With reference to "Harrison Bergeron" and The Jungle, what is best for humanity/society: socialism or capitalism? I am struggling with a thesis for my essay on an excerpt from "The Jungle" and...

With reference to "Harrison Bergeron" and The Jungle, what is best for humanity/society: socialism or capitalism? 

I am struggling with a thesis for my essay on an excerpt from "The Jungle" and "Harrison Bergeron."  I am to write an argument how the stories influence my view of government but they don't change what I already know, that capitalism is the best form and socialism will never work. Capitalism can be abused but socialism is destructive where capitalism is not. Please help me.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The question of Capitalism vs. Socialism entails the problematic condition of human nature. For, there are few human beings who wish to be controlled, or who wish to become "equal" to everyone else. So, while socialism in which all the workers ideally share in the wealth of a society, this concept is considered mostly a political ideal and largely unrealizable because in reality the proletariat gains more awareness of itself and the poor are abused as witnessed in the aftermath of the French and Russian Revolutions. Thus, while there are countries in which there are socialized medicine and the governments own public transportation, pure socialism does not exist.  Likewise, pure capitalism does not exist, either.  For, there are usually some government controls upon businesses in capitalistic countries; otherwise, problems incur because of the intrinsic greed of human beings. For instance, in pure capitalism, since self-interest is a driving force, monopolies owned by wealthy and powerful people can destroy other businesses and then drive costs up beyond what they should be for a product.

When Harrison, for instance, rebels he selfishly declares himself emperor and desires more power than he needs.In Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" equality has been forced upon people, squelching any individuality and creativity. While the ignorant and inferior such as Hazel think everything is all right, the highly intelligent Harrison rebels against the enforcement of this "equality." This self-interest is more in line with the philosophy of capitalism.   

Those who embraced socialism in America were the disenfranchised,  much like the oppressed workers in the Chicago slaughterhouses in Upon Sinclair's The Jungle.  Certainly, the Muckraker Sinclair was persuaded that Socialism was the solution to the labor problems of his time in which men were terribly exploited by capitalists.  However, in contemporary times the power of the labor unions has resulted in other economic and social ills as the powers of the unions have become too great and workers benefits and salaries have placed them outside of competitive markets throughout the world. Thus, industries such as the steel yards have all ceased to exist as the steel industry exists in other countries now, not in the United States.  Likewise, powerful government unions have effected unsustainable debt for states such as Illinois and California where unions are extremely powerful. 

Thus, history has demonstrated that socialism may be too idealistic, although the publication of The Jungle did lead to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, whereas capitalism can work if reasonable government controls are exerted upon businesses and enterprises. Workers must be protected, but the rights of the individual are paramount in any social contract, a concept that both novels address.

 

 

 

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