all other fundamental choices can be boiled down) is: to continue to live, or to die.
- Slavery is the condition of not being free: that is, having less than full control over one's circumstances, even within his theoretical means.
So now let's look at these two opposing political philosophies: capitalism versus socialism.
The undergirding philosophical position of capitalism is that man is free. To unpack this a bit: man, who does not survive in stasis and therefore must work in order to guarantee his own survival, and who is an individual that is sentient (aware of himself) and conscious (aware of his surroundings) unto himself (meaning that his awareness is only accessible and useful to him, until he chooses to communicate his observations), is free, meaning that he has the ability to make those choices which impact his survival -- more or less, all of them -- to the extent that he is able, as a sovereign individual. Consider all this from something of an "economic" perspective (albeit a necessarily simplified one). A man wakes up in the morning and feels hunger. Here, a free man has two options: eat, or do not eat. If he should choose to eat, he must somehow produce food. As a free man, he then gets the product of his effort in the form of something he can consume, as he chose to in the first place. Now let's complicate things a bit, and add multiple players into the equation, as the nature of transaction is really where capitalism and socialism are most clearly shown to be diametrically opposed. This free man of ours decides that the avenue of production most appealing to him is to work for another man as, say, a courier. The first free man approaches the second, interested in this job. He propositions this other free man, who -- as a free man -- can either hire the first free man on the terms he offered, make a counter-offer, or reject the first free man altogether. Two things have happened here. One: the first free man has exercised his right (as a free man, an individual) to seek out a means of production that suits him. Two: the second free man has exercised his right (free man again) to negotiate, accept, or decline a business transaction based entirely on whatever criteria he might employ in order to tender a bargain. If he does not need a courier, he is not obligated to hire one; if he does need a courier but the first man asks for too much (or too little?) in return, he has the freedom to make whatever counter-offer he feels is reasonable; if he needs a courier and both parties are able to reach a mutually-beneficial agreement, they have conducted a transaction as two free men in a purely capitalistic fashion. That is the essense of freedom in a rudimentary economic sense.
Socialism, on the other hand, chains men together with the philosophical proposition that men are in fact not free at all, but slaves to one another. Once again, to unpack this: men, who do not survive in stasis, but must produce in order to consume in order to survive, are not free, to the extent that they cannot make their own decisions as their survival is concerned, but slaves to one another insofar as the individual is, by default, in the service of everyone around him but himself. Consider again the man, and his transactive intentions with an employer. The first man goes to the business owner and asks for work as a courier. In a capitalistic society, that business owner has the option to accept, decline, or counter the first man's offer. In a socialist society, that business owner may very well be forced, by law, to accept the first man's offer. That business owner may very well be forced to pay the first man more money than the business man deems the job to be worth (minimum wage), may be forced to hire an unqualified (or not hire a qualified) first man because of the color of his skin, or his economic status. The businessman is the slave to the first man.
And that is only one aspect of it: consider the logical extension of these premises in terms of the interaction between you and those around you with whom you do not directly do business. The capitalist wakes up in the morning and is hungry, so he goes out, works, produces, earns, and consumes. The capitalist's neighbor has a choice: he can either go out, work, produce, earn, and consume, or: do not work. Of course he knows (as he accepts the premise that man cannot survive in stasis) that if he does not work, he may very well not eat. In a capitalist society, his survival is dependant on his ability, and his willingness to motivate that ability. In other words, if he chooses not to work, he is choosing directly not to survive. This is simply the logical conclusion of the premises that (1) one must consume to survive, and (2) consumption is the beneficial result of work.
But the socialist does not understand this. The socialist wakes up in the morning and is hungry. But he lacks the ability to provide himself with the lifestyle he thinks he deserves. This could be for any number of reasons: his parents may have not been wealthy, so he may not have inherited a fortune. He may be uneducated, and lack the impetus, interest, or capability to educate himself. He may be injured in such a way as to impede his range of motion. He may simply be lazy. In any case -- it does not matter what reason happens to apply -- he feels as though he deserves more than he will work to earn. Fortunately for him, there are people out there who do have the wealth to which he thinks he is entitled. There are those who have inherited it. There are those who are extraordinarily gifted in one field or another, and whose intellectual ability they have converted to masses of wealth. There are those who have a vested interest in a high standard of living, so they simply choose to work hard -- but in a socialist state, none of that matters. Intellectual ability, family prosperity, dedication and hard work: these guarantee wealth, sure, but not to he who possesses the attribute -- they guarantee the wealth to the first man, who cannot or will not earn it by his own means. This is the essense of "wealth redistribution" -- everyone gets an equal piece of the pie, for putting in inequal shares of effort. He who contributes little lives on the prosperity of he who contributes much; that which the prosperous man generates is taken from him by the not-so-prosperous; the prosperous man must apply his superior knowledge, his superior ability, to his field of work and in return he sees the fruits of his effort distributed to the oafs and sluggards around him, regardless of what those oafs and sluggards have done to earn their own survival. The scientist thus is the janitor's slave. The architect is the roofer's slave. The man that invents and engineers machines, is slave to the man that pulls a robotic arm without thought or interest.
Is that what you call fair?
There are those of us who would rather die free than live enslaved.