Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism Compared

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Mr. Beat explains the difference between capitalism, socialism, and communism. Karl Marx was the one who first articulated it, but boy is he misunderstood by many today. #socialism#capitalism#communism

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Produced by Matt Beat. Music by Electric Needle Room. All images either by Matt Beat, found in the public domain, or used under fair use guidelines. Special thanks to the AP Archives for use of some their footage!


Marx, Karl. Capital.

Rothbard, Murray: Making Economic Sense, 2nd edition. (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006, ISBN 9781610165907), p. 426

So it appears a lot of people have strong opinions about these three words. But there’s confusion about what they mean. These three words have also been weaponized. People often use these three words to attack and marginalize others. People misuse these three words. They conflate them with other words. For example, often people seamlessly interchange communism and totalitarianism, or capitalism and fascism, as if they mean the exact same thing.

Alright, let’s look up the definition of capitalism and put that up on the screen.

Capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

Ok, so let’s break this down. First of all, it says “economic system,” meaning a way resources get around and trade stuff. By private or corporate ownership...ok let’s just say private ownership of capital goods. Ok, what are capital goods? Goods used to make other goods. Alright...let’s go on. By basically folks trying to get rich that are determined by private decision, prices, production and distribution of goods determined by competition in a free market….ok let’s simplify that. Folks trying to get rich by competing with each other. Everything else is implied, isn’t it? If you are competing in a free market, there is no government stopping you when trying to make money. You are making decisions on prices, production, and distribution in order to make a profit, and you are competing with others for customers. This is capitalism.


a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory. (Ok well we don’t have to go over this definition, do we?) (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism,characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles. So first, it’s a theory OR a system. Why is socialism considered a theory and capitalism not? Probably because it’s never been fully practiced. But it is another economic system. But instead of private or corporate ownership we are talking about the community as a whole as the owners. With capitalism, it’s about owning capital goods. But with socialism, it’s about owning the production, distribution, land, everything...and everyone owns that. The community as a whole makes economic decisions, not the individual. Based on that definition, have we ever had that? No, not really, not since farming became a thing at least.

Now, that third definition is the historical definition of socialism, and often leads to even more confusion about what socialism actually means. Marxist theory? Yeah, socialism, even though it had origins throughout human history, was first articulated by two dudes named Karl Marx and . Get it? MARXist because it was named after him? To this day, Engels is still mad it’s called Marxism and not Engelism, by the way. Anyway, the two criticized capitalism and said it would eventually be overthrown by a new economic system, aka socialism, and eventually communism. Socialism was just a transition from capitalism to communism. Marx and Engels said socialism would consist of everybody owning the means of production, and that the workers would control and manage it.

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