When this country was founded, those such as Thomas Jefferson used the phrase “Political Economy” as the term for the area of study that involves the effects of government policies on the economics and people of a society. Although the term socio-economics is not used in this context, to me, as you will see, it should be considered for this study.
After studying socio-economics for some 40 years now, the terms and phrases are still highly debated and the opinions given by those I’ve read and discussed them with vary tremendously. The written material varies so much, it prompted me to try to come to a greater understanding of them for myself before I can possibly share them with others. We are political animals and separating it from sociology and even other studies, I think is a mistake. How can we separate the laws which we live by and how the effect society? I hope you will find my definitions interesting as well as the rationale for defining them. Unless we define the terms and socially come to some level of consensus, it is very difficult to debate the issues affecting us and believe me they various issues really need debating.
In every society, there consist a government sector also known as the public sector and there is the private sector where business is generally created. There are some crossovers such as government and private contractors working for the government and that is discussed later.
First, though, I decided to break down the types of governments and the economic systems into two different categories and another reason why I like the term socio-economics.
The “socio” part being, politically “who makes the decision” within the society, the form of government and of course, the economic part being what type of economic system they decide to use. As in science sometimes you come up with an idea then see if it works and in this case, I think it works out very well.
Who Makes The Decision in Society; Socio:
Let’s start out, right off the bat, with a common definition of the term I believe is incorrect and why. I believe the current definition of Dictatorship, “a person exercising absolute power, especially a ruler who has absolute, unrestricted control in a government without hereditary succession”, is wrong. I do not believe that one person can control an entire nation without assistance. They must have someone, or actually, many people to help them carry out their policies and more importantly protect them and watch their back. The public leader may be at the top of the hierarchy, but there is still a hierarchy. Cuba, with Fidel Castro, was an example of a dictatorship that people commonly believed, but as we all know his brother Raul was at his side, as well as many others. Interestingly, now Wikipedia defines dictatorship as an oligarchy, in addition to a single all-powerful dictator. I disagree with this. There is no such thing as a dictatorship. The term needs to go to the dictionary graveyard. An oligarchy is an oligarchy; government-run by the few, which by the way I believe most governments of the world, including the United States, really are and so are “all” so-called dictatorships.
A second term that is interesting is that there are some misconceptions about the various forms of government. For instance, authoritarianism is considered by some, to be a form of government. I disagree. Authoritarianism is a by-product or result of the abolition of individual rights by a government. The less individual rights within the society the more authoritarian or totalitarian your government is and vice versa, the greater the rights the less authoritarian. Authoritarianism and totalitarianism are really just a result of a corrupt government that no longer allows justice and individual rights, and as you will see, can occur from what are valid forms of government.
Democracy, as almost everyone knows, is a government where the decisions are made by majority rule. Perhaps a little simplistic, but good enough for now and if you have a democratic Republic, this adds the element of elected representation, and that is what most people believe most governments around the world are today. I believe that all so-called democratic governments whether they are direct democracies like Switzerland or have elected representation are actually run by so-called shadow governments that manipulate the democratic process using various techniques, hence a relatively small group of very economically and politically powerful people running the show; an oligarchy.
The illusion of being able to substantively participate in the democratic process stifled my understanding of this for years and it wasn’t until I broke down the various reasons why democracies always fail, before it really sank in, both why democracy is a fallacy and how the oligarchs manage to control society. Obviously, I’m not saying democracies don’t exist, it’s that they just don’t work very well at all, at providing for what is in the best interest of the majority, which is what it’s supposed to do. I’m going to provide this Why Democracies Fail on why I believe democracies fail, because I don’t want to go into what is good or bad as far as types of government or economic policies in this essay, so we can focus on just the definitions and terms.
A “Military Juntas” is just another oligarchy; leadership by the few, with individuals from the military and/or the police running the show. There are a number of military Juntas such as Cuba, Myanmar, Fiji, and Egypt, in operations today and they “generally” don’t last very long.
A “Theocracy”, once again is an oligarchy, with religious “elements” making the decisions.
A “Monarchy”; once again, an oligarchy, with powerful family(ies) running the show and the top of the hierarchy being passed on by sperm. Saudi Arabia is an example. Of course, you have bastardized systems, like England and Holland that still have Monarchs. Why is a $million question?
It will be interesting to see if Cuba will someday fall under the definition of a monarchy, now that Raul has taken over from his brother, Fidel. Even though it’s predominately a communist oligarchy, Fidel and his comrades took control by military force, thus it is theoretically a military Junta using the communist model for its economic system. Fidel incidentally calls himself a socialista, i.e. which I place into the category of an economic term. This is another reason I think that breaking down the socio/decision-making side and the economic side is a good idea. The same holds true for the next paragraph.
There are a number of other forms of government that people have tried to bring to the forefront of intellectual thought such as the term liberal Democracy, which they define as a democracy, with the strong protection of rights but I have a problem with these type of terms because, in this case, the economic system chosen by the democracy creates the situation. If the democracy chooses not to intervene into the lives of people and the market place, they are in essence protecting individual rights and if the democracy intervenes heavily into the lives of people and the market place they must take away individual rights though specifically taxing and regulatory fees. If I were to call a democracy with the protection of individual rights, I would not call it liberal, I would call it libertarian; the essence of the protection of individual rights. People who consider themselves liberals today are really what people referred themselves as socialists in early 1900. An example is the American Socialist Party in 1928 and 1932 were able to get all their party platforms enacted and they are still at it today.
Then we have anarchism, the absence of government. Pretty simple, except those who participate in government, politicians and bureaucrats are not generally enthralled by those who are in the anarchist movement. Go figure. Libertarianism categorizes themselves into two primary categories. Anarcho-capitalism, essentially anarchism and mini-archaism, is either a very limited government whose primary interest is to protect the rights and property of its Citizens or no government at all.
One can make the argument that communism, where everyone, except those in the black markets, works for the government is at one end of the spectrum and anarcho-capitalism, where theoretically, no one works for the government, is at the other end of the political spectrum. In a communist society you have not private property rights and in a libertarian society, individuals have total private property rights.
This is where my separation of who makes the decision and the economic system they chose, has some crossovers as I call it. In a communistic society, is it even possible to have a democratic government? Most of the ones like Cuba and the Ex-Soviet Union are and were oligarchies, so I try to stick to my separation strategy but understand that some terms can be used on both sides, political and economic, in discussions so we just must accept that fact.
This brings up the issue of moot systems both economically and politically. People throw out all sorts of useless ideologies and theories such as anarcho-communism. How can there be opposing ideologies in a single system that has a chance of working? I’ve read much of these type ideas and they do more to confuse the various issues in an already somewhat confusing environment. Additionally, there is no need for them in any relevant discussion as there are better generally acknowledged substitute terms.
Back to why I believe most governments today are oligarchies. If you read the above link on why Democracies fail, and believe its conclusion, then most governments are being run a small core of people in various positions of power. Judges, tenured politicians, and bankers dominate the political and economic decision-making process in America. There are 535 people in Congress, a President, and a few hundred judicial positions that really make the final decisions on all our socio-economic affairs. If you follow the careers of many prominent politicians they are involved in government an awfully long time. The central bankers and their member banks play a definitive role by controlling regulatory oversight, lending policies, underwriting of credit and the amount of money in circulation; very powerful controls because they basically have a major influence over who gets the loans and how much. They also make the decision as to which banks and bankers are allowed to be in business. There are 12 Federal Reserve branches and 12 people on each branch Board, mostly prominent bankers themselves, so there are another 144 people with profound influence over economic and political policy. Less than a thousand or so people run our country of 320 million people. To me, that’s an oligarchy and this is true for most of the 200+/- countries around the world. Now here’s the key; one must believe these people are motivated more by special interest than by the Democratic process and if you understand how the system really works, it is being run by special interests.
When I started researching the different economic systems and what was written about them, this is when it really hit me as to how much the differences of opinion were. I found that people were often looking at the results of the various systems rather than trying to break them down operationally or in some other manner. The results of what are going on in a country, for instance, can vary tremendously depending on what period of their economic cycle they are in if a ruthless tyrant comes to power if a neighboring country decides to declare war or a military junta is successful.
I had the greatest success looking at the various systems as if they were almost like different accounting methods. I found that ownership, administration, control/regulation and how the system(s) was funded set them apart in many respects. Maybe there is a better analogy or methodology, but I found this one helped me to have a much better understanding of them and that was my goal; it once again worked for me and hopefully, I can explain it to you.
Many so-called scholars throughout history have written about them and some of the terms are bounced around probably more in alternative media today than the mainstream. There appears to be also a common usage definition among layman as well as the various ideas of past economists, sociologist, and philosophers. What we want is for everyone to understand them and not just the intellectuals as our world once had due to the cost of communications like books. One thing for sure, anyone who thinks they are competent in the study of socio-economics, has an opinion. My understanding of them now appears to best match the folks from the Austrian School of economics. Having read everything I could get my hand on and what I had time to read, I found it is truly one area that needs some level of, so here’s mine.
Socialism and Communism appear to be similar in many ways, although many will disagree with this, especially in my opinion as to the results that occur from both. The terms come from root words Society and Community, that basically mean the same thing. The primary differences appear to be that with socialism, the ownership does not necessarily have to be with the government, whereas in communism, as Karl Marx noted, he thought ”the abolition of all property rights” was a primary necessity and therefore made his first platform in his book. Remember his rationale for this, or if its good of bad policy is not at issue, we are really just trying to better understand the various terms. An individual’s motive may not always be clearly defined or sincere in their writings.
With socialism, the administration and or regulatory oversight of the program or policy is generally accomplished by government. As with socialized medicine, the government can administer and regulate the program but does not necessarily have to own all the aspects of it. A Doctor, for instance, may work either for themselves in their own practice or directly for the government. A private hospital can participate in a socialized system and taxation may be used to fund it but they are not necessarily deemed mandatory for it to be socialized medicine. Remember, Fidel Castro, considered himself a socialista, where I believe the Cuban system is owned, administered, regulated and funded by the government and therefore most people consider their system communistic. Like I said, socialism and communism are quite similar in many aspects.
Socialism appears to me, most often used in the concept of individual programs/projects within a bigger context of the overall economic system yet as we saw there is a Socialist Party in the USA live and kicking in addition to the Democratic Party, which have some similar views. This is the part where various arbitrary considerations and ideas, I think, throw a monkey wrench into the understanding. I don’t think it is necessarily bad to think of socialism in this context, that of being specific to a program with the ability of it to occur in either in a communist or fascist overall system. The Soviet Union clearly had socialized medicine as does Britain. Medicare, Medicaid, and ObamaCare all are considered as socialized medicine
When the government begins to either control pricing, ownership, administration and regulatory policies into a program, this is surely the state intervening into the affairs of the industry and thus statist policies, as the Austrians like to say. I cannot disagree with them on this, therefore it appears that the amount of involvement of government can vary but it is still a socialistic program. I came up with the phrase of the “sliding scale” of socialism as a way to wrap my head around it.
The greater the influence the government has over the economic system through the various potential programs and methods, the more socialistic overall the economy is until such point as it controls almost everything, then it is considered Communistic. So there are some similarities between socialism and communism. However the lesser the influence of government on the private sector, the less socialistic the overall economy and the more free enterprise, capitalistic or libertarian it is.
I believe that we should look at capitalism, free enterprise, and libertarianism as the same things; “the absence of government interventions in the society” and really embrace the sliding scale of socialism approach for discussing or debating socio-economics.
You have total control of government through total ownership, administration, regulation and funding at one end of the spectrum; Communism, and the “lack” of government involvement and interventions in society as libertarianism on the other end of the political spectrum. So the right side of the spectrum should be the absence of government and the left should be the total ownership and control by the government of the left. Republicans would be in the middle but more to the right and Democrats would also be in the middle but closer to the left of the spectrum. There is actually a better way to show the political spectrum. http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz/quiz.php
Now here is where it will make additional sense, as we look at the various economic terms if we look at the term fascism. Once again, let’s not look at these terms as good or bad, but as ways in which to understand them in relation to an overall system and the system(s), we are currently living under. You must also understand the determination of the overall system is theoretically arbitrary, as we are trying to decide the predominate system when there are various other elements of other economic systems being utilized in the various countries. All counties incorporate some free market, socialism, fascism and communistic elements with their economic system.
For instance, when the government owns the land, such as parks and military bases, theoretically these are all elements of socialism, fascism, and communism. It’s surely a social program done for social purposes and it used taxation and regulation (eminent domain) to acquire the lands, which is fascism. Communism is when the government owns the land so that is also one of the elements in this example. This example is why the Austrian School, although I can’t speak for the whole, often uses the term statism or statist policies when referring to the government’s role in economic activities. Using statism is just easier than trying to dissect out the specific elements being utilized as they often cross over between them. As we have found there are similarities between the primary isms, social, fascism and communism in that they all have various mechanism of the Government in what economists also call “interventions’ that affect the actions of Citizens working and trading property, consumer goods and services.
Fascism appears to incorporate taxation and regulatory fees as the primary means of providing government funding, as compared to communism, that owns all the industries and means of production. With fascism, depending on tax rates and regulations, various levels of the profits can be extracted by the government and used for the various social programs. The government instead of being the owner of all property like communism taxes the profits and controls the production and what the companies sell through regulation. The greater the level of taxation and regulation, the more the government can control its profits. The government can tax and regulate lightly leaving more benefits to the employees and ownership or can tax and regulate harder leaving fewer benefits to the owners and employees. The government therefore based on its taxing and regulatory policies has various levels of control over the economy based on the overall policies of the various industries within a country.
So in essence, fascism and socialism have some similarities as well. Fascism is generally associated with dictatorships, but as you have read, it is unlikely that no real dictatorships exist and they are really oligarchies, perhaps in a hierarchical division of powers, but still controlled by a core “group” of people and not one single person.
With fascism, the use of taxation and regulation and the amounts and levels fluctuate just like the various social programs would have on an entire system. Fascism is a sliding scale as well.
Either the government owns, changes regulatory fees or taxes a specific industry, as a method of funding itself and as I noted previously, these, in general, are called Statist policies by the Austrian School. How much control it has over the specific industry varies drastically depending on many things. How it derives its funds and affects an industry can also be a diverse array of regulatory methods such as OSHA administrative fees charged to the medical industry to oversee environmental remediation of medical waste or subsidies given to farming to provide government price supports.
Most counties around the world today use taxation, regulation and direct ownership as methods of providing funding of the bureaucracy and political system. The most prevalent though appears to be taxation and regulations to acquire the revenue to run the government, staying away from ownership.
Some counties tax and regulate less than others and they would, therefore, be less fascist than those countries who tax and regulate more. The problem is, for instance, Quebec Canada, who has a nationalized oil industry, theoretically communism, which minimizes the required level of taxation and regulation required because they use the profits from oil to pay for many services that would otherwise be paid for by taxation. Despite the communistic element of Quebec’s system, it is still primarily Fascist in my opinion, but it skews our interpretation of what fascism generally is, that of being an oppressively authoritarian society.
The question of who owns the military, come into play. The government surely owns the various military bases or at least leases than when in foreign territories. We use taxation to fund them so based on my theories, the military would fall under the fascist policy. Interestingly, those countries like Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, during WWII were considered by many to be fascists and they had huge militaries, just like the United States in relation to the size of the economy.
From an accounting perspective, if you take into consideration public companies like GE, Boeing and Halliburton as military contractors and the huge amounts of money received by them through military contracts, I believe their production of defense-related products are itemized as a part of the Gross Domestic Product, therefore inflating that figure. Even if it’s not, thoughts like this triggered some of the analysis as to the various economic systems.
As you see, I have done some extensive research and analysis in this area. Just because I disagree with some prominent people, does not make me right or wrong. That’s up to you and how willing you are to continue to look at these words and phrases through rose-colored glasses. We are in my opinion a fascist oligarchy and hopefully, you can at least understand and entertain my perspective and point of view and even argue with me if you will.