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Why is Capitalism Better than Communism? Toothbrushes

Over the weekend, I was reminded of a conversation I had a number of years ago. But before I get into that conversation, I want to talk about more recent conversations I tend to have with people who gravitate to the Right Wing.

It seems that whenever I get into a political discussion lately, Right Wingers accuse me of being a Communist. The funny thing is that I doubt very much that any of these Right Wingers have ever even met a Communist. They don’t even seem to understand the meaning of the term. They just blurt it out because that is what Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck tell them to do.

A few years ago, I sat down with a Communist and had the conversation about Capitalism vs. Communism. I remember the conversation well; we were both single at the time and sitting in a bar on Valentines Day. During that conversation, I came up with an analogy which I think fits these two systems.

Imagine you are in school on the first day of class. The subject of the class is Communism. The teacher says that this class will be taught Communist style. She tells the entire class that at the end of the semester, they will receive the same grade, a C. The first week, there will be some students in the class who will want to learn the material anyway and they will continue to study and learn. Most of the class will just passively listen but not exert themselves to much. And some of the students will do nothing and not pay attention at all. As time goes on, less students will continue to learn and more students will continue to slack off and do nothing. Everyone gets an equal grade of a C (average).

A Capitalist class on the other hand focuses on competition. Strictly speaking, you get only the grade you earn and some students will get Fs and some will get As. Most will get Cs.

These analogies basically cover the concepts of equal distribution of wealth and the incentive for work. In the Communist system, the government divides the pie equally among the people. The problems are that this affects people’s incentive to work and that the more people you have the small piece of the pie each person will receive.

Capitalism on the other hand focuses on competition. The idea is to grow the pie so that there is more pie available to those who are willing to work for it. The problem with Capitalism lately has been that people want more pie, but are unwilling to work for it. Instead, they want to cheat people out of their pieces of pie and then use the pieces of pie they have to bribe the government to help them steal more pie. This is a perversion of Capitalism and that is why government regulation has to kick in to stop the bribery and to stop people from cheating others out of their pie. If you want more pie, you have to work for it.

At one point in my conversation, I remember my friend asking me simply why Capitalism is better than Communism. My answer was simple, “Toothbrushes.” I then explained how if you go to your local grocery store and try to buy a toothbrush, you will have to choose. There are toothbrushes that spin, rotate, move up and down, and even some that do all three. There are toothbrushes with strips to let you know when you need to replace them, and now there are electric toothbrushes for relatively low cost. There are about 3 or 4 toothbrush makers and they are all competing to create the next great toothbrush before the other companies. As a result, we the people get the choice of better and better toothbrushes for lower and lower prices. Capitalism does this same kind of thing for almost every industry. Communism would just pass out sticks with bristles to everyone. If it works, what incentive is there to make a new one?

But again, the problem is that some people want to stop the competition so that they can make all the money. In early twentieth century, industries would meet and form Trusts which would set the prices for the entire industry. Or sometimes one toothbrush company would buy out all the rest and then there would be no competition. Laws were passed to prevent these Trusts and Monopolies from forming. The idea is that competition drives the market. Today, the Health Insurance Industry are playing these same games. Most states only have a few big insurance companies that have bought out their competitors and now deal with each other to set premium prices and to try to push sick people out of their plans and into the hands of their competitors.

Now large corporations don’t want to work hard to compete, they want to cheat to compete. They bribe our elected officials to pass laws which shift money from 95% of the people to the top 5% without having to actually work hard. Americans need to push our elected officials to restore Capitalism by restricting corporations from cheating the system.

Contrary to my Right Wing Friend’s assertion that anyone who wants the Public Option or Medicare4All is a Communist, the opposite is true. These are Capitalist systems which promote competition. While doing nothing and letting large corporations bribe our elected officials is moving America toward Communism by inhibiting competition.

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