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12 May 2019  (649 Views) 
Political systems

Socialism and communism
Many people confuse socialism with totalitarianism. 

Totalitarianism is a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state. The opposite is a liberal society.

In the past, many socialist countries were also totalitarian but this may not be the case. They are countries in Europe which can be considered as socialist, e.g. Denmark, Sweden and even Germany, but they are quite liberal. 

Socialism is an economic system where the government collects higher taxes and provide more public services free to the people, i.e education, health, welfare and pensions.  A socialist society is more equal and take better care of the poorer people.

The high income people have to pay higher taxes, but they are still better off than the lower income people. 

Communism is a more extreme form of socialism where the government is under the control of the communist party.  

It may come as a surprise to many people that a communist system can be quite democratic in electing its leaders. Although the leaders are elected within the communist party (which I suspect represents 10% or more of the population), there is competitive election within the party to elect leaders through the various levels. 

In many democratic countries, the election of leaders are, to a large extent, influenced by wealth. The candidates who has more donations from wealthy people are able to spend more money in their campaign and are more likely to be elected. They are then beholden to their donors. This system of "free election" also has its flaw.

In the past decades up to 1990, many socialist countries have poor economic performance. It lead to the collapse of Soviet Union, which was the bastion of communism, in 1990. 

Poor economic performance is not confined only to socialist countries. Some capitalist countries have also not performed well, e.g. Philippines and countries in Latin America. Their poor performance could be due to corruption.

However, some communist countries appear to perform well economically after 1990, especially China and Vietnam. China introduced "socialism with market characteristics" in the late 1980s. Their economic performance has been remarkable and are much better than the capitalist countries. Vietnam continues to be a communist country and is also performing well.

There are some socialist countries that are not performing well. In many cases, their poor performance is due to economic sanctions imposed by the Western countries or by corruption within these countries. It is not due to the application of socialist principles in running the country.

I hope that this post explains the difference between:

a) economic management, i.e. socialist and capitalism
b) system of choosing the government, i.e. democratic election or restricted to the communist party.
c) type of government, i.e. totalitarian or liberal.

Tan Kin Lian

Vote - do you agree with my description of these concepts?


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