Vincentians favour aspects of both socialism, capitalism
June 29, 2010
Vincentians favour aspects of both socialism, capitalism

A recent poll is suggesting that while the majority of Vincentians have bad images of both the socialist and capitalist economic systems, there are certain aspects of both systems which they are strongly in favour of.{{more}}

The informal poll, conducted in Kingstown and its environs, asked 569 men and women: “Do you have a good or bad image of socialism?”

The same question was asked of capitalism.

While 57% of persons polled said they had a bad image of socialism, a similar number, 54%, said their image of capitalism was also bad.

The poll was conducted by a private firm on behalf of Interactive Media Ltd (IML) between June 8 and 15. All the persons polled were 18 years or older.

An economic system is the system of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services of an economy.

The skepticism about both economic systems, from the poll results, however, seems to be greater among persons who say they support the New Democratic Party (NDP). Almost three out of every four NDP supporters (73%) said they have a bad image of socialism. As regards capitalism, 63% of them are not in favour.

Supporters of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) seem more open to both economic systems. Forty-seven per cent (47%) of them had a bad image of socialism, while only 44% of them see capitalism in a bad light. For the undecided voters, who made up the largest portion of our sample, 58% viewed socialism in a bad light, whereas 56% of them were not favourable to capitalism.

Socialism advocates that the community as a whole should own and control the means of production, distribution and consumption, while in capitalism, the production and distribution of goods depends on invested private capital and profit-making.

Our pollsters also sought to get a deeper understanding of how much involvement respondents felt the State should have in their lives, in particular the control of the economy and the provision of social services.

Ninety-five per cent (95%) of persons polled said they favoured small business, while 89% had a good image of large business. These results were consistent across the board, with 95% of supporters of the NDP, 94% of supporters of the ULP and 96% of the undecided voters saying they have a good image of small business. Eighty-nine per cent (89%) of supporters of both the NDP and ULP and 90% of those who are undecided say they have a good image of big business.

It is, however, not clear whether the persons polled had a good understanding of the terms “socialism” and “capitalism”, as although a majority of persons said they did not have a good image of capitalism, 72% overall said they favoured free enterprise. Fifty-eight per cent (58%) of the NDP supporters say they have a good image of free enterprise, whereas 75% of ULP supporters and 74% of the undecided do.

Free enterprise is a system in which private business operates in competition and largely free from state control; in other words, capitalism.

When it came to the provision of education and health care, respondents felt the state should play a key role. 88% felt that both primary and secondary education should be free, while 83% advocated free health care.

Supporters of the ULP felt more strongly that education should be free, with 92% taking that position as compared with 82% of persons who say they support the NDP. Eighty-eight per cent (88%) of the undecided voters want free education.

As regards health care, more ULP supporters feel that it is the state’s responsibility, with 85% advocating free health care, compared with 80% of NDP supporters and 83% of those who are undecided.

Social commentator Jomo Thomas, while cautioning about making generalizations, said he was however pleasantly surprised that more people did not have a negative image about socialism.

“I thought it might have been higher, precisely because of all the negative things we have heard about socialism. It seems that in the end, whereas people want to have free enterprise, they also think there should be areas of social life, particularly health care and education, where the state should be involved in helping people out,” Thomas said.

“They don’t want hard core socialism, nor do they want a rabid individualism that is reflected in the greed of capitalism.”

He however conceded: “Maybe they don’t know what the terms mean.”