Democracy, Socialism, Capitalism, And Communism

By: Wanda Campbell

We just finished the election primary. Voting this time was a new experience because we registered electronically. I usually vote first thing in the morning to get it done, and noticed that the delay in the process was not too much great. In Limestone County, the total number of eligible voters is more than 64,000, and when the polls closed, a total of 23, 154 people cast their vote and exercised their Constitutionally guaranteed right to choose their leaders.

We are hearing a lot about socialism now. There are other forms of government – capitalism, socialism, communism, and democracy. Democracy is a form of government with the power assigned to the people who elect representatives or agents to speak for them. Democracies are not perfect. Political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Zablatt wrote a book – How Democracies Die, 2018 – about how elected leaders gradually undermine the democratic process to increase personal power.

One of the oldest democracy is in Iceland. It was founded in 930 AD by the Vikings. They have the longest documented parliament on Earth. Tynwald, on the Isle of Mann, also claims to have the oldest parliament in the world.

Socialism theorizes that the citizens will all cooperate to pay the bills. For example, we can all go to the doctor for free because we all paid taxes for the doctor bills. Although socialism has long been a “dirty” word in America, several politicians are opting for it. Socialism is not new in America, Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted “New Deal” programs and Lyndon B. Johnson had the “Great Society” programs that made the government a force for good in peoples’ lives.

Capitalism is driven by the free market. The state does not interfere with the economy. Capitalism means production and distribution are privately owned or corporately owned and their operations are funded by profits. Capitalism has five characteristics: economic freedom, voluntary exchange, private property rights, a profit motive, and competition.

Communism is a sub-category of Socialism. It is a government system and an economic system based on shared wealth. The main difference between socialism and communism is that property in communism is owned by the government. Russia gave communism a bad name with their ruthless governments.

The United States is a federal republic government in which the president, Congress and federal courts share powers. Although we have democratic elections, the Constitution allows an Electoral College to select the president instead of the democratic popular vote in some cases. Most often there is one sovereign state when you are talking about republics. In our case we have the single sovereign state and 50 sub-sovereign states that are also republican in their nature. In the states and well as the federal government, the elected individuals exercise power according to the rule of law under a constitution.

My favorite quote about voting comes from Abraham Lincoln. He said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”
By: Wanda Campbell
Center for Lifelong Learning – 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 – 256-233-8262