Courtesy Reuters

"Socialism" and "Capitalism"

AN INTERNATIONAL MISUNDERSTANDING

"CAPITALISM is evil. The United States is the leading capitalist country. Therefore the United States is evil." It would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that this line of thinking has done. In the Soviet Union and Communist China it sustains attitudes and actions on which support for war can be based. In the non-Communist world, although the general picture of America is in many countries more favorable than some of us have supposed, our "capitalism" is often seen, like our treatment of Negroes, as a major blemish on that picture. In the minds of tens of millions it appears as a valid reason to suspect the motives of our foreign policy (e.g. in Viet Nam and in the Caribbean area) and to refuse coöperation with us in activities that, from our point of view, are designed to build a healthier, more prosperous, more democratic world.

To many Americans there is something quite baffling about all this. In the first place, we seldom think of our society as "capitalist." To us it is a democratic society, or a free society, more than a capitalist society. And in the second place, when we do think of our economic system as capitalism (most of us prefer the term "free enterprise"), we seldom think of it as evil. Even the liberals among us usually accept and approve the idea of free enterprise. Why, then, do tens or hundreds of millions in other countries believe that we are capitalistic villains, or are "ruled" by capitalistic villains?

One obvious answer is, of course, Communist propaganda. Throughout the world there has been an organized Communist campaign to discredit capitalism and the United States as the leading exponent of capitalism. In the Soviet Union, Communist China and other countries with a near-monopoly of the means of communication, the idea has been systematically inculcated. But in the parts of the world not Communist-controlled this explanation seems too simple. Millions who are not Communists or

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