Capitalism and Communism – Two Methods To The Same Goal

For the majority of the past century, a battle has been waged between two dominant ideologies – capitalism and communism.  Both competing economic systems focus on how best to allocate goods and services to the population.  Capitalism uses democracy and “free markets” to efficiently allocate capital to its most efficient use with little regard to economic equality.  Communism focuses instead on massive state run “planned” economies allocating resources equally with little regard to personal ambition or incentive.

What have been the human costs of this ideological battle?

Capitalism and Communism Actually Have The Same End Goal

This battle caused many wars that cost millions of human lives causing a massive armament industry to be built on both sides.  Witch hunts were carried out, people were demonized, and nations were carpet bombed all for believing in the other ideology.  But what exactly is the fight about?  Economic systems like capitalism and communism are not ends unto themselves.  They are means to an end. They are systems, or a set of rules, for governing the allocation of resources. The question we should be asking is “what is the end?”

And this leads us to the irony.  Both capitalism and communism argue that their method for allocating resources will actually achieve the same end goal – namely, a higher standard of living for every person based on ownership – more efficiently.  In a capitalistic economy, people compete in a marketplace to secure as much wealth as they can for themselves and therefore increase their standard of living. Communist societies put a higher value on equality and believe that by allocating equally, people will live at a higher standard of living.


Now that it appears that capitalism has won the battle for best method, perhaps it is time to revisit the common goal and ask if it is even possible. The ultimate common goal for both capitalism and communism was to produce enough goods for every man, woman, and child to have one.  One of everything.  Each person would have their own house, their own car, their own lawn and lawnmower. They will have their own movie theatre, perhaps their own bowling alley, or their own yacht. They would, in short, have their own “American Dream”.

News flash: There are now 7 billion people living on the earth. This is a 700% rise in population in just two centuries.  When John Locke and Adam Smith were wandering the earth, the earth’s resources seemed both mathematically and conceptually infinite. “No way could we exhaust these resources.  I mean, the economy would have to grow 63,000 times bigger than it is today for us to approach any environmental limits (US GDP has grown from $220M in 1792 to $14T in 2012),” they must have thought.  And so began the era of exponential economic growth. How much of the economy do we really need?

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The Economy Is Trying To Grow Larger Than What Earth Can Support

What Capitalism And Communism Have In Common

So what do capitalism and communism have in common? They both assumed nature’s resources to be infinite and placed value on extracting resources at faster rates distributing them through an ownership-based model.  With infinite resources, you can meet everyone’s needs through individual ownership since there is enough, in theory, to make one for everyone. However, many (especially the youth) see the futility of the idea that nature is limitless, that the earth has an infinite capacity to absorb our pollution or hide our waste.

In a world with finite resources, the goal of one of everything for everyone is impossible – not for 7 or potentially 10 billion of us.  Therefore, just like their goal, growth-based capitalism and growth-based communism are both inherently invalid.  When the pie doesn’t get any bigger, ideologies that champion growth strategies to solve hunger and poverty issues lose their appeal.

Capitalism Can Not Solve Problems For People With No Money

We Need A New Economic System

New economic systems must emerge that allow us to share the world efficiently but also justly. A world in which some people die systematically from malnutrition while others throw away the necessary food to feed them will not work any longer. Values must change to base one’s self-worth on the quality of one’s relationships and experiences instead of the number of their possessions. Access to quality resources for all of the world’s people must take precedence over satisfying insatiable desires of the few.

These are just some of the changes that will likely result from the realization that growth cannot occur forever. At the very least, it is time to stop arguing over which map to use and instead ask ourselves what direction we are heading.

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What Other Kinds Of Economic Systems Can We Use To Take Us Into The Future?

Capitalism fails to recognize that life is social. Communism fails to recognize that life is personal. The good and just society is a socially conscious democracy which reconciles the truths of individualism and collectivism.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

This article, Capitalism and Communism – Two Methods To The Same Goal is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Chris Agnos and (Just copy and paste this text with links at the bottom of your page.)


  • Anna

    Have you heard about The Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE)?

    It is an international organization that aims to promote the idea that perpetual economic growth is neither possible nor desirable and that the positive, sustainable alternative is a steady state economy that does not exceed our ecological limits.

    • admin

      Absolutely. Thanks for the link. Is this the organization that Herman Daly is involved in? I’ve been inspired by a lot of his work.

  • Ryan

    Personally, I’ve always liked the idea of Jubilee:

  • Capitalism and Communism: Two Vehicles to the Same Destination | The Unbounded Spirit

    […] Source: “Capitalism and Communism: Two Vehicles To The Same Destination,” from […]

  • Debbie Headoffice

    To me a resource based economy would be the best way forward for society.

    • Lot

      For sure Debbie, that’s the best idea I have ever heard. Theorically it’s possible but practically, we are to primitive for it.

  • Lena Savic

    “Under capitalism, man exploits man.Under communism is the opposite” you quoted J.K Galbraith on your Facebook page and linked it with the above article. The opposite may mean just the same or- “Man doesn’t exploit man”… John Kenneth Galbraith was a Canadian and later American economist and diplomat and as such he clearly knew the difference which was not “convenient” to address directly in the specific political climate…so he made a cryptic statement and somebody who DOESN’T KNOW the difference made Facebook “illustration” . First of all; capitalism and communism don’t belong to the same categories; the first one is primarily economic system, and the second one is political, ideological with related economic model(s). It would be better perhaps to discuss capitalism versus socialism …So, Mr. Galbraith was a bit confused here in the first place. That whole post won’t really help anyone to learn anything, but can set some very misleading preconceptions.
    The symbol of capitalism is a dollar and the hammer and sickle in communism stand for the unity and the rule of industrial working class and farmers….which was the original idea in every (communist) revolution that would get compromised by the ruling party at the end….except in the case of Cuba, perhaps….long story…but it isn’t too complicated….As for COMMON GOALS in capitalism and communism…Communism and capitalism are based on very different system of values and thus have different goals. Let’s revisit etymology of both terms :
    communism (n.)
    “social system based on collective ownership,” 1843, from French communisme (c.1840) from commun (Old French comun; see common (adj.)) + -isme (see -ism). Originally a theory of society; as name of a political system, 1850, a translation of German Kommunismus (itself from French), in Marx and Engels’ “Manifesto of the Communist Party.”
    1854, “condition of having capital;” from capital (n.1) + -ism. also: from capitalize (v.) defined as: take the chance to gain advantage from, profit from, exploit.
    China and former USSR or North Korea are (were) called communist countries, but they have little in common with the original (utopian) ideas of communism. However, if author is keen to explore sustainability within different political systems and different economic models, maybe she/he should explore some trends in Cuba. Within their model, some of the original Marxist ideas (see the above etymology and definition) are more closely reflected and as such worthwhile exploring not only from the socio-economic point , but from the point of sustainability as well. PRIVATE OWNING OF EVERY MATERIAL GOOD BY EVERYBODY may be the ultimate goal in some (ideal?) capitalist society, but it was NEVER a goal in communism. Again, communism is about co-operation and communal ownership, and as such, whether we like it or not, fits perfectly in every future sustainable model. To those ideologically allergic to the term, the word might be simply replaced by another, but the idea will be there…because co-operation and communal ownership are part of sustainable solutions. And again; China isn’t a communist country-if you study Marxism, you’ll easily see why. Here are some links ; I hope you’ll find them interesting:
    Would Cuba be the same if it was, like China, infected by the capitalist bug of “endless” economic “progress”? One almost wish for Cuba to always stay under US sanctions….
    I may be critical in this reply(as few others on your Facebook page), but I highly regard and support your values, goals and commitment.
    Best regards,
    Lena Savic

  • Daniel

    I wonder if this realization will cap ambition? Certainly, grandiose ambitions, of the Donald Trump nature, that revolve around materialistic possessions will be suppressed. But like you said in your article, our Values must change to base one’s self-worth on the quality of one’s relationships and experiences instead of the number of their possessions. But materialistic possessions are a big part of the quality of our experiences are they not? I understand that the planet’s resources are finite, but what systems are available, if not a communistic society where everything is rationed, for a resource-based crisis? Certainly, Some form of control must be imposed on the population at large? If what you say is scientifically true, proven by a body of evidence, than This realization should not be a matter of choice but a matter of fact and every article I read about this eludes to the facts being a matter of choice to believe in. Just like its a fact that the world is not flat but round, the worlds resources have a limit. And what about after humanity beats this crisis? If everyone accepted these facts and changed their values, what would happen when the crisis goes retreats? John Locke and Adam smith were at one side of the spectrum of conservationalist ideals and we are at the other side. What if we swing back and suddenly there is an abundance? Will humanity cast out these values for liberal conservative practices once again? History repeats. In a way, in America, the regulating of just about everything would seem to be a good thing. From our food to our health care, the more regulation the less waste slipping through the cracks, right? This would be true if our government regulated on a scientific basis rather than a political agenda. But I digress; to the point: Will this realization be imposed on the population by means of control or be accepted by all people through their own free will? Or will this dilemma be nullified by the body of evidence scientifically proving the existence of a resource crisis?

  • Larry Chang

    Both communism and capitalism are founded on the monetary system which allows the sequestering of wealth and resources in the hands of a few through the manipulation of imaginary units. We can re-imagine value measured by a non-fungible, non-negotiable, non-manipulable index.

    • Hugo

      maybe assuming you have all resources accounted for, but the moment you have to change sell volume of different resources the price will grow, else you will need a central control for them, then you will need to create zones as to not empower one over the other.

  • Hugo

    they will both lead to the same result at some point, problem with communism is the control of all production for capitalism monopolies end up doing the same, eventualy the party will become an entity unto itself, or corporations will lobby for the same result as elections require public exposure, and money, resources are allocated and competition becomes impossible.

  • diego

    ultimately, I think a fact that many of us are not willing to acknowledge, is that capitalism won because it was a faster running, more productive machine. clearly this entails all of the landfills, toxic fumes, disposable consumer goods, and urbanization that goes along with that…

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