The wisdom of Walter Williams: Capitalism vs. Socialism

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on September 20, 2018

The wisdom of Walter Williams: Capitalism vs. Socialism

(by Walter E. Williams) — … Let’s compare capitalism with socialism by answering the following questions:

In which areas of our lives do we find the greatest satisfaction, and in which do we find the greatest dissatisfaction?

It turns out that we seldom find people upset with and in conflict with computer and clothing stores, supermarkets, and hardware stores. We do see people highly dissatisfied with and often in conflict with boards of education, motor vehicles departments, police and city sanitation services.

What are the differences? For one, the motivation for the provision of services of computer and clothing stores, supermarkets, and hardware stores is profit. Also, if you’re dissatisfied with their services, you can instantaneously fire them by taking your business elsewhere. It’s a different matter with public education, motor vehicles departments, police and city sanitation services. They are not motivated by profit at all. Plus, if you’re dissatisfied with their service, it is costly and in many cases even impossible to fire them.

A much larger and totally ignored question has to do with the brutality of socialism:

In the 20th century, the one-party socialist states of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Germany under the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and the People’s Republic of China were responsible for the murder of 118 million citizens, mostly their own. The tallies were: USSR 62 million, Nazi Germany 21 million and PRC 35 million.

No such record of brutality can be found in countries that tend toward free market capitalism.

Here’s an experiment for you:

  • List countries according to whether they are closer to the free market capitalist or to the socialist/communist end of the economic spectrum.
  • Then rank the countries according to per capita gross domestic product.
  • Finally, rank the countries according to Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World” report.

You will find that people who live in countries closer to the free market capitalist end of the economic spectrum not only have far greater wealth than people who live in countries toward the socialistic/communist end but also enjoy far greater human rights protections.

As Dr. Thomas Sowell says, “socialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it will probably always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric, and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster.”

Dr. Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist, former chairman of the Economics department at George Mason University, and author of More Liberty Means Less Government.

First published May 30, 2018.  Reprinted here September 20, 2018 for educational purposes only.  For a brief bio and more articles by Walter E. Williams, go to:  econfaculty.gmu.edu or visit his Twitter page @WE_Williams

Questions

1. The purpose of an editorial/commentary is to explain, persuade, warn, criticize, entertain, praise or answer. What do you think is the purpose of Walter Williams’ editorial? Explain your answer.

2.  What is the main idea of Walter Williams’ commentary?

3. In this commentary, Dr. Williams writes, “You will find that people who live in countries closer to the free market capitalist end of the economic spectrum not only have far greater wealth than people who live in countries toward the socialistic/communist end but also enjoy far greater human rights protections.”
Are you surprised by this assertion?  Explain your answer.