The Korea Herald


[Kim Seong-kon] Antisocial socialism vs. inhumane capitalism

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Published : Dec. 21, 2022 - 05:39

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We all know that both socialism and capitalism have their own upsides and downsides. The capitalist system creates polarization between the poor and the rich in an inhumane environment. Socialism creates a society of equal poverty, totalitarianism and dehumanization. The dilemma we face is that we have to choose one or the either.

For some inscrutable reason, many Koreans seem to be in favor of socialism and thus ardently support radical politicians who proclaim they advocate for a socialist state. However, considering that a hostile socialist country lurks in the North, it is far from common sense that socialism would survive in the South. You do not need to be a capitalist to be critical of socialism, especially in South Korea.

We should be aware that since the collapse of communism in the early 1990s, the term “socialism” has oftentimes been used in place of communism. Therefore, we cannot be enticed by the attractive term “socialism” because we do not desire to live in a socialist country, which is similar to a communist country. In fact, we should be extra cautious about socialism unless we want to see a unified socialist country in the Korean Peninsula. Besides, South Korea has become an affluent society today thanks to capitalism and trade. It is therefore not normal if some South Koreans are attracted to socialism.

Socialism is often thought of as a utopian ideology that will bring about a society in which everyone is equal in wealth and class, with the government taking care of all our needs. However, history has shown this is simply an illusion. In reality, socialism has often resulted in a dystopian society where everyone is equally poor, with only a few privileged members of the party benefiting while the government controls everything and manipulates the population.

Recently, I came across an intriguing article entitled “Six Ways Socialism is Anti-Social” by renowned economist Lawrence W. Reed. In this insightful article, Reed humorously exposes inherent problems of socialism. He wrote, “Here’s a question for a Ph.D. dissertation: How did something so radically anti-social ever get the name, social-ism?”

What is socialism, after all? Reed wryly defines it as follows: “It’s free stuff until the bills come due,” and “It’s the welfare state where the politicians get well and the rest of us pay the fare.” He continues, “It’s a communal utopia where everybody gets an equal portion regardless of effort, until they nearly starve.”

Reed argues that socialism is an antisocial contrivance because it defies individuality and puts people under the constant surveillance and control of the government. Under the circumstances, a socialist country is likely to be a society of thought police where everybody is forced to think in the same way without freedom of choice. Reed maintains that socialists do not care about mutual consent and impose their plans at gunpoint instead.

In a socialist country, according to Reed, it is hard to find genuine “acts of caring, sharing, giving and being compassionate toward the needy.” Instead, “There is demonstrably more caring, sharing, giving, and compassion toward the needy under capitalism!” He continues: “Even when it comes to foreign aid, capitalist countries are the donors and socialist countries are the recipients.” The reason is simple: “You can’t give it away or share it with anybody if you don’t create it in the first place, and socialism offers utterly no theory of wealth creation, only wealth confiscation and consumption.”

Small wonder, then, that socialist politicians perceive big business corporations and companies only as harmful agencies that extort and abuse workers. In reality, however, they are the vital institutions that create jobs and enrich the country. Samsung, LG and Hyundai are good examples.

Indeed, it is well known that it is capitalists, not socialists, who donate a lot of money to orphanages, schools or charitable institutions. Perhaps socialists think they can forcibly take money from the rich and give it to needy institutions, like modern-day Robin Hood. Thus, they do not have to donate from their own savings. The problem is that we no longer live in the Robin Hood era.

Of course, someone can write an equally lengthy article about the inhumane aspects of industrial capitalism, as well. Surely, capitalism, too, has its own innate problems, such as materialism, inhumane environments and the absence of ethics and morality on Wall Street.

Nevertheless, capitalists do not take away individuality, competition or freedom of choice. It does not create a “Big Brother” government that monitors and manipulates the people either. Capitalist politicians do not treat the rich as if they were criminals or extort their property by force. It may create the poor, and yet it does not drive everybody to bread lines.

Perhaps it would be the best if we could merge capitalism and socialism, and create a new system encompassing the merits of the two rival ideologies. Until that day, we should stick to capitalism.

Kim Seong-kon

Kim Seong-kon is a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University and a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College. The views expressed here are his own. -- Ed.