AOC has been mocked for an Instagram live tirade about Americans not knowing what capitalism is, because they aren’t billionaires.
“Most people don’t really know what capitalism is. Most people don’t even know what socialism is. But most people are not capitalists, because they don’t have capitalist money. They’re not billionaires.” The socialist representative said.
Let’s entertain this line of reasoning for just a second: AOC claims that Americans can’t understand capitalism because they have not been able to enjoy it to its fullest extent, and have not become billionaires. She also claims that most people don’t know what socialism is, but if we applied the same standard for capitalism, the argument deteriorates.
How can AOC understand socialism if she has not lived in a socialist country and has not enjoyed the fullest fruits of the system? The logic does not follow.
Simply not having “capitalist money” as AOC put it does not mean that a person cannot view capitalism as their ideal economic and political system. Capitalism is about much more than markets and money. Capitalism is framed around the idea of individual ownership and property rights that can only exist under capitalism as opposed to Communism which is most often based around state ownership.
The reason many people misunderstand socialism, and capitalism is because they cannot be brought down to a simple Oxford definition. Each economic philosopher who has explored the ideas of socialism and capitalism has a different interpretation of what their utopia looks like. This is even more evident in communism, the inverse of capitalism.
Karl Marx for example, perhaps the most famous “socialist” or “communist” used the two words interchangeably. Throughout much of his “Communist Manifesto”, he rather uses the word “Socialism” to describe his ideal economic system.
When it comes to communism, there is not one absolute communism. Instead, there are different denominations, like in the church. There is Marxism (Karl Marx), Trotskyism (Leon Trotsky), Stalinism (Joseph Stalin), Leninism (Vladimir Lenin), and so on. Each has similar, but also very different ideas of how the system should operate.
Capitalism, the inverse is a free market economic system where the will of the consumer shapes prices, wages, output, etc. through demand. Capitalist philosophers seem more in line with each other but of course, also differ on their utopian ideas.
Capitalists like Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, and others shared similar thoughts but also differed. Individuals can have a basic understanding of capitalism, communism, and socialism but will always need to read further into it to truly understand, but that goes for almost any topic.