Rasmussen: Just 53% Say Capitalism Better Than Socialism

Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General

28 comments on “Rasmussen: Just 53% Say Capitalism Better Than Socialism

  1. Jeffersonian says:

    I think it’s a safe bet that those 47% never lived under a socialist regime or its procrustean dictates.

  2. jeff marx says:

    well said, Jeffersonian
    it is only a quarter who prefer socialism, but that is still amazingly large number…

  3. azusa says:

    73% believe in UFOs.

  4. Timothy Fountain says:

    We are looking at our trashed IRAs and other unwelcome slaps from the “invisible hand.” You could ask if we preferred Feudalism to Capitalism and get a bunch of “yes” responses right now.

    Ask again when the markets are way up and the numbers will adjust.

  5. John Wilkins says:

    I wonder what the numbers are in France or Sweden? It would be interesting to get some more analysis. Is there any idea of who thinks that socialism is better? What do they mean by socialism? Getting medicare payments? Social security or unemployment checks?

    Or say a government that supports torture?

  6. Jeffersonian says:

    For the record, a Finnish couple living in Stockholm we are friends with hotly deny Sweden is socialist, preferring the term “welfare state.”

    And of course Social Security and Medicare are socialist.

  7. Christopher Johnson says:

    Do you mean the time the Clinton Administration murdered thousands of Serbs for no particular reason, John?

  8. Sidney says:

    This is why anybody who loves capitalism should want Obama to fail. If he succeeds, a majority will assume socialism and government intervention fixed the problem. If he fails, we get another 30 years of capitalism, until the next generation ignorant of history rises to power.

  9. John Wilkins says:

    Sidney, what have we had for the last 30 years? It seems that there is an assumption: government = bad, corporations = good. I would submit, that the reality is a bit more complex.

    Capitalism does some things extraordinarily well. It is clumsy in other parts of our lives. It allows us to trade services and sell somethings that are the product of individual labor. Those aspects of the economy that are natural monopolies or are those products that benefit everyone but are highly costly to individuals, are things that require shared commitment. As people are depraved, sometimes they have to submit to the authority of the church, or of government, or of families, as scripture notes.

    Obama seems to believe in a combination of government spending (which will probably work to alleviate the misery of thousands of people), and libertarian paternalism. But we were not made for capitalism; capitalism is made for us. It may be the best form of freedom, but it has also resulted in injustice and servitude.

    Mr. Johnson, have you become a pacifist or a supporter of Balkan socialists suddenly? Interesting! I’m entirely willing to entertain a healthy skepticism of Clinton’s motives against the Serbs. But I don’t think Sbrenica was a poor reason; nor do I think ensuring that no neo-communist state arose in the Balkans was poor geopolitics. It was, perhaps, collateral damage in the cold war.

    But I think you muddy up the waters a bit. With that example.

  10. Philip Snyder says:

    Note that an earlier survey said that 70% favored a “free marked economy.”
    The problem is not that capitalism failed. The problem is that government intervention (not government regulation) supporting non-market ideas (such as lending money to people who could not pay it back) and government interferring with regulators (see Barney Frank’s obstruction of the investigation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.) failed.

    Like Christianity, the problem is not that capitalism has been tried and found wanting. The problem is that capitalism has so seldomly been tried.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  11. Jeffersonian says:

    You knocked that straw man down quite nicely, John. But, as you say, reality is a bit more complex.

  12. Philip Snyder says:

    John,
    Where in the world did you get the idea that Obama is in favor of “libertarian paternalism?” Isn’t that an oxymoronic term? Obama fired the CEO of GM! Think about that for a second. The president of the US fired a private citizen of a private company. That speaks, not of “libertarian paternalism”, but of “Daddy (Obama) knows best paternalism.”

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  13. AnglicanFirst says:

    The concept of individual liberties as an underpinning of government and the rejection of a ruling elite that is detached from its accountability to the individual is a uniquely American concept.

    When we first threw off the dual yoke of subjection to the British Crown and to the whims of a non-representative Parliament we produced three revolutionary documents. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    These documents emphasized that government comes from the governed and not from the state, whether that state is a monarch, a dictator or a parliament. These documents and the associated Federalist Papers recognized the great evil that could come from a sequestered leadership that would try to dictate to the American people ‘what is in their best interests.’

    The history of Europe over the past 100 years has demonstrated just how much evil can be caused by a non-accountable and sequestered elite. Witness the French Revolution, Napoleon, the amalgamation of the German states by Otto von Bismark, the Russian communists under Lenin and Stalins, Italian socialism under Mussolini and German National Socialism under Hitler.

    While some may point to modern socialism in the modern European states as somehow being benign and ‘good,’ it should be remembered that there is the serious potential for the authoritarian and non-representative tendencies of socialism to rear their very ugly heads.

    It only took Germany from 1933 to 1939, six years as a socialist dictatorship, to start a war that involved the whole world.

    What happened under socialism in the past can easily occur again.

  14. Christopher Johnson says:

    You’re the one who brought up collateral issues, John, not me. And don’t invoke Srebrenica to defend an administration that refused to lift a finger to do anything about Rwanda, an actual genocide.

  15. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote]Where in the world did you get the idea that Obama is in favor of “libertarian paternalism?” Isn’t that an oxymoronic term? Obama fired the CEO of GM! Think about that for a second. The president of the US fired a private citizen of a private company. That speaks, not of “libertarian paternalism”, but of “Daddy (Obama) knows best paternalism.” [/blockquote]

    There’s actually a tiny group of adherents to this nonsensical philosophy, Phil, at least one of which is now working within the Obama administration: Cass Sunstein. Of course it’s complete gibberish, as statists such as Obama and those he’s brought into power are not shy about applying the pointed end of the stick to enforce their belief about what is good and right. Witness his Executive Orders on abortion and his enthusiasm about signing FOCA, which would compel doctors, pharmacists and hospitals to participate in the practice, their religious beliefs be damned.

  16. AnglicanFirst says:

    Correction to comment #13.

    Please change
    “The history of Europe over the past 100 years…”
    to read
    “The history of Europe over about the past 220 years…”

  17. The_Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    I’m wondering what percentage of people who took the pole were also asked to accurately describe Socialism and Capitalism. I imagine a majority of them probably could give no coherent answer.

  18. chips says:

    Well first – at least 1/2 of Americans cannot define socialism. 1/3 have trouble finding their rear end with both hands. I have concluded that my wealthy physician mother in law is in fact a socialist – as you might imagine this had put a real strain on our relationship as she is now the human face of my foe.

  19. Fr. Dale says:

    #18. chips,
    “1/3 have trouble finding their rear end with both hands.” Take heart Chips. This fraction will diminish as an increasingly higher percentage of the population will suffer from obesity thus making the search easier.

  20. Juandeveras says:

    MORE IMPORTANTLY, SAYS RASMUSSEN AS OF YESTERDAY, ONLY 36% THINK WE ARE HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Philip Snyder says:

    When I think of government or large companies (staffed by bureaucrats) I always think of this joke:

    Burro – An a$$.
    Burrow – A hole in the ground
    Bureau – a building filled with people who don’t know the difference between the first two.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  22. John Wilkins says:

    Hi Phil,

    Here is one article about libertarian paternalism:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/02/opinion/oe-thalerandsunstein2

    Several books have come out that look at this idea. Here are other books that are more sympathetic to “behavioral economics” Freakonomics; Predictable irrationality; Nudge; Happiness (by Richard Layard).

    Jefferson – complete gibberish? Here is one quote from the article:

    The libertarian aspect of the approach lies in the straightforward insistence that, in general, people should be free to do what they like. They should be permitted to opt out of arrangements they dislike, and even make a mess of their lives if they want to. The paternalistic aspect acknowledges that it is legitimate for choice architects to try to influence people’s behavior in order to make their lives longer, healthier and better.

    What is difficult to understand? It seems like the concepts are pretty easy to figure out. The general idea is that people are less predictable and more irrational than the ideal economic man. It fits in much more nicely with the empirical evidence about human behavior, as well as Church teaching. Or do you think economics has little to do with behavior? I think we would agree that capitalism works because it allows people to make their own choices. I am also convinced, however, that our choices are affected by our context.

    Christopher, are you saying that because Clinton did nothing about Rwanda and made a cold-war decision regarding the Serbs that thus, we can’t protest torture in other administrations?

  23. Jeffersonian says:

    Yes, John, complete, total and utter gibberish. There’s really no point to the State hectoring people about their choices when precisely the same thing could be done by the same people in the private sector. It’s objectionable enough to take people’s money by force and use it to yammer at them about their hobbies, diets, sexual practices, etc., but anyone with an ounce of honesty and connection to reality knows it never, ever stops there with the nanny-state.

    Or am I mistaken in the tsunami of laws and ordinances being passed regarding such menaces as trans-fats, foie gras, bicycle/skateboard/motorcycle helmets, smoking, seatbelts, light bulbs, speech codes, etc? And let’s recall with quaint nostalgia the days when smokers were warned on each pack of the dangers of their habit…and what happened when such “libertarian paternalism” failed to achieve its desired outcome.

  24. Jeffersonian says:

    Oh, and that doesn’t even address the ludicrous idea that Obama is such a believer in soft paternalism. He’s on authoritarian left corner of the chart and hasn’t the slightest compunction about using force to achieve his ends.

  25. John Wilkins says:

    Unfortunately, Jefferson, other people pay the consequences for people who make deliberately bad decisions. I have to pay higher health insurance for people who make bad food or smoking decisions, for example. Polluting public streams is fine for individuals, but it isn’t great for others. It’s kind of utopian to think that individuals make decisions that don’t impact others.

    It doesn’t seem like you quite understand the concept of “choice architecture.” You use examples of legislation that don’t actually reflect choice architecture very well. I’m guessing you think that without government, people would be perfectly rational. Like robots. That’s a very idealistic view of human nature.

    Well, I know you think that Obama is some sort of Stalinist, but if he is, he’s a remarkably poor one. He hasn’t even nationalized the banks yet. It does sound like you are ready for when the stormtroopers come to your house and demand you start eating salads, with a new anti-obama gun you recently purchased.

    Anyway, there seems to be more evidence, given his staff choices, that he is a libertarian paternalist rather than “authoritarian left” – whatever that means. Although I’m sure he has read Marx, and known a few Marxists, that’s a bit different than knowing his mind. He seems to have a more complex, evolving pattern than someone who is ideologically pure. Perhaps, however, you’ve had long conversations with the man, where you can finally reveal that Obama he claimed some fondness for Lukács. Do tell.

    I do think Obama is much more left than most people realize. But this is where your intellectual history is a bit murky. For most of us who are on that side, there is a huge difference between Alinsky and the authoritarian left. Unlike many leftists, Obama never toyed with the left cults that often organize on campuses.

    I have this sense that for you the dividing line is between individual and state power. Statism is leftist and bad; individual power is rightist and good. That makes some sense. But for some of us, the dividing line is different.

  26. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote] Unfortunately, Jefferson, other people pay the consequences for people who make deliberately bad decisions. I have to pay higher health insurance for people who make bad food or smoking decisions, for example.[/blockquote]

    If that’s the case, why don’t you seek out health insurance with companies that insure only non-smokers of proportionate height/weight characteristics? I know life insurance providers make these distinctions, surely health insurance providers are attuned to them too. Or are you illustrating your point about consumers making bad decisions with your own bad decisions?

    [blockquote] Polluting public streams is fine for individuals, but it isn’t great for others. It’s kind of utopian to think that individuals make decisions that don’t impact others.[/blockquote]

    It’s also yet another red herring tossed onto the deck by someone desperate to avoid contending with the consequences of his ideology. No one, least of all me, has suggested that people be allowed to impose unavoidable externalities on others, including the public. Your example above is utterly specious…if you don’t like the fact that your insurance rates (presumably, you offer no evidence in support) rise because others smoke and overeat, find someone who doesn’t insure those who do and you’re no longer paying for them. QED.

    Ironically the Obama policy thrust toward national healthcare, besides being completely unconsitutional, will erect exactly the sort of system that compels people to subsidize others’ bad habits. If you think this system – independent of who runs it – will practice “libertarian paternalism” when billions are being poured annually into emphysema, diabetes, cancer and heart disease treatment (not to mention injuries due to risky sports, hobbies, etc.), you’re delusional. Given your bitterness at having to do so now, when you are free to flee such a program, tells me that you’re well aware of the pitfalls and are either being dishonest with us or yourself.

    [blockquote]Although I’m sure he has read Marx, and known a few Marxists, that’s a bit different than knowing his mind. [/blockquote]

    Don’t believe me, John, listen to Obama: “To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists.” (DoMF) He was mentored by a communist, Frank Marshall Davis, in Hawaii. He launched his political career and spent years working with another communist, Bill Ayers. When he needed a spiritual home, he picked that of a ranting, racist, America-damning, Qaddafi-loving, Farrakhan-fawing lunatic. No, I can’t read his mind, but I can watch his feet. And everything he’s done so far is precisely in character.

    I suspect your risible assertion of Obama’s libertarianism is just a soothing bromide to gull the foolish, and you are aware of this. As for me, as they say in Texas, don’t (piddle) on my shoes and tell me it’s raining.

  27. John Wilkins says:

    Jefferson, the point is that we already subsidize others, in lots of ways that we don’t accurately compute, and that the market doesn’t always serve the common good. You state that the example is specious, but do you support regulation or think that some how people are just going to stop on their own? Further, you don’t seem to deny or agree that choice architecture matters. You don’t even address it, and that is its crucial insight. Instead a long digression into healthcare policy, which was not my intention. That is another subject.

    Yep – you did get the facts right. But I don’t think you have the right interpretation. The right interpretation is that Obama was self-conscious about being a sell out. He wanted to have the right friends. Does it tell us he agreed with them? Well, if he did agree with them, the last thing he should have done is tell us, because that sort of quote will come back to haunt him. But if he disagrees with them, the sharing that information is easy. Although, I do agree that sometimes self-deprecation and irony is sometimes hard to discern.

    It seems that you believe that mentees always agree with their mentors. You are also selective. For all your hard hitting analysis of his “feet” you gloss over the fact that the people actually making decisions in his administration aren’t any of the people who seemed to mentor him. It’s one thing to hang out with a Marxist. It’s a bit different when you appoint corporate executives, bankers and free-marketeers to positions of power. It’s one thing to like your radical friends; it is another to recognize you don’t want them running things. We’ve been over this before, but we clearly just interpret his past differently. I lived in Hyde Park for several years, visited Trinity Church and experienced it a bit differently than your own caricature. Which is a bit of a fantasy.

    Jefferson, you are clearly taking this far too personally. I know that most movement conservatives can’t quite tell the difference between Kropotkin and Marx, or Alinsky and Trotsky. I don’t expect you to know the long, sordid history of the different left movements in the US. The difference between democratic leftists and authoritarian leftists has been severe. And of course, rightfully, plenty of authoritarian leftists have gone the route of Neo-conservatism (say, David Horowitz). But there is far more evidence that Obama believes in a welfare state commercial society than a planned economy, having learned from studying the blind spots of the left.

    Hanging out with people, or even being taught by them, may tell us something about the conversations. Obama has even shared them. But a smart pupil will challenge their mentors and learn to think for themselves.

    And have you really read the entire book of Dreams of our Fathers? Or did you pick that up from some paranoid website?

  28. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote]Jefferson, the point is that we already subsidize others, in lots of ways that we don’t accurately compute, and that the market doesn’t always serve the common good. You state that the example is specious, but do you support regulation or think that some how people are just going to stop on their own? Further, you don’t seem to deny or agree that choice architecture matters. You don’t even address it, and that is its crucial insight. Instead a long digression into healthcare policy, which was not my intention. That is another subject. [/blockquote]

    The healthcare example was just that: An example. It was no more a discussion of healthcare policy than “Moby Dick” is a treatise on cetology. It showed that, even by your own words, the idea of “soft” or “libertarian” paternalism is laughable and will invariably degenerate into State compulsion when the mere erection of a tax-funded “choice architecture” fails to accomplish the goal. The 45-year example of smoking is irrefutable evidence of that.

    As to whether people will cease certain behaviors that the State determines are not in its interests (or, as a soft totalitarian might put it, at odds with the prevailing choice architecture), I say, “unask the question.” It’s none of the State’s business if adults smoke, take drugs, engage in risky sex, have dangerous hobbies or want to eat fatty foods (I’ll allow for an interest when those acts create real and immediate hazards for other, such as driving under the influence).

    [blockquote]Yep – you did get the facts right. But I don’t think you have the right interpretation. The right interpretation is that Obama was self-conscious about being a sell out. He wanted to have the right friends. Does it tell us he agreed with them? Well, if he did agree with them, the last thing he should have done is tell us, because that sort of quote will come back to haunt him. But if he disagrees with them, the sharing that information is easy.[/blockquote]

    If Obama agreed with them, it would indeed be stupid to tell us. In fact, you’d think it would be stupid to leave any doubt in anyone’s mind that one might agree with them. One would expect Obama to explicitly and categorically distance himself from those beliefs. Yet, only the most perfunctory and vague dissociation has been forthcoming, and only when it became a political liability. I think we out in flyover country can see what the truth is here, even without Cass Sunstein herding us into a State-approved decision.

    I don’t expect the standard leftist march into penury and authoritarianism, ala Castro, Kim or Pol Pot from Obama. Like I’ve said, he’s more likely turning us into Peronist Argentina, Getuilo Vargas’ Brazil or Mussolini’s Italy. Of course, the dirigisme, fiscal profligacy and machine politics are inherently unstable, so there’s really no way to predict where the endless statism will wind up, other than to say it will not be anything resembling the common good.