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Noah Smith

The Choice Isn’t Between Capitalism or Socialism

All countries practice a mix of both, and the U.S. isn’t the free-market leader some might think. 

No longer useful.

No longer useful.

Photographer: Uwe Meinhold/DDP/Getty Images

Americans are once again interested in debating economic systems. The 2016 presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, reignited a debate about capitalism and socialism that some believed had died with the Soviet Union. Younger Americans are now divided on which system they like best:

Unfortunately, the debate over what these terms actually mean has become hopelessly muddled.  Without a Soviet bloc to provide an official alternative to capitalism, people cast about for examples that fit their desired narrative. Self-appointed defenders of capitalism will point to the economic failures of the USSR, China and North Korea, or to the more recent economic disaster in Venezuela as proof positive of socialism's defects