Communism vs. Capitalism; Do we live in a zero-sum game?
By: Logan A Jobe
Are you poor or poorer than your neighbor? There are many commodities one can own in this world, but not everyone can have them due to different circumstances. For example, a kid gets a new puppy for his birthday and another kid gets a stuffed animal from a garage sale. Would you say that the kid with the stuffed animal is poor? Or is he poor compared to the kid with the new puppy? This is the contradiction of a zero-sum game and a nonzero-sum game. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels express in “Manifesto of the Communist Party” their Communistic beliefs of the zero-sum game, while Charles Wheelan expresses in, Naked Economics his beliefs of the nonzero-sum game. Cuba and the USA currently show the effects of the nonzero sum versus the zero-sum game.
Marx and Engels both express that people are afraid of communism due to the fact that government will “do away with private property”. However, in our “existing society” we already have taken away “nine-tenths of the population[s]” private property; through various binding restrictions such as taxes and regulations on everything one owns or makes: income taxes, land and home taxes. [i] The belief of private property exits from the, “non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths,” of the people who can not attain private property. [i] Therefore, the people ask to do away with property, “the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property,” in order to be equal. [i] Communism has always sounded like the dream to many countries however their efforts to obtain this vision have failed.
Oppositely, Wheelan believes in the U.S’s capitalistic non zero-sum game. The wealth of one’s government or of other fellow citizens does not directly impact an individual’s prosperity. People who live in, “public housing on the South Side of Chicago are not poor because Bill Gates lives in a big house. They are poor despite the fact that Bill Gates lives in a big house”. [ii] In this same way, the kid with the stuffed animal is only poor when compared to the kid who has a new puppy. You have the choice to develop your skills and human capital to be the same as your neighbor. Anyone has the ability to pursue unlimited prosperity because, “economics tells us that there is no theoretical limit to how well we can live or how widely our wealth can spread,” in this world. [ii]
Communism failed in Cuba due to the appropriation of people’s private property and restraints on the ability to freely invest in themselves and in others. Private property is nonexistent and therefore people aren’t incentivized into contributing more production. They have no more than “10%” financial freedom or property freedom since 1995. [iii] Cubans also have not had more than “10%” labor freedom since 2005. [iii] Whereas, the United States of America has had at least “70%” financial freedom. “90-80%” property freedom, and free labor above “90%” since 1995. [iii]
In conclusion, the belief of the idealized communistic economy of Marx and Engels has been proven to be destructive and limiting. Whereas Wheelan’s capitalistic competitive nonzero-sum game has been proven to breed competition and overall enhancement.
[i] Wheelan, Charles J. “Ch. 6 Productivity and Human Capital.” Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: Norton, 2002. N. pag. Print.
[ii] Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “Ch II. Proletarians and Communists.” Manifesto of the Communist Party. New York: International, 1948. N. pag. Print.
[iii] “Index of Economic Freedom.” Index of Economic Freedom. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.
Image: “Commism vs Capitalism.” 9gag. N.p., n.d. Web.