Capitalism, Socialism, and the Earth

The online Oxford Dictionary defines democracy as “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives….”

But it immediately biases the discussion with the following sentence to illustrate the word democracy: “capitalism and democracy are ascendant in the third world.” That is, capitalism and democracy go together. Wherever capitalism goes, democracy goes. The ascend together as was imagined to be the case in the Arab Spring.

To the contrary, the online Oxford Dictionary defines capitalism as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”

The Oxford Dictionary identifies what we are coming to realize in America. We do not live in a democracy. We live under “the economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the state.” Neither are they controlled by the people of the state, the body politic.

The presumed ideological kinship between capitalism and democracy has existed in America culture as long as most of us can remember. It wasn’t always so in the 1920s and ‘30s, but, as we are beginning to understand again by virtue of circumstance, democracy does not depend upon a capitalist economy. In fact, democracy and capitalism are contradictions in terms. They are philosophically incompatible.

The more natural kin of democracy is socialism, as defined by the online Oxford Dictionary: “A political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

Democracy is the rule of the people, “a system of government by the whole population….” or, “the community as a whole.”

Finally in America an intelligent discussion is afoot about democratic rule and economics. Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate takes the discussion to a new level that views global capitalism as “the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth.”

5 thoughts on “Capitalism, Socialism, and the Earth

  1. Oh, bravo, Gordon. I have taken the negative side of the question before — laissez faire capitalism, given long enough, leads almost always to fascism, because eventually the poor will rise up, and the result will almost certainly be a war on the people of the country by the police and army of the country (Now that is a classic tautology, if that is the noun –a horribly constructed sentence, but with 8500 unopened emails in my inbox, seriously, no kidding, I haven’t time to rework it.). It is much better to show the affinity of democracy and socialism, as you do. By the way, I have joined the Democratic Socialists of America.


    • Carolyn, 8,500? You’re much more popular. You must give more money to more organizations and causes! Thank you for the bravo. Do you think Mr. Miller would be proud of your decision to join the Democratic Socialists? That’s a serious question. I often think of our old high school civics/government/political science teacher, and give thanks for him as an example of critical thinking.


  2. I’ll have to read Klein. I like her. I have a young organizer from Miami you need to meet. We just hired her to add juice to our organizing among the young here. Maybe you can connect her to people in the progressive religious community that we are trying to ally with. I just met with the national party chair who wants to forge that alliance. Thanks for posting this Gordon.


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