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It's great when a student "gets it."

One of my speech class students chose an interesting topic for her persuasive speech: Communism versus Capitalism. Normally students would choose the “go ‘merica” capitalism side. But this student didn’t. She chose to, carefully, illustrate that communism isn’t the all-out failure that we think it is. As a caveat, this student told us that, for the purposes of her speech, she would be using communism and socialism interchangeably. With this strategy, she could lump Cuba, Burkina Faso and the Scandinavian countries together as examples of successful communism.

I disagree with her notion that these two “isms” are one and the same. In my opinion, capitalism, socialism and communism are economic systems on a continuum with capitalism (and all of it’s variants) towards the left side and communism towards the right side with socialism towards the middle/right. (Please know that, in this instance, left and right are just directions.) But I give the student props for examining our current issues of racial injustice and income inequity in the context of a bigger, albeit global, picture.

Cold War Unicorns!
Apologies for reusing "Cold War Unicorns." I couldn't help it.

Like any good persuasive speech, the student chooses the strongest evidence for a position and tries to inoculate the audience, who hold the opposite position, by admitting the weaknesses in the argument and refuting them as best as you can. All in 6-8 minutes.

So, yes, Cuba has a great, all-inclusive health care system but just about everything else is broken.  Norway, Sweden, Denmark,  Iceland and Finland all practice a version of democratic socialism, with an elected government and free healthcare, education and pension all paid for by extremely high taxes. And then there’s Russia, China and North Korea, who all practice some form of state-controlled communism. North Korea does it badly, China seems to have found an effective amalgam of bald-faced capitalism under strict government control.And Russia is....Russia.

In the end, I gave the student high marks for her speech. She did her research, organized logically and, most importantly, didn’t try to make the audience take too big of a bite. She just wanted us to see that, like any political/cultural/economic system, there are good and bad qualities of each. Well done.

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