Standard of Living

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Figure 1. Communism vs. Capitalism. [6]

Catherine Bollman Period 6

Communism is a theory created by Karl Marx which advocates “Abolition of private property” and “to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State.”[1] This theory was created in order to solve the problems of injustice towards the working class yet many argue that this theory hurts the working class more than it helps. Pope Leo XIII states that “they would rob the lawful professor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community.”[2] The Pope views owning private property as a right that man has by nature and to abolish it would be an injustice to man instead of an advantage.[2] Karl Marx argues that liberty and freedom, as defined by the bourgeoisie, are worth sacrificing in order to gain prosperity for the masses, but in reality is the standard of living higher in countries where Communism is enforced rather than Capitalism?

A table that provided the rankings of country’s gross domestic product depicted that only two, China and Vietnam, of the five Communist countries left were in the top fifty of the GDP ranking.[3] Pope Leo XIII would likely predict that Communist countries would face lower standards of living because “by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests by every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life.”[2] In contrast, a good majority of Capitalist countries are within the top fifty and most importantly the number one spot belongs to a Capitalist country, U.S.A.[3] When comparing GDP, Capitalist countries take the lead on a higher standard of living presumably because with Communism there is no incentive to work when there is no wages and the inability to own private property.

Another measure on the standard of living to be looked at is religious freedom. Karl Marx set the stage for how tolerant Communist countries would be on different faiths when he said “religion is the opium of the people.”[4] Through this statement Communism and religion were not to be mixed which would result in some of the most disturbing religious persecutions. Many of the anti-religious campaigns can be seen in one of the most notable Communist state known as the Soviet Union. In contrast, Capitalism supports religious freedom as seen through a quote by James Madison: “While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the religion which we believe to be of a divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.”[5] Capitalism’s promoters are more accepting and open minded towards those of different faiths. Through religious tolerance Capitalism again comes out the victor in the standard of living in comparison to Communist states.

While there are many factors to be accounted for in the standard of living the two represented are the most telling of the type of life one would have in either a Communist or Capitalist country. Karl Marx’s theory of Communism can seem ideal, but in reality the standard of living is greater in Capitalist countries.

[1] Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Ellen Meiksins. Wood, The Communist manifesto (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998).

[2] Pope Leo XIII, Rerum novarum: encyclical on the rights and duties of capital and labour (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1983).

[3]  “GDP ranking,” GDP ranking | Data, April 17, 2017. Accessed April 29, 2017,

[4] Gary Martin, “‘Religion is the opium of the people’ – the meaning and origin of this phrase,” Phrasefinder, 2017. Accessed April 29, 2017,

[5] “Isn’t Capitalism opposed to freedom of religion? ” The Capitalism Site, 2017. Accessed May 01, 2017,

[6] “What are the differences between communism and capitalism?” Reference, 2017. Accessed May 01, 2017,


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