johnsee, socialism isn't truly based on equality. I like to think of it as rounding the sharp corners on a table. You still have a table, it's still as strong as ever, but fewer people get injured on those damned corners. Socialism, to the varying degrees it is practised, modulates society but, as that fellow who owns IKEA
, can tell you, it gets along just fine with capitalism. It may restrain the political dimension that capitalism always seeks to acquire (see Washington, Lobbyists) and, at times, intercedes between the market and the consumer more than in only faintly socialist nations like the United States but that's a balancing act in any case.
It was your great (Canadian-born) economist John Kenneth Galbraith who opined decades ago that, in America, the only respectable form of socialism was socialism for the rich. It was true then which begs the question why anyone ought to find its expression surprising today?
As Aedes quite properly pointed out there are no truly, mutually exclusive political, social and economic models. With the extinction of real communism (the essential combination of totalitarian rule and state ownership of all means of production), capitalism has plainly prevailed. Those of us old Cold Warriors were brought up to embrace the naive belief, as an article of faith, that democracy and capitalism were inextricably wed - that democracy would not function without capitalism and that capitalism would not and could not flourish outside of our Western democratic model. Turns out that was a load of convenient hooey.
Capitalism finds democracy a royal pain in the posterior regions. It's unruly and can be unpredictable and intrusive when the little people get uppity. (See: Washington, Lobbyists). As it has discovered over the past generation, capitalism can positively thrive in a totalitarian state, at least initially. Can today's multinationals really make it in the long run in China, can they survive the social upheaval that's inevitable there? Very hard to say but, for now, it's Mardi Gras! Where are my beads?
But I do think we're reaching the point where we're going to have to take a hard look at the transfer of political power to corporate entities. Free trade, in one sense, can be taken as a partial surrender of sovereignty. Nations accept the free movement of capital and labour yet receive virtually nothing, as nations, in return. Their rentier
or investment class, this being the coupon clippers, do just fine but the working class and the middle class that depends on them, don't do nearly as well as they see manufacturing jobs depart in pursuit of the cheapest wage rates and weakest labour and environmental regulation.
In reality, however, this wasn't about the free flow of capital. That's always existed. It's the free access to the wealthy nation's markets that's the real prize. What's the point of manufacturing Nike runners in Vietnam unless you can get Americans to pay American prices for them? That is where sovereignty has been surrendered. We've forfeited our right to say "if we're good enough to buy them, we're good enough to make them." Doesn't that sound like a curious thing to say? Cui bono?