The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil... I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy
Albert Einstein (1949)
Today I wanted to talk about some issues that I have been thinking about over the past week. While not having a very direct relation to religion or atheism, I thought it would be best to introduce it here rather than another blog or forum because I would like to get your views about it. Most of you being atheists, I feel that I can safely say that your beliefs and arguments will be more based in reason than those of another audience.
What I've been wondering recently is whether capitalism is truly the best economic system in terms of supplying the goods that we need to live and be happy and in providing a stable future for humanity. To many of you, as it did to me a short while ago, this idea probably seems blasphemous and ridiculous. Throughout middle and high school education in America, we are constantly told that capitalism is the best system and that it is the only economic system compatible with freedom. I even felt guilty when I began to doubt capitalism, as if I had done something wrong. The feeling was similar to how I remember feeling when I first started to doubt the existence of god. But I've been thinking recently, is it really such a surprise that in a society like ours where the wealthy effectively rule the country that our society would also value the system that serves as the source of their power?
I should note that I am by no means an economics professor. In addition to that, I've only been thinking about this for a short while, and because of this I intend for this post to be more of a call for opinions rather than a statement of which is best. Because I honestly don't think I've thought about it enough to make statements like that yet.
My education is, however, in physics and math. My first doubt of capitalism resulted from an idea of thinking that we employ a lot in physics to test solutions. We often test the viability of a solution to a problem by "taking limits". For example, if I'm calculating an electric field and I get an answer I can test my answer by taking certain limits on it to see if it is consistent with what I know to be true. If I know that the electric field must go to zero when the observation point is far away from the source, I can evaluate my answer in that limit and see if it exhibits the correct behavior. If it does, then perhaps I have the correct solution. If it doesn't, I better try something else. It is an argument of this sort which stimulated my first doubts in capitalism.
Let us flash forward to the (potentially) not-so-distant future. I think it is easily arguable that robots and machines will do a great deal of our physical labor. In fact, I would expect robots to do all jobs that didn't require human creativity (art, science, engineering, writing, etc). The robots themselves could even be built by other robots. Machines will fly our planes, till our land, clean our floors, prepare our food, serve in the military, etc. Because of this there would be massive unemployment I believe, probably over 90%. How would a capitalist economy manage this? Would it allow 90% of the population to starve? Shouldn't technology like robotics make life easier for all rather than deprive many of jobs while enhancing the profits of a few? I am not sure that I can see how any economic system besides socialism could provide for a future like this. So if capitalism fails in this limit, perhaps it is not the correct solution. To be fair, it could be true that different economic systems are better suited for different stages of human development. I have not had much time to put much thought into this.
Now, like I said, this isn't supposed to be an argument for socialism per se, simply an asking of a question. I haven't even defined socialism. I'm not really interested in posting arguments for socialism or against capitalism because they tend to be long and complicated if you want to be complete, but I would like to clarify one thing so that any discussion will be more fruitful. The collapse of the Soviet Union is not a blow to the promise of socialism. Socialism entails control of society's resources by the people and in order for this to happen, it must also be able to democratically elect its government and the citizens must have personal freedom. The USSR was not socialist and although it doesn't really matter for this argument, neither was it communist (as envisioned by Marx). North Korea then, is also neither of these. The wealth of North Korea is not for its people, but for Kim Jong-il and his military. From what I've learned thus far we've never had a true socialist nation on earth to use as an example.
So please, discuss! I'd like to hear your thoughts. Here's another resource if you'd like it.