Overview of Capitalism and Socialism for Effective Altruism

by kbog 6mo16th May 201917 min read26 comments

39


(moderate updates since original post, in keeping with CSS updates)

This is an edited excerpt from the latest draft of the Candidate Scoring System. I figured it would be useful for people who are interested in capitalism and socialism. It's far from perfect, but I have not found any remotely satisfactory overview anywhere else. This post can be a starting point for people who want to debate whether economic systems should be treated as a priority in EA.

Capitalism is an economic system where the means of production - land, machinery, investment capital - are mostly controlled by private owners. Socialism is an economic system where they are controlled by the public in a collective or governmental organization. For a variety of reasons, it could be important to take a stance on the question of which is preferable.

Basic concepts

However, it’s not straightforward to judge capitalism and socialism because the question is simply too vague to be a valid basis for direct research. There are many very different ways that these systems can be realized, so modern economic and political science scholarship focuses on narrower and better-defined issues. Acemoglu and Robinson (2015) note, “we do not believe the term capitalism to be a useful one for the purposes of comparative economic or political analysis… both Uzbekistan and modern Switzerland have private ownership of capital, but these societies have little in common in terms of prosperity and inequality because the nature of their economic and political institutions differs so sharply.” Discourse about socialism is therefore a lot like the mainstream sociological conception of race: the discrete categorization is a very poor model for actually understanding things, but because so many people and institutions have wedded themselves to constructed categories, we are forced to grapple with them.

Because of this vagueness, it is tough to pin down socialism in a way that is easy to judge. Deep ideological disputes exist among leftists in America, concrete policy proposals are rare and controversial, and there is no clear conception of what socialism would actually look like (New Republic). The philosopher Slavoj Žižek (book 2011), in a general opus of leftist analysis and response to the 21st century world, did not include a clear idea of a path forward, ultimately concluding “we do not know what we have to do, but we have to act now, because the consequences of inaction could be catastrophic.” The Socialism 2019 conference contained almost no discussion of how to structure a socialist economy.

So if we want to evaluate the desirability of generic increases or decreases in the probability of socialist change, we cannot select a specific policy proposal that we would prefer. Instead we must survey the various possible forms and components of socialism and produce a vague expectation over the lottery of possibilities.

Note that Karl Marx believed that socialism (followed by communism) will inevitably replace capitalism sooner or later, in which case this judgment would require a slightly different framing about the timing that we prefer for the transition. However, Marx’s theory of historical materialism doesn’t actually show that capitalism will end or that its successor would be communism (Jonathan Wolff book 2003, p. 111). Additionally, historical events have shown a reverse phenomenon, that socialism served as a transition state from feudalism to capitalism (Milanovic book 2019, Quillette review).

The picture from historical and economic evidence

First, when it comes to the centrally planned economic models of 20th century socialist states, economists overwhelmingly regard them as inferior to capitalist economies. This consensus is supported by the relevant literature. There is disagreement on whether early Soviet industrialization was expedited much by central planning (Krugman 1994, Allen 2005), but it had tremendous human costs nonetheless. The entire suite of socialist policies reduced Soviet agricultural productivity by about 50% (Johnson and Brooks 1983). Central planning went awry in the USSR when poor leadership appeared later on (Allen 2001, Allen 2005).

East Germany’s economic system failed (book 2010).

The communist system has been disastrous for Cuba, the US embargo is not the sole cause of their problems (Jales et al 2018, Salazar-Carrillo and Nodarse-León 2015, Ribeiro et al 2013, Ward and Devereux 2012). Cuba was also buoyed by significant Soviet aid and trade subsidies during the Cold War, and more recently is supported by $5 billion in annual remittances from expatriates, a very large amount relative to the size of its economy which might give it a bonus sufficient to greatly exceed the losses from the embargo. We haven’t been able to find any reliable information on the magnitude of losses caused by the embargo, but it’s probably not very large because it does not restrict Cuba’s trade with any other country besides America and it still allows a few kinds of trade with America. While Cuba’s literacy and healthcare metrics are reportedly very high now, they were also relatively high before the revolution and have not improved at a stellar rate (Salazar-Carrillo and Nodarse-León 2015). Also, Cuba’s actual healthcare quality is worse than reported (Berdine et al 2018). A minor bright spot is that their hurricane preparedness is quite good (Jacobin).

Not only is there a consistent empirical trend, but there are plausible theoretical explanations for economic failures in centrally planned socialism. One is the famous “calculation problem,” another is the loss of appropriate incentives, another is Shleifer and Vishny (1991)’s argument that central planning creates opportunities for planners to artificially create shortages in order to collect bribes.

A recent defense of central planning is presented by Philips and Rozworski (book 2019), who argue that large corporations demonstrate the viability of central planning in the context of modern age. Neither author is a professional economist and at a glance we’re not sure if this argument would work: the problem with central planning is not merely the idea that it is too complex a task, but that credible price signals are necessary and that members of the government will have bad incentives. Also, if effective central planning were possible, we should expect to see countries like Cuba or China doing it by now. However we should not dismiss the book without reading it or seeing credible economic reviews. Until we can investigate the matter further, we can allow a possibility that effective central planning might be possible.

And one could argue that a democratic command economy would perform better. Democracy does not directly promote economic growth, but it does have positive indirect effects (meta-analysis 2007). This seems like it would partially explain the economic failures of 20th century socialism, but not fully.

But it may be the case that command economies actually lead to autocracy, which in turn usually implies nondemocracy. In that case they not only lack this excuse for their economic failures but are also responsible for some of the terrible repressions committed by their totalitarian governments, including the Cambodian Khmer Rouge regime which was probably the most murderous regime in modern history on a per-capita basis. Every single socialist regime has been authoritarian, either from the outset or as an eventual outcome (although others were not as extreme as Stalinist Russia, Maoist China or the Khmer Rouge). This was often in spite of nominally good intentions. Stalin believed in the power of democracy and in using persuasion rather than military force (Stalin 1921), and the Soviet Union was supposed to derive its power from democratically elected workers’ councils (“soviets”); this later turned out to be meaningless. East Germany had a parliament, but it lacked real power to change economic plans (economic historian book).

One explanation for the trend of socialist autocracy is that central planning involves a huge array of tradeoffs and decisions to make, so only a bureaucratic elite can meet its burdens and they must ensure that everyone follows the plans (think tank book, pp. 44-49). It implies that any democratic system for central planning would have to dispense with robust checks and balances, empowering a leader or a select few with sweeping executive authority over matters of government. Another worry is that central planning of the economy creates an enormous concentration of power in the government, laying the foundations for totalitarianism (think tank book, pp. 49-52). The Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek (2011) acknowledges that “there is a grain of truth” in Ayn Rand’s idea that removing money-based organization only leads to worse oppression by force.

Another problem with historical socialist states is that they undermined the sense of psychological ownership, although they could have done better (Kemp 2016).

The consensus against centrally planned economies is currently shared not just by practically all economists, but also by historians and social scientists, and by almost all policymakers worldwide – including the Communist Party of China. And the majority of modern socialists also disavow central planning. That being said, it’s not straightforward to assume that it won’t be repeated. Many leaders of failed historical socialist nations were avid scholars of Marxist theory, not making ignorant mistakes about its content. Socialist regimes also varied significantly in their ideologies, such as the various stages of Soviet doctrine, Maoism, Juche, and other systems. Many of them were even explicitly regarded as ‘real’ socialism as distinct from previous failures (think tank book). Yet they ended up as centrally-planned autocracies nonetheless. Moreover, a substantial minority of modern leftists do defend the economic track record of these regimes, with many defending Cuba in particular (think tank book, much more on social media). This means there is a substantial chance – we estimate about 30% –that socialism in America would be a repetition of conventional central planning.

Instead, some advocate ParEcon, an economically radical idea which is difficult to properly evaluate. However it is often criticized by leftists and gets little attention these days. Socialists usually support a more straightforward increase in public ownership and control of economic decisions, extending the ideas of modern regulatory and welfare states and workplace democracy while falling short of proper central planning. Probably the most notable proposal for this is Schweickart (2011). We have not seen any rigorous, holistic evaluation of such schemes, and such an evaluation may simply be impossible until they are tried. But we can look specifically at the major components of these visions, which have been studied in isolation.

One aspect of many socialist plans is greater government regulation of the economy. But a literature review (2014) collected 198 relevant empirical studies published in highly selective social science journals, and we add one more recent one (Jackson 2017). The result is that economic freedom corresponds with good outcomes in 68% of studies and bad outcomes in just 4% of studies. The review authors find that this result might be weakened by publication bias but find no evidence to indicate that it would be overturned. A smaller literature review (2019) argues that economic freedom helps achieve the aims of social justice, which is generally good for social welfare. The think tanks which produce the rankings of economic freedom – mainly the Fraser Institute, but also the Heritage Foundation – are conservative, but highly ranked (see reports here) and the economic freedom rankings are commonly accepted in the academic literature. Such rankings have been criticized by the left for allegedly assigning too much freedom to capitalist autocracies (The Guardian), but that only implies that they will underestimate the benefits of economic freedom. Our specific evaluations of regulations have found that there are some good ones (some environmental rules, animal welfare rules, minimum wages) but also bad ones (occupational licensing, zoning restrictions, strict rent controls), so a sweeping increase in regulations across the board would likely be bad.

Another aspect of many socialist plans is a larger government with more public spending. We haven’t determined whether or not government administrative agencies are bureaucratically inefficient compared to private companies. However, heavy public spending can lead to less economic growth (Bergh and Henrekson 2011, Matteo and Summerfield 2018). Of course, public spending can be better targeted for issues like inequality and externalities to outweigh economic costs, so a balance must be struck. However, our issue evaluations have often found cases where increasing government spending would be neutral or harmful. Therefore, sweeping plans for much more government spending seem like a poor idea.

Another aspect of many socialist programs is the replacement of privately owned enterprises (POEs) with state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Unlike tax-and-spend government agencies, SOEs behave in a commercial fashion while still being directly accountable to the government. Market socialism, as practiced in China, is a system where this is the main basis for the economy. Western socialists frequently reject it with the label “state capitalism,” but the same reasoning that the Communist Party of China used to select its policies could be recognized sooner or later by a Western socialist government. Two comprehensive literature reviews have shown that SOEs are inferior to POEs (Megginson and Netter 2001, Shirley and Walsh 2001). Also, two recent studies have found that Chinese SOEs are inferior to POEs (Boeing et al 2015, Fang et al 2015). Goldeng et al (2008) found that POEs outperformed SOEs in Norway in the 1990s. However, some of the recent work questions this point of view. Jakob (2017) looks at an international dataset and finds that there is no difference in performance between POEs and SOEs. A metanalysis by Bel et al (2010) found that privatization of local waste and water services has no effect. Omran (2004) suggested that privatization of Egyptian firms in 1994-1998 did not create significant improvements. Demsetz and Villalonga (2001) found that there is no systematic relationship between ownership and performance in US enterprises. Overall, the evidence is rather conflicting. But even if SOEs are just as good as POEs on the margin, it would probably be worse to push radical changes to implement many more of them. Meanwhile on the theoretical side, Shleifer and Vishny (1994) argue that an economy of state-run enterprises merely magnifies the flaws of democratic governance (and American governance is indeed flawed, and will remain so for the foreseeable future).

Both command economies and market socialism involve government pursuit of democratically defined objectives for the economy. If we believed that these objectives would be particularly good, then we could speculate that they might be worth the economic inefficiencies of socialism. However, we cannot be optimistic about the economic goals of a socialist American government. Our policy evaluations in the rest of this report have uncovered a number of cases where the popular will or lobbying (including lobbying by labor groups) point in poor directions. Many of these cases are caused by structural problems in American government which wouldn’t necessarily be fixed by a switch to socialism.

State-owned enterprises receive varying support from leftists depending on the industry. A relatively popular SOE program in America would be nationalization of the finance industry, outlined by Schweickart (2011) under the label “social control of investment.” But just as in other industries, public banks are less efficient than private banks (Megginson 2003). Furthermore, public banking in the West would cut investment in foreign economies, as public banks would be politically mandated to support projects which maximize employment for the domestic population. This would allow more severe poverty in the developing world.

Another major plan of many contemporary socialists is the use of worker cooperatives, firms which are owned and managed by the workers. Pérotin (2012, 2015) summarizes research to show that worker cooperatives have broadly positive impacts. As for firms which are merely owned by workers, Kruse (2016) summarized existing research to show that worker ownership is modestly positive for both firm performance and employee welfare, though a study by Monteiro and Straume (2018) found inconclusive and potentially negative impacts on firm efficiency in Portugal. But a significant downside of worker-owned and especially worker-managed firms in the US is that they discourage outsourcing to needier workers in poorer countries. The 20th century’s socialist programs also suggest that mandatory collectivization could have very bad effects, though their problems were probably caused by state control and mismanagement rather than the mere fact that they were collectives.

Leftists often allege that institutional bias from the capitalist system distorts the views and research of economists and historians, so that revolutionary socialist programs are better than they seem. But we have seen little evidence of such bias going on, and it is inconsistent with two major academic trends: the partial academic popularity of Marxist doctrine in economics in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the widespread, almost unquestioning academic acceptance of anti-capitalist views in certain subfields of the humanities today. And we haven’t seen any evidence of censorship or censure of anticapitalist views in economics departments. Conversely, empirical analysis of socialist regimes is actually likely to be over-optimistic because they have typically been autocracies, which deceive their audiences (Gregory 1990, Kornai 1992, Martinez 2019). American economics textbooks systematically overestimated Soviet growth during the Cold War (Levy and Peart 2011). Cuba’s official statistics are notoriously unreliable (Salazar-Carrillo and Nodarse-León 2015, Berdine et al 2018).

To summarize, government control of the economy seems bad, heavy public spending seems bad, state-owned enterprise seems bad, and worker cooperatives could be good or bad depending on the context of their implementation. However, these programs may have interactions with each other so that a multifaceted socialist program could not be reliably judged merely by taking the sum of its parts. Socialists usually believe that interactions will be positive – in other words, socialist projects could perform much better than what studies indicate if their environment has more socialist aspects in other ways. However, we have seen no good arguments for this view. Negative interactions actually seem more likely. The benefits of socialist programs might have diminishing returns as they stack – in other words, perhaps modest reforms would be sufficient to capture the potential benefits of socialist ideas, with additional reform being a pointless or destructive pursuit of unnecessary purity. This is underscored by the fact that the New Economic Policy, an unusual capitalist program in a mostly planned economy, was very successful. Per the Pareto Principle, perhaps preserving the core 20% of capitalism preserves 80% of its benefits. Furthermore, an excess of socialist programs can concentrate too much power in the government, creating incentives and opportunities for totalitarianism and abuse as we saw in the 20th century. So while the question of interactions does open up some theoretical space for better socialist projects to be devised, it doesn't give us a good reason to change our point of view that a socialist system would probably be bad.

Political philosophy perspectives

Cohen (2009) argues that socialism would theoretically be more compatible with ideal principles like equality and fairness, but Brennan (2014) demonstrates that Cohen’s argument does not work. Brennan further argues that capitalism is superior in terms of theoretical alignment with ideal principles, but Hall (2014) finds that this part of his argument fails. In any case, such appeals to ideal principles have little relevance for real economic and social outcomes. The argument for a strong principle of equality, where everyone ought to have equal access to a robust package of economic goods, has also been pushed by others (Gilabert and O’Neill 2019); however, the economic evidence suggests that socialism fails here anyway. Systems that lead to inequality might nonetheless lead to superior outcomes for everyone, but even leaving that aside, it’s plausible that aggregate welfare might be increased by systems that leave some people worse off, so we must reject this strong principle of equality. Gilabert and O’Neill seem to mention an idea that there is intrinsic importance in having economic democracy, but just as with political democracy, it is only as good as its real impacts on welfare and this is a matter for empirical study. Another proffered principle is the capacity to develop and realize one’s own desired projects and activities (Gilabert and O’Neill 2019); however this essentially boils down to economic welfare, as obtaining higher salaries, shorter working hours, higher job satisfaction, earlier retirement ages, and so on is nearly identical to this capacity. Another principle is community and solidarity, with society being better if people were legitimately motivated to help each other (Gilabert and O’Neill 2019). In intrinsic moral terms, this is false, but it holds substantial merit in instrumental terms. Still, it’s not clear if many forms of socialism would truly make people feel more positively about each other. Socialist movements themselves seem to be driven by rather one-sided partisan allegiances, and authoritarian socialist states don’t seem to have generally had good communal spirit, but there is plenty of potential for things to turn out better. Utopian socialist communal projects seem to have performed well in this regard, but comparable instances of homogenous capitalist cultures have had positive communal spirit as well.

Similarly, Marx argued that exploitation and alienation are inherent to capitalism (Wolff 2003), but there is no good evidence showing that this hurts aggregate well-being relative to alternatives. In fact, the capitalist organization of alienating and exploitative labor (assuming Marxist definitions of the terms) has led to substantial improvements in population size and quality of life over the history of industrial society, and replacing it could plausibly lead to inferior outcomes as we have pointed out previously. Numerous other principled philosophical arguments have been made in favor of socialism and against capitalism (Gilabert and O’Neill 2019) but similarly suffer from plausible countervailing considerations and the lack of clear determination of real socioeconomic outcomes such as quality of life. And just as Brennan effectively responded to Cohen’s arguments in kind with pro-capitalist arguments of ideal principles, it seems pretty straightforward to imagine similar rebuttals for other, similar writings. Fuerstein (2015) meanwhile argues that capitalism weakens democracy and further shows that this weakening of democracy has real social costs. However, he does not compare this to possible ways that socialist systems might weaken democracy, and he outlines solutions that are compatible with capitalism.

Note that a survey of academic philosophers found good evidence of an overall tendency to discriminate against right-leaning views and individuals (Peters et al 2019), and as the authors note in the beginning of the paper, philosophy (as a generally non-empirical discipline) seems especially vulnerable to producing poor conclusions when the researchers are biased. While capitalism can of course be held as a liberal point of view, and philosophers are more likely to be liberal-progressives rather than hard leftists, many of the political philosophy arguments for capitalism are grounded in right-leaning principles (such as self-reliance, economic freedom, equality of opportunity, and opposition to government coercion) which are marginalized by liberal-progressives in academia. Such liberal philosophers frequently have strong egalitarian moral beliefs with rich conceptions of restorative and redistributive justice, which means that they can only appeal to economists’ pragmatic arguments for certain capitalist policies – leaving little that can be written in philosophy journals to attack socialism. Yet the conservative philosophical arguments against socialism don’t seem any worse than the leftist philosophical arguments for socialism. Empirically, it seems to be a pattern for political philosophy arguments against socialism to be comparatively underexplored in current literature.

Peters et al did find that leftists actually perceived that they were discriminated against, but without the same supporting evidence as uncovered for discrimination against the right. The far left seems unusually disposed to perceive bias and discrimination in a wide variety of contexts, and political extremists generally have a less accurate understanding of the beliefs of their opponents (More in Common 2019), which casts more doubt on this survey result. That being said, it is plausible that far-left views do receive real discrimination. So overall, there are grounds for just a moderate presumption that political philosophy has leftward bias here. But in general, the political philosophy perspectives do not provide significant reason to change our point of view.

Practical dimensions

Socialist change would likely come in the form of violent revolution, which would have a number of additional domestic and international costs. Historical attempts at communist systems were never introduced as a consequence of the party winning an election, it has only happened through force (Kemp 2016). American leftists have increasingly utilized or embraced violent tactics in the last several years, a pattern which has caused little direct harm but in some forms (antifascist, anti-Trump) garners a relatively high level of sympathy from some media, academia, political actors and broader public, thus creating a significant possibility for it to continue and grow in the event of a mass socialist movement. The notion of violent revolution is commonly endorsed in leftist circles, with some calling it inevitable. The Socialist Rifle Association in the US has a couple thousand members, although its behavior and rhetoric have been fine from what we have seen. Even if socialism were desirable, it may not be good enough to outweigh the risks of violence. And even if socialism were desirable enough to outweigh the costs of violence, the event of a failed violent revolution would still be a clearly bad thing. This gives an extra reason to prefer maintenance of the existing economic system and avoid insurrections in the first place.

There is at least some value of information in testing a better model of socialism, if a good pathway to running a good test can be identified. No one has attempted the most recent, refined socialist plans. If a nation demonstrated that they can work well, then many other nations could improve their own policies accordingly. If a nation tried and failed, then they could eventually return to capitalism (though historically this has been a slow and painful process) and their experience would inform people in other countries to refrain from pursuing the matter. This benefit is substantial and should be taken seriously even in the face of general skepticism about socialism. However, it is countered by the risk that a socialist movement or government would reduce the prospects for experimentation with different kinds of economic proposals. Other ideas for major socioeconomic reform such as communalism, Georgism and liberal radicalism fall upon hostile, deaf or at least merely academic ears when socialism is assumed to be the default remedy for the persistent ills of capitalism. Both Georgism and liberal radicalism appear better than socialism (though they are not necessarily mutually exclusive), but neither has been properly tested even once.

Experimental value would be more important if capitalism were leading to a great crisis. If business as usual were to lead to a major risk of catastrophic outcomes like entrenched capitalist aristocracy, global fascism, or devastating climate change, then testing something – anything – to avert the disaster would have more urgency. However, such pessimistic predictions generally seem false. Objective measurement of various indicators of the health of society shows that they are mostly improving (Our World in Data).

Looking at the general degree of uncertainty in the issue, and taking experimental value into account, we are unsure about whether one could sketch out a feasible socialist proposal for the US that would be worth doing over the current trend of capitalist policies across the advanced world. However, that doesn’t mean that the actual results of a socialist movement would meet this standard. In fact, there are reasons to be specifically pessimistic about the results of a socialist movement. Trends among many current Western leftists – overconfidence in their point of view, disinterest in policy planning, economic denialism and folk-economic beliefs, apologia for totalitarian socialism (Quillette, think tank book, much more on social media), dehumanization and violence towards political opponents, censorship and censure of internal dissent, internal sectarianism, rejection of scientific objectivity and rationality, and vindictive attitudes on social justice politics (American Conservative) – increase the chances of repeating the failure modes of 20th century socialist programs. These trends might be considered relatively benign in the current context, where leftists are a minority in a society with stable institutions. But the trends become more dangerous if they are prevalent in a revolutionary faction which can assert its own institutions and leadership. It’s worth noting that Lenin’s vision for the USSR actually involved a fair amount of experimental thinking, open-mindedness and respect for civility, before Stalin took power and overturned these early ideas (Žižek 2011 appendix); a mostly decent movement can be hijacked by unsavory elements if the process of radical change has undone the norms and institutions responsible for protecting the government from such a development.

Moreover, empowering a socialist movement could have more effects besides socialism itself. Socialists may leverage their power to install a suite of other programs, which might be inferred from the content of the Socialism 2019 conference: transfeminism, black liberation, open borders, abortion access, anti-Zionism, strong environmentalism, and weakening (if not abolishing) the police and military. Socialists have also frequently been hostile to philanthropy, believing it to be unnecessary in the context of a socialist state (Twitter), villifying wealthy philanthropists and repeating discredited arguments against Effective Altruism. The overall desirability of this broad suite of secondary ambitions is unclear, which adds another layer of uncertainty on the matter. Note however that some of these tendencies among socialist elites are likely to be diluted by common sentiments in a mass socialist movement.

Socialist beliefs also lead people to take positions of indifference or outright hostility to more reasonable immediate reforms as long as we remain in a capitalist economy. For instance, Kamala Harris’ proposal to try new after-school care programs which would relieve the child care burden off working families was met with hostility by a number of socialists who saw it as contrary to their vision of eliminating long working days entirely. However, there is a converse problem where popular antipathy towards socialism causes conservatives to oppose reasonable plans like universal healthcare.

Conclusion

Overall, there is good but not decisive evidence against socialism generally speaking. It’s an open question whether one could design a particular form of socialism – either one which leverages worker cooperatives while maintaining competitive markets and a reasonably sized government, or one which has some sophisticated and well-incentivized form of central planning – that would be worth testing in place of the current capitalist system. However, for those who are interested in radical change, we think it is fair to say that there are probably more worthwhile possibilities besides socialism.

In addition, the reality of a socialist system if Americans decide to implement one will very probably be worse than ideal socialism and worse than the status quo. And there is no guarantee that socialist change would be a peaceful process. Therefore, we should prefer that Americans have more faith in capitalism and resistance to socialism.

This finding is too weak and uncertain to be justified as a main cause priority. However, it still has interesting implications for Effective Altruism. Numerous writers have alleged that charity is worse than it seems because it could reinforce capitalism, and argued that EAs have a duty of justice to promote new economic systems that could help the developing world escape poverty. However, the finding here means that this argument must be reversed. Charity is extra good because it reinforces capitalism, and EAs have a duty of justice to reinforce (and refine) capitalism in order to help the developing world. Of course neither of these arguments actually make sense - the number of people whose political attitudes are actually changed by philanthropy is negligible as far as anyone can tell, and the "duty of justice" is a moral falsehood. But as far as philosophical debates are concerned, a good deal of academic orthodoxy will have to be revised in the light of this new idea that capitalist systems are usually superior to socialist systems.

39