Cedarville Professors debate the merits of Capitalism, Socialism

By Bryson Durst

Capitalism. Socialism. These words frequently come up in the political vocabulary of the United States. Healthcare, taxation, regulations, welfare programs, and college tuition are issues American politicians cite in the discussion of the merits and pitfalls of these two economic systems.

In order to help educate Cedarville students and area residents on these important issues, the Greene County TEA (Totally Engaged Americans) Party held a discussion on the two ideologies on January 22 in the DMC Recital Hall.

The discussion was led by two Cedarville professors: Dr. Marc Clauson, Professor of History and Law, and Dr. Bert Wheeler, Professor of Economics. Dr. Clauson played the role of the socialist advocate, while Dr. Wheeler argued for capitalism. Following the discussion, the two professors answered audience questions.

Dr. Clauson argued that the fundamental goal of socialism is equality, which “the West has always valued.”

Modern socialists generally support economic equality through taxation and regulation of the existing market system. Higher taxes, from the perspective of socialists, should be used to support government programs to help the less fortunate. For instance, some socialists have proposed government-provided, taxpayer-funded health insurance, college tuition, and welfare programs. In the socialist view, government spending and programs are beneficial to societal and economic health and are worth the cost of increased taxation.

Additionally, since World War II, socialists have increasingly expressed support for identity politics and a growing list of human rights. In Clauson’s words, the socialist definition of equality has expanded beyond economic equality to include social equality as well. This can include use of government authority to ensure equality in areas such as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. While socialists realize that “total and complete equality is not possible,” they believe that it is unethical not to use government power to get as near to equality as they can, as “some people can’t achieve their own welfare without government help.”

Dr. Wheeler presented the free market, or capitalist, view, opening with the declaration that “it is fundamentally unjust to equalize the outcome when the participants are not perfectly equal.”

In other words, two people who put in different levels of work should not get the same reward. Capitalism, in his words, “treats individual people with dignity.”

By keeping taxes low, capitalism allows producers to keep the benefits of their work and use it however they would like. It also motivates them to do their best. To the capitalist, programs like health insurance and college tuition should be left to the private market, giving individuals greater choice over how their money is spent.

Wheeler added that capitalism has led to the modern economic prosperity of the United States and much of the West, as “in the last 50 years, there have been billions of people that have been lifted out of…poverty because of freedom invested in their economic system.”

Finally, Wheeler pointed to the fall’s corruption of human nature to justify the free market, arguing that “human beings have proven throughout history that when you give them power, they abuse it.”

Capitalists believe that the increased power a socialist government would have over the economy and society would bring with it the risk of that power being used irresponsibly. In addition to greater economic control, attempts to use government authority to promote the welfare of one social group could end up indirectly hurting another.

After the event, Clauson said that many capitalists generally view socialists as hostile to a market-based economy.

“There are a good many social democratic types who are very tolerant of markets, but they will want to tax and regulate them at the same time,” Clauson said.

For his part, Wheeler stated that a fundamental, but often underemphasized, aspect of capitalism is that it allows people to use their God-given “freedom to make the choice themselves on where they work, on what they buy, and what they sell.” This leads to “a certain freeing to our souls that happens when we’re responsible and accountable for our own material welfare.”

Both Cedarville students and community members showed up for the event. Dennis Crouch, President of the Greene County TEA Party, said that the idea behind the event was “to give the students the information they need to evaluate both systems.”

Dylan Dixon, a sophomore IT management major, said that he came to the event because of his interest in politics and a desire to learn more about the two economic systems.

“You’ve got to look deeper at different forms of government that you may disagree with,” Dixon said.

Bryson Durst is a freshman Biblical Studies major. He enjoys theology, history, playing strategy games with friends, and anything Star Wars related.

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