Social Systems

Economic Systems


In common usage, the word capitalism means an economic system in which all or most of the means of production are privately owned and operated, and the investment of capital and the production, distribution and prices of commodities (goods and services) are determined mainly in a free market by the law of supply and demand, rather than by the state. In capitalism, the means of production are generally operated for profit. Capitalism has also been called laissez-faire economy, free market economy, free-enterprise system, private enterprise economy, and free-price system.


Socialism is a system where people are rewarded according to their work as opposed to capitalism in which people can make a living off of rents, interest and dividends which are generally considered unearned income. The government usually owns or controls the "commanding heights" of the means of production meaning the transportation and communications systems and major industries. It differs from communism in that "to each according to his needs" is replaced with "to each according to his work."


Communism refers to a theoretical system of social organization and a political movement based on common ownership of the means of production. As a political movement, communism seeks to establish a classless society. The communist slogan is "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need." As such, theoretically at least, communism is a system in which the strong and talented subsidize the weak and untalented so that thew notion of charity is built-in. In a competitive society like capitalism, the strong and talented usually win out (gain more economic rewards) over the weak and untalented. Capitalism makes up for this with the provision of charity by private parties and religious groups.


An society which strives to provide the greatest utility or happiness for the greatest number of people. Some have said that these two variables, utility and number, cannot be maximized simultaneously. However, there may be many different ways to attain "greatest utility," and the one chosen could be the one that satisfies some measure of equality. Utility is something that is measured by social scientists as opposed to something specified by each individual as in Preferensism. Different variations could provide sub-maximum utility while guaranteeing each person at least a minimum utility.


Participatory economics, or parecon is a participatory economic system proposed as an alternative to contemporary capitalism and also an alternative to centrally planned socialism or coordinatorism, it emerged from the work of radical theorist Michael Albert and that of radical economist Robin Hahnel, beginning in the 1980s and 1990s.

The underlying values parecon seeks to implement are equity, solidarity, diversity, and participatory self management. The main institutions to attain these ends are workers and consumers councils utilizing self-managerial decision-making methods, balanced job complexes, remuneration according to effort & sacrifice, and participatory planning.


Preferensism is both a political and an economic system based on social choice. It's a method of voting and a method of determining work-commodity bundles for worker-consumers. Individual voters specify their preferences over a list of candidates, and their votes are amalgamated to determine the winner(s). Individual worker-consumers specify their preferences both for work and consumption, and these are amalgamated to provide the optimal outcome. The slogan is "from each according to his preferences; to each according to her preferences."

Political Systems


Anarchism is the belief that rulership is unnecessary and should be abolished. Anarchism refers to various political philosophies and social movements that advocate the elimination of the state, i.e. involuntary government. In place of centralized political structures and exploitative economic institutions, these movements advocate social relations based upon voluntary interaction and self-governance, and aspire to a society characterised by autonomy and freedom. It has much in common with Preferensism which maximizes autonomy and freedom and provides a framework for direct democracy and self-governance.


A belief that legitimate government should be small and should play only the most minimal possible role in economic, social and cultural life, with social relationships to be regulated as much as possible by voluntary contracts and generally accepted custom and as little as possible by statute law. Generally opposes government programs for the redistribution of income, politically correct values and propaganda outlets, all forms of governmental censorship, and all forms of social, economic or cultural engineering by the government.

Libertarianism strongly advocates the maximization of individual rights, private property rights, and free market capitalism. Specifically, libertarian politics holds that a person's freedom to dispose of his body and private property as he sees fit should be unlimited as long as that person does not initiate coercion on the person or property of others. Libertarians define "coercion" as the use of physical force, the threat of such, or deception (fraud), that alters, or is intended to alter, the way individuals would use their body or property. The libertarian political principle prohibiting coercion is known as the non-aggression principle, and many libertarians consider it a defining tenet from which spring all their political views. Libertarians see themselves as consistent supporters of maximum freedom and minimum state intervention in all human activities (where "freedom" is defined as negative liberty).


Totalitarianism represents a regime in which the state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior. Totalitarian regimes mobilize entire populations in support of the state and a political ideology, and do not tolerate activities by individuals or groups such as labor unions, churches and political parties that are not directed toward the state's goals. They maintain themselves in power by means of secret police, propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, and widespread use of terror tactics.


Autocracy is a form of government in which unlimited power is held by a single individual. An emperor may rise to power through heredity, but is referred to as an autocrat rather than a monarch when his power overshadows his bloodline. It is synonymous with despot, tyrant and/or dictator, though each of these terms originally had a separate and distinct meaning.


A monarchy, (from the Greek monos, "one," and archein, "to rule") is a form of government that has a monarch as Head of State. The distinguishing characteristic of monarchies is that the Head of State holds their office for life, unlike in a republic, where a president is normally elected for a certain amount of time.


Democracy in its ideal sense is the notion that "the people" should have the right to rule themselves. This ideal is pursued by implementing a system of voting such that the majority of people rule, either directly or indirectly through elected representatives. Democracies may be "liberal," where fundamental rights of individuals in the minority are protected by law, or they may be "illiberal" where they are not. Preferensism is an extension of democracy both to the economic system and in the political system. In the sense that it provides majority rule in the case where a decision must be made that results in one alternative being chosen, it functions the same as democracy. However, when many alternatives may be chosen each applying to a specific minority, the system will generate that solution resulting in an extension of the notion of democracy.

Deliberative Democracy

Deliberative democracy, also sometimes called discursive democracy, is a term used by political theorists, e.g., Jon Elster or Jürgen Habermas, to refer to any system of political decisions based on some tradeoff of consensus decision making and representative democracy. In contrast to the traditional economics-based theory of democracy, which emphasizes voting as the central institution in democracy, deliberative democracy theorists argue that legitimate lawmaking can only arise from the public deliberation of the citizenry. The problem is many citizens are disinterested in the political process, and the idea of sitting around all day deliberating is anathema.

Direct Democracy

Direct democracy comprises a form of democracy and theory of civics wherein all citizens can directly participate in the political decision-making process. Some proposed systems would give people both judicial and legislative powers, but most extant systems allow input into the legislative process only.

Under the traditional form of direct democracy, sovereignty was lodged in the assembly of the people. Depending on the particular system, this assembly might pass executive motions (decrees), make law, elect and dismiss officials and conduct trials. Where the assembly elected officials, these were executive agents rather than representatives. This is different than a representative republic where sovereignity is held by a subset of the people, the subset most often chosen by election.

Modern direct democracy is characterized by three pillars: initiative, referendum (including binding referenda) and recall. The second pillar can include the ability to hold a binding referendum on whether a given law should be scrapped. This effectively grants the populace a veto on government legislation. The third pillar gives the people the right to recall elected officials by petition and referendum.

Direct democracy is pretty cumbersome and unworkable compared to representative democracy since there is no effective machinery for amalgamating the individual wills of the populace to form a collective will. Preferensism provides the machinery which yields a direct democracy in an expeditious manner. Direct democracy is also known as Jeffersonian democracy since Jefferson trusted the will of the people more than he trusted elected representatives.

Representative Democracy

Representative democracy is a form of democracy and theory of civics in which voters choose (in free, secret, multi-party elections) representatives to act in their interests, but not as their proxies—i.e., not necessarily according to their voters' wishes, but with enough authority to exercise initiative in the face of changing circumstances. Modern liberal democracies are important examples of representative democracy. In the United States the term is often synonymous with "republic." A representative democracy is also know as a Madisonian democracy Since Madison believed the people should not be trusted to make governmental decisions. Instead, the wiser elements of the population should serve to guarantee that stupid decisions will not be made.

Social Democracy

Social democracy is a political ideology that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from supporters of Marxism. Initially, social democratic parties included revolutionary socialists, such as Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Lenin alongside those who advocated a gradualist, evolutionary approach, such as Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky and Jean Jaures. After World War I and the Russian Revolution, social democracy became exclusively associated with the non-revolutionary approach. Modern social democracy emphasises a program of gradual legislative reform of the capitalist system in order to make it more equitable and humane, with the theoretical end goal of building a socialist society either de-emphasised or limited in scope.

The term social democracy can also refer to the particular kind of society that social democrats advocate. The Socialist International (SI) - the worldwide organisation of social democratic and democratic socialist parties - defines social democracy as an ideal form of representative democracy which may solve the problems found in a liberal democracy. The SI emphasizes the following principles: Firstly, freedom - not only individual liberties, but also freedom from discrimination and freedom from dependence on either the owners of the means of production or the holders of abusive political power. Secondly, equality and social justice - not only before the law but also economic and socio-cultural equality as well, and equal opportunities for all including those with physical, mental, or social disabilities. Finally, solidarity - unity and a sense of compassion for the victims of injustice and inequality.

Preferensism also would be more equitable and humane than capitalism because both political and economic power would be disseminated more evenly among the population.


Oligarchy is a political regime where most political power effectively rests with a small segment of society (typically the most powerful, whether by wealth, military strength, ruthlessness, or political influence). The word oligarchy is from the Greek for "few" and "rule". Some political theorists have argued that all societies are inevitably oligarchies no matter the supposed political system.


The Ancient Greek term aristocracy meant a system of government with "rule by the best". This is the first definition given in most dictionaries. The word is derived from two words, "aristo" meaning the "best" and "kratia" "to rule". Because everyone has different ideas about what is "best", especially in relation to government, the term is tricky to apply in this sense. Aristocracies have most often been hereditary plutocracies, where a sense of historical gravitas and noblesse oblige demands high minded action from its members.

As a government term, aristocracy can be contrasted with:
meritocracy - "rule by those who most deserve to rule". While this has on the surface a nearly similar meaning to "aristocracy", the term "meritocracy" has usually implied a much more fluid form of government in which one is not considered "best" for life, but must continually prove one's "merit" in order to stay in power.
plutocracy - "rule by the wealthy". In actual practice, aristocrats are often just plutocrats whose wealth allows them to portray their own virtues as the "best" ones.
oligarchy - "rule by the few". Whether an aristocracy is also an oligarchy depends entirely upon one's idea of what are a "few".


The term plutocracy indicates a form of government where all the state's decisions are centralized in an affluent wealthy class of citizenry, and the degree of economic inequality is high while the level of social mobility is low. This can apply to a multitude of government systems, as the key elements of plutocracy transcend and often occur concomitantly with the features of those systems. The word "plutocracy" itself is derived from the ancient Greek root ploutos, meaning wealth.


Technocracy can refer to:

    A bureaucratic technocracy (this derogatory use is the most common, and is what the French mean by the phrase).
    The Technocratic movement, started in 1933 by Technocracy Inc.
    A political attitude common to Thorstein Veblen and H. G. Wells (the latter's "samurai") who considered that the economy would be better off run by technical experts instead of private industry.
    A technocratic government that is ruled by technology, usually a powerful, central artificial intelligence. Basically where sentient robots/computers/cyborgs rule over mankind and are using humans as servitors or, less realistically, as a natural power source and/or organic memory storage. The most famous example is in "The Matrix", although the average person in the series doesn't actually know their "real" government is a technocracy.
    In the role-playing game, "Mage: The Ascension" published by White Wolf Game Studio, the Technocracy is a group who is said to control reality through means of "application of new concepts".


In a broad definition, a republic is a state whose political organization rests on the principle that the citizens or electorate constitute the ultimate root of legitimacy and sovereignty. Several definitions, including that of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, stress the importance of autonomy and the 'rule of law' as part of the requirements for a Republic.


The term theocracy is used to describe a form of government in which a religion or faith plays a dominant role. In the most common usage of the term theocracy, some civil rulers are identical with some leaders of the dominant religion (e.g., the Byzantine emperor as head of the Church), governmental policies are either identical with, or strongly influenced by, the principles of a religion (often the majority religion), and, typically, the government claims to rule on behalf of God or a higher power, as specified by the local religion. However, unlike other forms of government, a theocracy can be unique, in that the administrative hierarchy of the government is often identical with the administrative hierarchy of the religion. This distinguishes a theocracy from forms of government which have a state religion, or from traditional monarchies, in which the head of state claims that his or her authority comes from God.

Note: These definitions rely heavily on Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia

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