Through a conversation with my friend regarding the current politics in Australia (they've hung the parliament for the first time since World War 2) we fell into discussing the type of governing system we would prefer to live under. For those who are a little fuzzy over the terms, here's a review in a nutshell:
Capitalism: Everyone makes as much money as possible. The government tries to involve itself minimally. The poor have to ekk it out on their own.
Communism: The government owns everything. All businesses are controlled by the government. You are given as much as they think you deserve. (I am unsure if there any pure communist countries left)
Socialism: The more money you make, the greater your taxes. The less money you make the greater the government hand out.
Well, this is more a question for the economists than us philosophers perhaps, but what sort of system is the best? I believe there are entire schools of debate upon this matter.
However, despite the Cold War (the ideological war of Communism and Capitalism, fought largely by America and Russia on foreign soil) and America's insistence upon Capitalism being the perfect system, I believe today we can openly see how it has failed in several major aspects. One only has to do a small amount of research into its health system (try looking at the amount an average person pays over their life span in comparison to any other country in the world) and certain numbers are shocking.
What of communism? Did that work? I think it fair to say that true Communism, the type that Marx (the purported founder of communism) suggested never came to be. Perhaps, within our current economic system, cannot come to be? But Marx wasn't describing so much a system as a flow of events. He observed how riches and power became more and more decentralised as a nation became more modern. From the king to the priests, from the priests to the lords, the lords to the politicians - and he was hoping from the politicians to the people. That last step by and large has not come about (or maybe power has shifted instead to large corporations and businesses?)
Socialism goes a little bit along the way of Marxism. Not in terms of power or wealth but socialist countries try, at least, to ensure everyone has the basics. Agreed, there are myriad ways to abuse the system and so far, I don't believe it has completely irradicated crime and poverty. But here, we begin to see, what humans do when perhaps not so pressured by the need to survive (i.e. generate money). We also see interesting subcultures that only present in socialist countries. My personal favourite is the beach bum culture in Australia, who live to surf, sun, sex and have little of anything else. How would we all live if we were guaranteed all the basics of life?
Continuing this discussion with another group of friends, this time a more religious group, economic systems proved a rather trying and taxing riddle. Economists themselves are often arguing many points amongst themselves and I've heard it more than once that no one actually has a completely functioning economic theory. Maybe it is a little like physics, the extreme conditions do not conform to the general laws? So a group of people approaching it from a religious view have a difficult conundrum indeed.
Firstly, religion (save maybe in the askance of donations and funds) have not truly given any guideline to the economy. So, being unequiped to tackle the problem we are left to follow moral principles that our religion has set out and hope this to be the best.
I think this is true irregardless of which religion and still true for everyone around us who simply don't understand economy or politics (irregardless of the presence of religion!) We are often being asked to vote upon or nominate something whose complexity is deep enough to rival that of particle physics! What happens in most cases, unable to make an informed vote for the benefit of all (since no outcome is certain), we are left to vote for which party will give us the most money. (If money is considered a religion too, then this still follows above stated principle neatly: we follow the mandates of our religion - case in point: make more money!)
Further reflection with the group we came upon the interesting subject matter, that Jesus (and might I add even Buddha and Muhammad? And perhaps people could suggest other learned characters giving people meaning to life) never gave anyone an economic system to follow... But the economy is a large demanding kind of beast and affects more than just us humans on the planet. Can we actually ignore it?
I think I'll stop the post on that note. But I intend to continue that last line of thought on with a matter close to my heart, soon.
This is an extraordinarily large topic and I would love for anyone who has something to say to respond. Maybe some wise economists could enlighten us all with some insights?