What are we really talking about when we use political terms like Conservative, Liberal, Socialist and Communist? It’s mostly about the piggy bank. Prof. Richard D. Wolff gives a brief summary of the economic “rules” that distinguish these political perspectives.

A Continuum of Political & Economic “Rules”

As Wolff explains, these four political systems may be distinguished by their economic “rules.” It’s about the degree of involvement that occurs between politics and Capitalism.

  • Conservatives – The Capitalist economic system is sacrosanct. Example: No minimum wage.
  • Liberals – They make some rules to regulate Capitalism. Example: Minimum wage required.
  • Socialists – They regulate Capitalism a lot. Example: Both minimum and maximum wages are set.
  • Communists – No Capitalism. They want a different economic system. Example: Government owned enterprises.

All the political systems listed above endorse political democracy. Can you see which systems may also allow economic democracy — in the workplace, for instance? In what different ways might these political and economic systems utilize checks and balances to temper power, to manage inequality, to preserve the public commons?

As I look at the list, from Conservatives to Communists, it is obvious which political systems rest on the extreme ends of the continuum. That is something to think about.

For instance, Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders (whom some say is not a “real” socialist), lands in the exact middle of the continuum — making Sanders the most balanced politician on American soil.

Where do your political favorites fall on the continuum?

Know what it means.


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