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The purpose of communication is to be understood. As the election campaign heats up, we hear words or terms used nonchalantly to influence our thoughts and sway our decisions. The speaker does not explain or tell us what he means by those words or terms. The listeners are left to think what the word or term really means. This oftentimes leads to misunderstanding because the speaker and the listener may associate and ascribe different meanings to the same words or terms.
These misunderstandings almost always result when the speaker speaks about ideologies, types of governments, political and economic systems. Like languages, no single ideology, as applied in any country, is pure. Like a race, none may be truly said to be unadulterated.
Not since the days of McCarthyism and the Cold War have the people, including officials in the highest echelon of government, talked about democracy, capitalism, communism, and socialism in the election campaigns. As if the United States society did not adopt or practice any of the features or characteristics of one or more of them. As if one as conceptualized is inherently and entirely superior over the other. As if one is to be detested in its entirety. The speaker somehow assumes that he, and us, the public, actually have the same concept of what he is talking about.
” … democracy is a system of government where the citizens enjoy the freedoms – to freely elect the leaders, speak freely, associate freely, and all the natural freedoms that the people did not surrender to the government. At its barest and simplest concept, capitalism is an economic system that can exist only in a democracy where individuals engage in the business of their choice and gets to keep the profits for themselves with none or almost no restrictions.”
At its barest and simplest descriptions, democracy is a system of government where the citizens enjoy the freedoms – to freely elect the leaders, speak freely, associate freely, and all the natural freedoms that the people did not surrender to the government. At its barest and simplest concept, capitalism is an economic system that can exist only in a democracy where individuals engage in the business of their choice and gets to keep the profits for themselves with none or almost no restrictions. In other words, laissez faire, or free market economy, with no interference from the democratic government. In its barest and simplest descriptions, communism does not permit individuals to engage in business and own private property, everything is owned in common by the government supposedly for the benefit of the people, the freedoms we know in a democratic society do not exist, and the leaders have almost unlimited powers.
Communism is both a political and an economic system. Socialism is a political and economic system which we may characterize as that between democracy and communism. It is sometimes referred to a welfare state system. How its principles are applied vary from country to country. Its application is a matter of degree of government control and ability of the government to provide financial support to its citizens.
“Communism is both a political and an economic system. Socialism is a political and economic system which we may characterize as that between democracy and communism.”
The American system of government is a democracy, but of necessity freedoms are limited; its economy is capitalistic but business must be regulated to limit profits. Government-owned or controlled corporations are established. Certain industries are even nationalized, if necessity dictates. But the government remains, in essence, a capitalist democracy.
The Peoples Republic of China (PRC), as China is officially known, claims to have a communist system, with the Communist Party leaders wielding total authority. For years after PRC’s founding, private property was not allowed. After the Cultural Revolution, PRC adopted features of capitalism. Now, private businesses exist. We read about Chinese tycoons and billionaires in China. Government regulations are, of course, more stringent than in a democracy as we know it.
The other countries that call themselves democratic are actually ruled by dictators, including Cuba and North Korea, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and its satellite states in Eastern Europe, do not have or never had a communist system as its theorists propounded. They have or had the kinds or system of government that we all detest. Our views of communism are a result of the atrocities of their governments. At some point or another they relaxed the rules on common ownership.
The socialist experiment in Venezuela failed mainly because of a corrupt and autocratic government. Others countries that are considered democratic but have socialist programs have progressive economies, whose citizens are considered among the “happiest” in the world. The Scandinavian countries have democratic governments, freely elected, but they have a welfare state system, where the government takes care of its people “from the cradle to the grave”, so to speak.
“Supporters of any of the political parties and candidates often appeal to our emotions rather than to reason to achieve their objectives. They build on our biases and misconceptions. Democracy, communism, socialism, and capitalism, as they were originally conceptualized, do not exist in reality.”
Supporters of any of the political parties and candidates often appeal to our emotions rather than to reason to achieve their objectives. They build on our biases and misconceptions. Democracy, communism, socialism, and capitalism, as they were originally conceptualized, do not exist in reality. We all detest a system of government where the leaders are not chosen freely, no private property ownership is permitted, and no individuals rights are enjoyed. So, when anyone refers to these isms (ideas), dare to ask them what they mean so that you both will have a common ground for discussion. As the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, is reputed to have said: “If you want to speak with me, define your terms.”
American capitalist democracy is strong because it is able to include laudable features of other political and economic systems that benefit most of the people. Any idea that will result to the benefit of the majority of the people must be welcomed. After all, is this not supposed to be the purpose of government –– to benefit the people?
As responsible electors, we should be able to look beyond where the speaker wants to lead us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Manuel B. Quintal, ESQ., practices law in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist of Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York, from 2006-2009. He was Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines and New York State. He has graduate degrees in Political Science and an LL.M. major in International Law.