Many words, consuming vast amounts of ink and cyberspace, are being bandied about today concerning various governing styles and principles. Many times the commentator does not even know the definition of the terms used, or to be generous, may confuse governmental, economic, societal, or philosophical definitions. This commentator succumbs to the same confusion at times. So let’s take a step back and refresh our minds on what various terms mean and how they are manifest in different governmental systems. We look at the governmental systems because they are the result of the other three. And the only ones which directly impact individual LIBERTY.
Since this article cannot be exhaustive, we will use the simplest definitions and hopefully set the stage for more in-depth personal study.
We state at the outset that there are basically two germane philosophies: Individualism and Collectivism (whether large group or small). Each one has its positives and negatives and from them springs the array of systems we see today. Let’s define these two first:
Individualism– interests of the individual are or ought to be paramount
Collectivism—interest of the collective rather than individual action or identity
Individualism in its pure form would result in absolute LIBERTY for each person. In a vast and interrelated society this is difficult (if not impossible) to achieve and may be most publicly manifest in anarchy (absence of government controls), its most negative attribute. We can see this in regions of the world where the government barely controls only the Capital city and individuals and small gangs roam the rest of the country doing as they please (Somalia). Individualism is most positively expressed in small group or family settings.
Collectivism, on the other hand, places primary emphasis on the society at large and requires the surrender, to a more or lesser extent, of the interests of the individual (personal LIBERTY) as we will soon explore. This can be expressed as pure, unselfish Socialism (an impossibility) at one end of the scale to Communism and Fascism on the other end.
So let’s look at the range of Collectivism we see in operation today. And we will try to arrange them in order from allowing the most individual LIBERTY to the least using economic and governing criteria. (Since pure, unselfish Socialism is impossible, we will not spend any more time on it).
Again, using the simple form of definition, we have as economic systems:
Capitalism—also called Free Enterprise (laissez faire) defined by private ownership of assets, production, and distribution based on profit motive
Regulated Capitalism—Capitalism more or less regulated by Government
Socialism—a transitional stage between Capitalism and Communism. Allows for private ownership of assets and production but fully regulated by Government
Communism– elimination of private property; society owns and operates all assets and means of production and distribution
And as political systems:
Democracy (Pure)–government by the people; rule of the majority –almost always leads to a dictatorship, soft or hard
Democracy (Representative)—government by the people through elected representatives
Marxism (including Communism and Fascism)—hard dictatorship of class-less and property-less society
We can see from this that there is cross-over in economic and governmental systems since the former often informs the latter. And one system may be operative at one level of government while another may be the rule at a different level. A simplistic example exists here in Montezuma County. In the business district of Cortez, the building and occupancy permits are so detailed as to describe what kind of landscaping will be installed, based on the desire of a bureaucrat in the Zoning Department. But in the County’s jurisdiction, as long as health issues are satisfied (plumbing and electrical), no further mandates are made. You could think that both of these are examples of regulated Capitalism. We think not. They are both examples of Representative Democracy and how it can so easily be subverted, causing confusion of the public as to the systems involved.
Thus the purpose of this treatise: We need to objectively explore these inter-related systems and then be able to properly analyze the issues before us. We will explore a few examples more in depth in our next post.