Editor's note: Students competing for the $500 Erie County Republican Women scholarship were asked to write essays comparing and contrasting socialism, liberalism and free enterprise as political and economic systems. Here are the three winning essays, in full:
* Perkins High School graduate
* Student at University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind.
The similarities and differences of socialism, liberalism and free enterprise
The political and economic theories of socialism, liberalism and free enterprise all have different viewpoints on the concepts of human freedom and economic structure which lead to differences of treatment for the citizens under each system. Socialism promotes a "utopian society" in which there is no class struggle and all people are equal as workers for a centralized government which controls the means of production. Liberalism promotes the idea of individual liberty in which power is decentralized and every citizen is granted equal opportunity. Free enterprise, as known as capitalism, is governed by the law of supply and demand and allows for individuals to change social status by realizing individual success through private ownership of the means of production. While these three systems idealize some form of equality or equality of opportunity, they define these terms differently which leads to drastically different results.
Socialism seeks to cure the struggle between social classes by eliminating them altogether and establishing a system in which a centralized government holds power and employs all citizens as equals. There is no lower class or upper class in this system, only workers who are all treated similarly. This is the socialist idea of equality, where all people are equals in that none will rise above and none will fall below the others in terms of social status. This is an idealized theory that has mainly led to failure when implemented. At its peak in 1985, 70 countries were governed by some form of Socialism, although this success was not to last. This is most notable in the fall of the Soviet Union, which experimented with a branch of Socialism known as Communism.
The system of liberalism promotes individual liberty above all else. Great precautions are taken in the division of power to ensure that no single individual or group has enough influence to take liberty and opportunity away from others. It provides strong guarantees of liberty and equal rights yet still favors a free economic system in order to allow for the success and growth of its citizens. Equality, as promoted by Liberalism, allows for equal opportunity and capabilities of its citizens and does not deny them the possibility of social advancement. Liberalism provides the basis for some of the most successful states in history, including the United States.
Free enterprise or capitalism, could be described as a "heartless" system of economic thought There are no guarantees or restrictions of power, but only one rule: The law of supply and demand. Free enterprise allows for extreme advances in social standing because the means of production are privately owned. This allows for individuals to reap the benefits of limitless success. Equality in the Capitalist sense is an example of perfect equality of opportunity, there are no guarantees for its citizens, but they all have an opportunity to succeed. Although this system is far from perfect as it allows monopolies and social class stratification, it is self correcting in that the law of supply and demand will adjust business practices to their most efficient form. Capitalism has seen its greatest success in the United States, when couples with the individual liberty security of Liberalism.
The three schools of thought of socialism, liberalism and free enterprise all have their own idea of equality, but achieve it in different ways. Socialism abolishes the system of social class in favor of equal standing for all citizens but does not provide opportunity for advancement. Liberalism guarantees individual liberty by providing equal opportunity but restricts advancement by a division of power. Free Enterprise allows for perfect equality of opportunity and does not restrict advancement in any way other than the law of supply and demand. While these three systems all attempt to achieve their version of equality, it is apparent that they define equality differently, leading to significant differences.
* Margaretta High School graduate
* Student at Bowling Green State University
The Similarities and differences of Socialism, Liberalism and Free Enterprise
Within a democratic society various economic systems may exist, including socialism, liberalism and free enterprise. Each of these has fundamental differences yet there are some similarities.
The central idea behind socialism is common ownership of resources, industries, social facilities and services. As a result, no one individual will rise to power because of the wealth that they have gained through profits associated with privately owned and operated businesses. Ideally, under socialism publicly owned entities produce what society needs, and those needs, not profit, drive production for the benefit of society.
Liberalism is based on the philosophy that progress and change will occur for the good of society as a result of promoting or encouraging individual freedom. Here, privately owned businesses are promoted by the public. Individual business owners are free, within the limits of the law, to do what they want in the market. Profits drive decisions in the market and private business owners stand to accumulate wealth as a result. However, checks and balances such as labor unions and a democratic government prevent individuals from abusing power they may have gained through their wealth.
Free enterprise, similar to liberalism, encourages private business ownership and the freedom of individuals to operate those businesses as they choose. In a free enterprise system goods and services are produced according to demand. Privately owned companies compete with each other striving to lower production costs and increase their profits. Profit drives the market and as competition increases, businesses are encouraged to produce better products at a lower cost to the public. Government plays a limited yet important role in a free enterprise system protecting individual's rights and enforcing the rules of society.
Each of the three economic systems described has its merits. Regardless of which system an individual may support, a democracy must exist in order for it to be successful. Socialism, liberalism and free enterprise all rely on members of society having the ability to make decisions that guide the direction of growth and change.
* Perkins High School graduate
* Student at The Ohio State University
Socialism, liberalism and free enterprise represent three very different sets of ideals.
Socialism refers to any of the various economic and political concepts of state or collective ownership. In a Marxist or labor-movement definition, socialism is a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism. In this definition, socialism is eminent by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done with the goal of creating a socio-economic system. In this socio-economic system, property and the distribution of wealth are subject to control by the community. As an economic system, socialism is characterized by state, cooperative or worker ownership of the means of production.
Liberalism refers to a broad collection of related ideas and theories of government that consider individual liberty to be the most important political goal. Modern liberalism seems to have begun in the Age of Enlightenment. Liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Different types of liberalism may propose very different ideas but they are generally brought together by their communal support of certain principles. These principles include freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of government and free exchange of ideas. All liberals seem to support some variation of liberal democracy with fair and open elections.
Free enterprise, or capitalism, is an economic system in which the means of production are privately-owned and operated for profit. In this case investments, distributions, income and pricing of goods are determined through the operation of a free market. Capitalism is usually considered to involve the right of the individual. Ideally, capitalist systems are governed by the free price system set by the law of supply and demand rather than governmental regulation. Free enterprise means competition. Competition promotes a healthy and strong economy.
The most important idea to maintain throughout all of these theories is that we need to ensure that America always has competition. With competition comes determination. Without seeing the possibility of rewards and sanctions for hard work, the individual may lose his work ethic. In a sociological theory called "social loafing," when an individual works in a group and sees that his teammates are doing all the work, he decides he can be lazy and relax. His sense of independence is gone and her feels that his work will not be a viable contribution. Do we want that to happen to our economy? Competition ensures that prices remain low and that the American consumers are receiving the best possible product that can be made.