Income Security
Saturday, April 25th 2009

Capitalism vs. Socialism

Rasmussen Reports released the results of a telephone poll that suggests growing support for guaranteed basic income.

The title on their web site is “Just 53% Say Capitalism Better Than Socialism.” Citizen Dividends will be the best of both. Everyone will have the freedom of a free market society, and the absolute safety net of socialism. The benefits of both for the very rich and the very poor, and the rest of us, as well.

The details of the Rasmussen poll suggest that a majority will endorse this synthesis. Plus, the poll shows that people are more likely today than a few years ago to doubt and question capitalism.

Here’s a link to the Rasumussen Reports site.

A story about the poll was posted on the progressive site, and that link is here.

A huge problem with the poll is that the researchers didn’t define either capitalism or socialism. Many Americans use “socialism” to describe Social Security and just about every program to help ordinary people or promote common interests. Others among us use that label only when talking about state-owned businesses.

With “capitalism,” some people use it as a synonym for “free market economy,” but fail or refuse to consider the different forms that market economies take. In America today, as the financial crisis and government response to it clearly indicate, some very big corporations, finance corporations in particular, are “too big to fail.” The very big get special protections from government, protections that are never available to smaller companies.

A few noteworthy paragraphs from the Rasmussen site:

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.

It is interesting to compare the new results to an earlier survey in which 70% of Americans prefer a free-market economy. The fact that a “free-market economy” attracts substantially more support than “capitalism” may suggest some skepticism about whether capitalism in the United States today relies on free markets.

Other survey data supports that notion. Rather than seeing large corporations as committed to free markets, two-out-of-three Americans believe that big government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors.

[The above was posted on April 10, 2009. In an April 15 column in the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson reviewed the Rasmusson data and presented some compatible insights. Here.

Steven Shafarman

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