Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ideas and Economic Systems III

Where do we get our ideas about the economy, economic equality, capitalism, socialism, communism, big business, and related topics? Are our ideas actually good ideas and how would we know? Those are the questions of the day.

As usual, most of our ideas about our economic system cope from four sources - school, the family, the mass media, and our peers. They teach us, or brainwash us, to understand our system and our place in that system. We also learn to defend our system and to believe in it, or not, depending on what part of society we belong to.

School usually exposes us to messages about competitition, economic growth, big business, and capitalism. We in the United States learned to associate socialism with Communism and the Soviet Union. More recently, we are learning to equate socialism with France, North Korea, Cuba, Sweden, Denmark, and Canada. This association is reinforced by people like Rush Limbaugh and Mike Savage.

Our friends, family, and coworkers encourage us to go along with ideas that support our economic system. Why do you never hear people in MBA programs discussing the means for creating a socialist economic system in the United States? Seriously, if you have ever encountered that sort of discussion, please let me know!

We get plenty of other economic ideas from the same four sources. Attitudes toward the poor and toward money come from the same places as our ideas about appropriate economic goals. (Have you ever wanted to create a worker collective? I didn't think so!) We also learn that market forces are natural, or else are almost on the level of the sacred.

Anyway, I have no idea whether socialism or capitalism or communism is the superior economic system. It really depends on which system, under what circumstances, is effective, efficient, and supportive of widely-hled values that transcend economics. We should be studying our ideas to see how they hold up on factual, logical, and ethical grounds not blasting the "evils" of socialism or capitalism.


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