Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems

Professor Emeritus Edward F. Stuart takes you across three centuries to chart the history of modern economic thought and practice around the world.
Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 92.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from a trustworthy guide to a minefield prof. stuart has done a commendable job of covering such a highly-charged subject in a surprisingly balanced manner. by giving us his background in lecture one, he establishes his bona fides as someone with sympathy for both sides, and this gives him a credibility which persists throughout the course. he wisely adopts the strategy of discussing all economic policies and positions in terms of tradeoffs—in other words, if you want this, the cost will be that—and this allows him to roam freely across the economic spectrum without being held hostage by the need to fight any partisan battles. it actually took me till the last few lectures to discover what kind of bias the course does in fact have, and this is a bias of omission. while we get several lectures that describe in detail everything wrong with a communist economy, there are no parallel lectures offering an in-depth critique of a capitalist economy. so whereas the soviet bloc gets extensive coverage, the american economy is referenced only in passing and often only in a historical context. thus there is no discussion of globalization, or the consequences of the search for cheap labour or resources overseas, or a mention of how european imperialism made modern western economies possible in the first place. we come away with the impression that western capitalism is surely better than what they had in eastern europe in part because, like capitalism itself, we take no account of the losers in a capitalist system. we take no look inside asian sweatshops, no look at how big mining companies operate in indonesia and africa, and no look at the contamination of indigenous water supplies across the americas. nor do we examine the conditions of the working poor back at home, which would require addressing questions such as how the minimum wage compares to CEO “compensation,” the costs of health care and housing in an unregulated free market, or the neo-slavery of some modern-day manual labour. in short, by the end of the course capitalism looks comparatively good simply because we haven’t poked around in any of its closets. with this caveat in mind however, the material that we do get is tremendously informative. the highlight for me was the comparison of several european countries which have each taken a strikingly different approach to a mixed economy. in addition i found the professor’s informal presentation style and wry sense of humour both appealing and helpful in dealing with such relatively challenging material. because this can be a somewhat challenging course, it would be good to have some basic economics under your belt first, but prof. stuart does helpfully explain each economic concept as it comes up. as for me, i’m glad i took this course as what i learned was more than worth the effort.
Date published: 2021-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Better than expected I loved this class. The professor was so well informed and his delivery interesting.
Date published: 2021-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course Loves the course, informative, organized and well delivered. Only Issue there is no such thing as Serbo-Croatian language. Croatians as a people were reference in Tablet of Baska in about 1100 AD in the original Croatian script, Glagolitic and the current scrip is Latin based- changed in the 16th century; never was it Cyrillic. For the record the Croatian language was changed in order to usurp Croatian cultural identity. Anyway, Great Course, but needs to be updated regarding Croatian language. Just for the record, 'The Republic of Ragusa (Dalmatia, Croatia) first recognized USA after declaring independence', somewhere around 1783. Just a fun fact.
Date published: 2021-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses I have purchased I generally do not review courses nor do I read reviews. If I have any interest I will make the purchase and take "the Great Courses" up on their guarantee if they don't meet my expectations. This one is so engaging that it should not be missed. It is almost as much a history course as it is an economics course. Enjoy!
Date published: 2021-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fair and informative This teacher does a great job of bringing to life economics in the global market. I learned a lot of tidbits and I have read voraciously on the subject.
Date published: 2021-05-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engaging Keynesian Perspective I just finished watching all 24 lectures, which I enjoyed very much. Prof. Stuart is an engaging lecturer who brings lots of interesting anecdotes from his experiences traveling in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Comparative economics is a fascinating subject. While I recommend these lectures, it is important to recognize that Stuart is a Keynesian economist. During one of the lectures he states that his favorite economist is John Kenneth Galbraith, the liberal Canadian-born economist who advocated high taxes, increased government control over corporations, and massive government spending to alleviate poverty and whose ideas led directly to Lyndon Johnson’s controversial Great Society initiatives in the 1960’s. Stuart strives to be even-handed, but to me it was fairly obvious that he favors a mixed-economy with an active government and heavy regulation. He speaks very positively about democratic socialism in Sweden, Slovokia, and France, while referring negatively to free-market policies advocated by neoliberal economists. There is only so much that one can cover in 24 half hour lectures, but there were a couple of points that, nonetheless, I was surprised he omitted. These include: • Stuart highlights how the Soviet Union’s disastrous collectivization drive in the 1930’s led to famine and repression, but I think he should have mentioned the magnitude of Stalin's crimes. Around 5 million Ukranians died during the Great Famine of 1932-1933 and this was a deliberate policy of Stalin, not an accident. Similarly, Stalin sent 18 million of his fellow Soviets (around 10% of the Soviet Union's population at that time) to the Gulag work camps. • Stuart does not discuss the Austrian School of economics (e.g., Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek). The reason that this omission is so significant is that the Austrian economists were the chief intellectual opponents of socialism in the 20th century and their claims that the Soviet Union would increasingly suffer from economic calculation problems proved remarkable accurate. • Stuart focuses mainly on Europe and devotes a few lectures to Asia. I think he should have also mentioned in passing that Communism has not worked out well in Latin America (Cuba, Venezuela) or in Africa (Zimbabwe). • Stuart attributes much of the economic success of Singapore to the strength of its public education system. What he fails to mention is that the very high savings rate (over 50%) in Singapore and many other Asian countries allowed for capital formation and a rising standard of living once market restrictions were partially lifted. Incredibly, at one point Stuart claims that Glastnost held back Russian economic growth, while China benefitted from having an authoritarian central command over its economy. He should have highlighted the difference in the savings rate between China and Russia.
Date published: 2021-04-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Course The course did a good job on explaining the importance of Adam Smith. There appeared to be some hero worship for John M. Keynes. I believe that the F.A. Hayek books "The Road to Serfdom" and "The Fatal Conceit" should have been mentioned. The instructor mentioned Paul Krugman twice, but did not talk about Ludwig von Mises or Schumpeter. I recommend the viewer take the course "Thinking About Capitalism" by Jerry Z. Muller to get a better understanding of capitalism. Then this course would be useful as a follow up.
Date published: 2021-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! I signed up for this course on free-trial basis, not knowing what to expect. But as I progressed from one lecture to the other, it not only refreshed some of the basic economic concepts that I had gone through long time back in University days, but also provided valuable context of the political and social environment and events in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries that helped me comprehend the differentiating elements of these two competing economic systems. I think I am in a much better position to articulate myself in terms of defending my own position as to on which spectrum my own beliefs would lie. The lectures have been organized so well and with pertinent, to the point and concise arguments by the Professor, I really binged the complete course in 5 days. I strongly recommend this to anyone who especially in the context of the modern times needs to know why we are where we are.
Date published: 2021-01-14
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The illuminating 24 lectures of Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems will show you the many ways the most influential modern economic theories were developed, how they function (or don't), and how they manage to operate both together and in opposition to each other, from the rise of Soviet communism to the future of the European Union and beyond.


Edward F. Stuart
Edward F. Stuart

Virtually all countries around the world debate the role of government and market institutions.


Northeastern Illinois University

Edward F. Stuart is a Professor Emeritus of Economics at Northeastern Illinois University, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1986. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Oklahoma, specializing in International Economics and Russian and Eastern European Studies. He teaches courses in international economics, the economics of the European Union, comparative economic systems, European economic history, and macroeconomic theory. He is also the chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee on International Programs and has led study tours to France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain. Professor Stuart has been a visiting guest professor at the University of Salzburg in Austria, the Burgundy School of Business in France, the Ural State Pedagogical University in Russia, and the Warsaw School of Economics and the University of Warsaw in Poland. In January 2014, he served as a guest professor at the China University of Petroleum-Beijing’s Academy of Chinese Energy Strategy. He has also served as an adjunct faculty at Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business. For the past 15 years, Professor Stuart has worked as a consultant to several international relocation firms and has been published widely in the field of economics. He has made appearances as an analyst on radio and television programs, including NPR, Chicago’s WGN Morning News, FOX 32 Chicago’s evening news, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, and News Talk 980 CKNW in Vancouver, Canada.

By This Professor

Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems
Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems


Gorbachev’s Hello and the Soviet Goodbye

01: Gorbachev’s Hello and the Soviet Goodbye

Begin your foray into comparative economics with a look at the USSR in the final few years before its collapse and the restructuring known as perestroika, which led to an increased interest in the study of capitalism versus socialism in the U.S. Examine some of the major questions that shape economic systems and close with a brief overview of the goals and scope of the course.

31 min
Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Keynes, and Friedman

02: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Keynes, and Friedman

Meet four of the most influential economic thinkers in history: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keyes, and Milton Friedman. As you examine their individual philosophies and influences across three centuries, you may be surprised by how many of their ideas overlap even as their philosophies differ.

32 min
How to Argue GDP, Inflation, and Other Data

03: How to Argue GDP, Inflation, and Other Data

From GDP and inflation to unemployment and standard of living, there is no one absolute measurement that determines the health of an economy. Get an overview of the different metrics for economic success and a general understanding of how they are calculated and interpreted—and why these data points can start more arguments than they resolve.

31 min
British Revolution: Industry and Labor

04: British Revolution: Industry and Labor

Travel to the birthplace of industrial capitalism: Great Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. A fortuitous meeting of politics, technology, and economics would shape the future and give the world innovations like insurance, corporate ownership and investment, and extended payment systems. It would also inspire writers like Charles Dickens to reveal the horrifying social repercussions of unregulated industrialization.

30 min
American Capitalism: Hamilton and Jefferson

05: American Capitalism: Hamilton and Jefferson

Modern capitalism may have been born in England, but America would be defined by it from the very beginning. Look at some of the paradoxes inherent in free market systems and how Protestant religious philosophy played a significant part in the direction of the economy. Then, see how founding figures like Hamilton and Jefferson set the course for American economic dominance in the years to come.

30 min
Utopian Socialism to Amana Microwave Ovens

06: Utopian Socialism to Amana Microwave Ovens

The many opportunities and innovations of capitalism in the U.S. did not come without a cost. Religious and political thinkers alike turned to new solutions to alleviate the often horrible conditions many workers experienced, resulting in socialist projects that fell into two camps: utopian and scientific. Close with a look at the difficulties inherent in running socialist systems in a largely market economy.

29 min
The Bolsheviks: Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin

07: The Bolsheviks: Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin

Why was Soviet communism doomed to failure? Beginning with the Bolshevik revolution, witness the birth and troubled development of communism in a country that was spectacularly ill-equipped to start a government from scratch. See why Marx never envisioned communism taking root in an illiterate, agrarian society and how the lack of economic experience in Soviet leadership created a spiral of disasters.

28 min
Soviet Planning and 1,000 Left-Foot Shoes

08: Soviet Planning and 1,000 Left-Foot Shoes

Examine the ways Stalin sought to exercise complete control of the Soviet economy, focusing on his Five-Year Plan for production— an object lesson in the complexities of anticipating and satisfying the material needs of a society. Professor Stuart also gives you an eye-opening look at the ways economics and politics can feed off of one another. Or, in this case, starve each other.

28 min
Economic Consequences of European Peace

09: Economic Consequences of European Peace

The end of World War I illustrates one of the iron laws of capitalism: upheavals in one part of the world have repercussions all around it. Understand how the Treaty of Versailles set up harsh terms for a depleted Germany and why shortsighted leadership from the Allied powers led to economic fallout and, eventually, the second World War.

29 min
How FDR and Keynes Tried to Save Capitalism

10: How FDR and Keynes Tried to Save Capitalism

Was the stock market crash of 1929 the cause of the Great Depression? Find out why Black Tuesday was actually a symptom rather than a cause and trace the origins of the Depression in the U.S. to events and policies of the 1920s, both domestic and international. Then, look at the ways FDR applied the ideas of John Maynard Keynes to help America recover from economic devastation.

29 min
Social Democracy in Europe

11: Social Democracy in Europe

In the wake of economic and social turmoil in the 19th century, some European countries sought to reform the capitalist system and make it more sustainable. Examine the different motives behind the reforms, understand the differences between public and private goods, and compare and contrast the myriad ways economies can blend capitalism and socialism.

31 min
Sweden’s Mixed Economy Model

12: Sweden’s Mixed Economy Model

Called “The Third Way” by some economists, the economic system of Sweden is perhaps the best example of a philosophy that falls between the extremes of free market capitalism and government-controlled socialism. Professor Stuart explains the many factors that have contributed to Sweden’s relative economic success and what it can teach us about mixed economies.

29 min
French Indicative Planning and Jean Monnet

13: French Indicative Planning and Jean Monnet

Discover why France, a latecomer to industrial capitalism, was vital in shaping influential socialist theories, and how centuries of political upheaval can leave distinct impressions on a nation’s economic history. From the French Revolution to World War II and beyond, France is a strong example of the ways economies are shaped by both internal and external forces.

31 min
British Labour Party and National Health

14: British Labour Party and National Health

The British economy has vacillated between privatization and nationalization over time. Here you will look at one of these shifts by first examining the socialist programs introduced by a post-World War II Labour Party government (including the National Health Service), followed by the Margaret Thatcher era of deregulations and privatizations.

30 min
Social Welfare in Germany: Bismarck to Kohl

15: Social Welfare in Germany: Bismarck to Kohl

Socialist policies are not limited to the realm of idealists and reformers. Germany under Otto von Bismarck shows how socialist policies like public education, unemployment benefits, and tax-funded healthcare can be used to create more efficient workforces. See how Bismarck’s ideas were used to help Germany achieve greater political power and trace the echoes of his legacy into the 20th century under Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

30 min
Soviet Bloc: Conformity and Resistance

16: Soviet Bloc: Conformity and Resistance

After World War II, the Allied powers were divided by their economic policies, resulting in a divided Europe. Examine the ways Soviet Russia dominated the nations of Eastern Europe, bringing them under the umbrella of authoritarian communism, and which nations pushed back against this takeover. In contrast, also look at the policies and institutions put in place by the Western allies to rebuild Europe.

31 min
Two Germanies: A Laboratory in Economics

17: Two Germanies: A Laboratory in Economics

The post-war occupation of Germany by four separate powers—and the difficult question of how to avoid the problems that stemmed from the Treaty of Versailles just a few decades earlier—created a division that would dominate Europe for more than four decades. It also created a unique opportunity for direct comparison between communist and capitalist enterprise, which you will take advantage of here.

28 min
The Soviet Union’s Fatal Failure to Reform

18: The Soviet Union’s Fatal Failure to Reform

Despite attempts by some Soviet leaders in the mid-to-late 20th century, Russia was never able to successfully reform the oppressive and increasingly inefficient Soviet communist system. Professor Stuart shows how the authoritarian government encouraged dysfunctional behavior in production and why the resulting scarcity of decent goods and services ultimately became unsupportable.

29 min
“Blinkered and Bankrupt” in Eastern Europe

19: “Blinkered and Bankrupt” in Eastern Europe

In retrospect, it would seem that communism in Eastern Europe was doomed to fail. However, when the communist governments began to collapse in the 1980s, it took many people in the West by surprise. Trace the ways Soviet communism’s failures were replicated over and over again in the Eastern Bloc nations, with nearly the same results for each of them.

30 min
From Chairman Mao to the Capitalist Roaders

20: From Chairman Mao to the Capitalist Roaders

Professor Stuart turns his attention to China, focusing on the 20th-century influence of Soviet communism under leaders like Mao Zedong. Look at the ways China was shaped by its earlier history to be especially unprepared for industrialization on the Soviet scale and how the cultural revolution under Mao further impeded progress, eventually resulting in an overthrow of his ideas after his death.

30 min
After Deng, China Privatizes and Globalizes

21: After Deng, China Privatizes and Globalizes

How was China able to make the dramatic transformation from a nation in decline to a global economic powerhouse in just a few decades? Contrast the economic reforms under “capitalist roader” Deng Xiaoping against the earlier communist strategy under Mao, as well as against the unsuccessful attempts at similar reform in Russia under Gorbachev. Close with a look at China’s economic influence on the world stage.

32 min
Asian Tigers: Wealth and State Control

22: Asian Tigers: Wealth and State Control

Reveal the secrets behind the remarkable transformations of the “Asian Tiger” countries of South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore from poor countries to high-income economies in the span of 50 years. Starting with their shared features, trace their progression from authoritarian regimes to more democratic governments and compare and contrast their concentrated efforts to shape their economies.

32 min
European Union: Success or Failure?

23: European Union: Success or Failure?

While the European Union has been a spectacular success in its fundamental mission—preventing war between major European powers—here you will also look at the other ways it could be considered a failure. Professor Stuart presents the post-war conditions under which the EU was created and the dimensions of its economic influence, for good and ill, throughout Europe.

32 min
Both Sides Now: Experiment in Slovenia

24: Both Sides Now: Experiment in Slovenia

What does the future hold for economies around the world? Using Slovenia as a model, explore some of the crucial questions concerning the evolution of world economies. Are economies becoming more similar? Or are they diverging? Is there even a clear-cut answer? The issues and debates that opened the course come full circle here; definitive answers remain elusive, but the tools provided open up a world of possibilities.

34 min