At the beginning of the great dystopian movie V for Vendetta, the protagonist offers a succinct explanation on the importance of meaning within words.
Words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.
As Ludwig von Mises noted:
In the long run even the most despotic governments with all their brutality and cruelty are no match for ideas. Eventually the ideology that has won the support of the majority will prevail and cut the ground from under the tyrants feet. Then the oppressed many will rise in rebellion and overthrow their masters.
Through the use of vague terms such as “shared sacrifice” and “common good,” public officials and their media supporters are able to convince the witless of the legitimacy of state-sanctioned theft. Statists are never above using lies, manipulation, and creative definitions to justify their schemes of government intervention. And because freedom and the market economy pose as the biggest hurdles to achieving totalitarianism, they have become the prime target of virtually every leftist ideology; no matter the degree of radicalism.
Indeed, there is no bigger whipping boy in the sphere of modern day politics than capitalism. According to today’s leftists, and even some considered on the political right, capitalism is a heartless economic system based on exploitation. In their view, businessmen put “profit over people” in their lust for income. Capitalism, it is alleged, pads the billionaire’s pockets while throwing the common man to the wolves of cutthroat competition. It is only through the state and its various programs aimed at supporting the downtrodden that compassion is introduced into the free market. In his essay entitled “Socialism and Man in Cuba,” famed Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara called capitalism “a contest among wolves. One can win only at the cost of the failure of others.”
These critiques of capitalism still exist today despite the millions of deaths attributed to government imposed collectivism. It has been estimated that the number of deaths attributed to communism is in the range of 100 million. During the 20th century when Stalin’s purges were occurring, many on the intellectual left in the West ignored the brutalities and praised the Soviet Union’s state-run economy. But, as Gary North writes, “then came The Black Book of Communism” which put the nail in the coffin of the supposed morality of Soviet communism. As North notes
The book was published by Harvard University Press, so it could not be dismissed as a Right-wing fat tract.
In the book it superficially tells of how all these people supposedly died in famines caused by the evil communists. Very telling, is how they leave out any comparison to famine deaths in capitalist countries so that we may compare. By doing this they claim that famines are a problem only in socialism.
The fact is, the deaths caused by communism are substantially less than the massive death tolls caused by capitalism.
The main weapon these bourgeois writers use is a complete lack of scientific thinking. Poverty under capitalism (a system of private property) kills by lack of food, a decent environment and adequate health care.
The first problem with this claim is that the MIM gives no historical time period by which to compare capitalism to communism’s heyday in the 20th century. That aside, capitalism is still not to blame for death in Western economies.
The fact is that pure capitalism was never attempted in any major industrialized country over the past two centuries. Capitalism, which is defined as a system of private control over the means of production and a lack of economic interference via the government, can’t then be blamed for the deaths attributed to it. But even assuming it a totally capitalist system were in place, does it follow that it would be responsible for starvation or for a lack of access to medical care?
In a free, capitalistic society, the threat of never having enough food, water, shelter, or medicine would still exist just as it would under totalitarian communism. Scarcity is a matter of fact of our world. No economic system can change that. Goods must then be produced in order to be consumed. Food has to be grown, water has to be made drinkable, houses need built, and medical technology has to be developed. Economic freedom allows advancements in production to be realized. If people are free to engage in commerce, they will seek to fulfill their needs in satisfying others.
Basically, if a man needs to eat, he will seek out food. As populations rise, there will be more opportunities for farmers to make a profit off of putting food in the extra mouths. It is only through the market the consumers and producers are able to communicate effectively and coordinate what finds its way to store shelves. And because transactions under capitalism are necessarily remunerative, that is satisfying to each party involved, the capitalist economy can’t be exploitive except in cases of property violation or fraud; both of which are generally recognized as criminal. Under capitalism, no one is forced to work for another and no one is forced to purchase anything. People must eat precisely because they are people; their bodies can’t function without food. This has nothing to do with capitalism, socialism, or communism. It is the human condition at its core.
On the contrary, socialism prevents the free movement of goods and production. The all controlling state prevents wares from coming to market with the power of force. In the case of the Soviet famines, farmers were prevented from eating the food they grew with the threat of imprisonment or death. Government officials helped themselves to the food kept in peasant households. It was because the Stalin regime prohibited private property and abolished the market system that the Soviet people couldn’t provide for themselves. Forced communal farming was also to blame for famines in communist China and even starvation among the first American colonists.
Contrasting communism with capitalism, it is obvious which system is rightfully to blame for deaths that occur from a lack of sustenance. Death is destined to happen under any economics system. The uninhibited market allows for the rational production for the masses. Government intervention, no matter how extreme, distorts the market’s allocation of goods. And as Mises proved, centralized planning on a national level is always destined to fail.
While communism has proven to be the great enemy of material prosperity, it also goes hand in hand with violent suppression. From Stalin’s use of the Gulag and prison camps to Mao’s Laogai, forced labor and executions of political dissenters were an undeniable feature of communist regimes. As Stalin said “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.” Apologists don’t even deny the atrocity of the murders linked to communism. They simply try to downplay the massive loss of life. In his criticism of The Black Book of Communism, Daniel Singer of The Nation writes:
The basic weakness of both The Black Book of Communism and The Passing of an Illusion is their incapacity to explain anything. If you look at Communism as merely the story of crimes, terror and repression, to borrow the subtitle of the Black Book, you are missing the point. The Soviet Union did not rest on the gulag alone. There was also enthusiasm, construction, the spread of education and social advancement for millions;
If we were to produce another Black Book, one to name misdeeds perpetrated under capitalist regimes, there would be no need to go back to the Industrial Revolution. Sticking just to our cruel century, there are two world wars and numerous massacres, ranging from Armenia in 1915 through Indonesia, with its slaughter of more than half a million, to the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda.
Admittedly, Western nations today are far from capitalism. Fascism is the name of the incestuous game in major economies. Still, the name capitalism signifies the elements needed for a prosperous society. Private property and economic liberty have always been the foundations for civilization. To attribute such a system with state-corporatism or imperialist warmongering is a deceitful attempt to once again cover the barbarity of omnipotent, repressive government.