Learning about Capitalism and Socialism
The best way to learn about these things is to actually read about them (and related topics). That can be a daunting challege. Where to start? Where to begin?
The book/primer that I lead people toward first, regardless of what I know if their economic background or education, is 'Basic Economics' by Dr. Thomas Sowell. It is written for anyone to understand. It discusses capitalist economics, feudel economics, and socialist economics. (although I will save you the suspense that Sowell has a positive-bias toward capitalism).
From there, perhaps the next book I would suggest is 'Capitalism and Freedom' by Milton Friedman. It's basic premise is how capitalism is fundimental for economic freedom and actually essential for political freedom.
If you can get through those two books, and are still interested in learning more, take on the heavier stuff:
'The Wealth of Nations' by Adam Smith
'The Communist Manifesto' By Karl Marx
'The Road to Serfdom' and 'The Fatal Conceit' by F.A. Hayak (And if you are a glutton for punishment, 'The Constitution of Liberty')
If you need some lighter, classical works, read some of the works of Bastiat.
All of these, with the exception of Marx, do bias positively toward capitialism. That said, in my personal quest to understanding both of these 'isms', I have found these and Hayak's direct criticisms of socialism to be more informative then some of the positive-biased works about socialism were (or rather, once I read them, the critiques at that point marred their positions.)
All said, if you walk away with just reading 'Basic Economics', you will at the very least walk away with the sense that capitialism is one of the most misunderstood concepts (i.e. a term to refer to greed as a synonym.) in the modern world.
Capitalism is an ideal state where individuals are completely free to make, grow or sell goods and services as they have the personal ability and assertiveness to do so without any regulation or interference from the government. In ideal capitalism, those with the best products and most skillful marketing would earn the most money and those without initiative or skills would starve.
Communism is also an ideal state where all people are equal and the work of everyone is taken by the state and distributed equally to everyone regardless of skill or ambition. Ideal communism is everyone working toward the common good and everyone reaping equal rewards and being taken care of by the state.
Neither of these states exists. What exists is varying degrees of socialism which ranges from democratic socialism - where people are free to work as they wish but are heavily taxed in order to provide for birth to death care by the state - to capitalistic socialism where people have more personal freedom, pay less taxes, but do not have guaranteed care. This range of economic models swings from that of Sweden to that of the United States. Both have a mixture of capitalism and communistic values in play.
After WWII, the USSR took over a large block of nations with the intention of imposing communistic values on them. Without receiving the rewards of individual labor and having those things personally accomplished taken from you, these economies failed. In the late 1980s, it was not war that broke these nations but the lure of individual freedom to determine their own standard of living. As with anything, all nations, except North Korea and Venezuela, live with varing degrees of socialism that is a balance between individual freedoms and caring for the common good of all.
All for One, One for All.
Have you eveer seen that nature video of a swarm of African ants covering a horse, taking it down, and eating it? One little ant could never acomplish such a task- but when they all work together, they can.
Capitalism is a philosophy based on each one of us working for our own benifit. If one cannot work, then one does not benifit- they starve. If you cannot pay for medical care, then you do not get medical care.
Communism is, like those ants, where everyone is equal, and everyone works for the whole. As many have pointed out, if one ant decides to be lazy and not take down the gorse, they still benifit- that means individuals are not as motivated to act.
Socialism is the various shades of grey inbetween, where basic needs are provided for by the goverment, but only the basics necessary for survival. That means people are still motivated to acomplish more to reap greater benifit.
What varies in those various shades is the determination of what are those basic needs. In the United States for example, we determined that children's education from Elementary through High School is a basic need provided by the state. Some want to expand that to include a Bachlor's degree or trade school edication. Others want to eliminate it in favor of vouchers for the wealthy and middle class to go to priviate schools, and no education for the poor.
We are now debating if health care is one of those basic needs. Now in the US, it is administered by a number of priviate businesses- Hospitals, pharmicutical companies, and insurance companies. Each of them get a slice of profit in the process, thus keeping costs high. If these were all non-profit, then insurance companies would not bee needed at all, and medical care would be afordable. If they are paid for colectively with taxes, then a medical emergency would never drive someone to bankrupsy.
Our economic system will continue to nudge step by step through various phases of Socialism further away from Capitalism and closer to Communism. It is inevitable, acording to many of the great minds of the Tech sector.
Capitalism requires that everyone have the opurtunity to do some kind of work, for themselves or for others, to make money to survive. With increased automation, there will be far fewer jobs available. Ful employment will be impossible. Uber is planning to roll out Google self-driving cars. We will have self-driving busses, trains, and some day even planes.
In the past ,we had cameras that used film. That film had to be bought in stores, brought in for processing where it would be shipped to a lab, developed, printed, shipped back, and you would then pick up the prints in a retail kiosk.
That is a whole lot of people working- retail clerks, truck drivers, photo labs. Now, you snap a photo with your iphone and post it on instagram instantly, so all of those jobs are gone, with no equivilant new jobs to replace them.
It's not just film- VHS tapes, and casette tapes yielded to DVDs and CDs, which still needs to be manufactured and sold, still requiring jobs. Now DVDs are MP4s, and CDs are MP3s. No need for any jobs.
In Japan, they have a robot that can make dozens of hamburgers in a few minutes- each one with custom options, even blending diferent meats into the patty. You can get 50% beef, 25% turkey and 25% lamb, on a pretzel roll with smoked gouda and extra tomato, and you will get exactly what you order flawlessly. Fast food resturaunts are now one of our nations leading employers- that robot can put them all out of work- not to mention the 3D printer that can generate a pizza.
Already, Amazon is putting retail stores out of business. They have been a big boon for the package delivery business- but Amazon is reasearching using drones to deliver your orders.
Now think about this future with robots doing most manual labor, and 3D printers doing most manufacturing, and AI programs even doing many intelectual occupations, like replacing accountants and even medical diognisticians.
What are all of those out of work people going to do? They will need to have their basic needs provided for by the goverment - a Comunistic government.