Monarchy, dictatorships, communism, socialism, one-party rule, none of these systems have worked that well. And if you look at many of the modern failed states, it is apparent that anarchism does not work either. What has worked, sort of, is democracy and capitalism.
I say “sort of” because democracy and capitalism are not as natural as many United States conservatives and Libertarians would like to believe. Set up a democratic/capitalistic nation in a society that has never known freedom, and it is as likely to fail, perhaps more likely, as it is to succeed. It would seem that a society has to be prepared and made ready for democracy and capitalism. You cannot just throw it at them and expect it to stick, like in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will have to cross our fingers with those two countries.
But if a society is properly prepared there is no doubt, in my opinion, that democracy and capitalism are the way to go. However, neither of those systems is perfect, and they both need to be regulated. A society should aim to be organized around democracy and capitalism, but once that is achieved, how should that democracy and that capitalism be organized?
A society should seek to achieve for all its citizens the opportunity for the following:
- And the pursuit of happiness
And the government of a society should help its citizens by doing the following:
- Provide for the general welfare of its citizens
- Create laws to protect liberties and prevent conflict
- Promote cooperation
And the general population should promote their society by doing the following:
- Recognize that with personal freedoms come a personal duty not to trample on the freedoms of others and even to protect the freedoms of others
- Recognize that no one has absolute ownership of the Earth or its resources. We only have a license to use it
- Pay dues to promote the society and the society’s government
Democracy is the best form of government if a society is ready for it. Even so, even a democracy as strong as the United States’ democracy is not perfect. It did not prevent slavery, or the Civil War that finally ended slavery. And it took the democracy of the United States almost a hundred years to end the segregation of blacks and other minorities. Democracy works slow. And even today I believe a strong undercurrent of racism is responsible for much of the gridlock in the United States. But without democracy, I’m not sure if slavery or segregation would have ever ended. And even though racism is still with us, it now has to hide its face, and it is democracy that is slowly snuffing it out.
Capitalism is easily the best way to get the most out of our resources. Capitalism produces wealth in a society. It’s just unfortunate that all that wealth goes to one lucky group of people, leaving out the vast majority within the population. Capitalism produces wealth and it may, in fairness, provide more wealth for the poorer part of the population than other economic systems do, but only up to a point. Because the rich have not just money, but power, they are able to set many of the terms in economic deals. They are able to claim more money for themselves and deny it to lower levels of the economy. Basically, they can tell others who are looking for a job or a contract to take their terms or go hungry. This allows the rich to get richer and the poor to stay poor.
I believe democracy and capitalism, despite being the systems all societies should aspire to, have to be well regulated. The founding fathers of the United States did an excellent job creating a system of checks and balances to regulate democracy. We can argue about specifics of the checks and balances they put in place, but you can’t, or shouldn’t, argue against the concept.
Unfortunately, they did not create a system of checks and balances for capitalism. We need one. Capitalism is about competition and incentives to do a better job than the next person, but it should not be unregulated competition and incentives. The regulations are necessary because not only do the incentives of capitalism inspire the entrepreneur to do a better a job than their competition, it also inspires entrepreneurs to cheat by cutting costs at the expense of society, by avoiding taxes, pollution, taking advantage of employees, not providing for employee safety and welfare, and sabotaging those that get in their way. And the rich, because they also have much power, can get away with this cheating; they can even have laws made to make their cheating legal.
We need a society that is organized for all of its citizens, and a well-regulated democracy and a well-regulated capitalism is the way to do it.
No sooner is the rage of hunger appeased than it becomes difficult to comprehend the meaning of starvation. It is only when you suffer that you really understand. -Jules Verne, science fiction author (1828-1905)