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My Renaissance

by Moises Casilla



I must admit that at the beginning of the semester I thought of dropping this class several times.
The first day of class our professor made it very clear that we were going to have to discipline
ourselves since everyday we had different readings with deep subjects that required us to do a lot
of critical thinking. I felt intimidated since the professor seemed really strict and I did not think I
will be able to keep up with the schedule of having to submit a short essay everyday before class.
My dad always taught me that if I wanted to win and be successful in life I should never quit, so I
decided to stick with it and give it a chance. It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made
in my college career, the class open my eyes to different schools of thought and allowed me to
find interest in topics that I would have otherwise thought were boring. Throughout the course of
the semester I was able to develop critical thinking skills that allowed me to analyze the different
readings and to answer the questions we were asked to the best of my ability. I was also able to
stick to the schedule with one of the most important lessons I am taking from our professor being
the punctuality that he made us have by not accepting anything late, punctuality that I will
continue following in life and in my professional career as well.
There were two readings that really made an impact in the opinions and perceptions I had before
taking the class. Those readings talked about the different economic systems our world has
debated on for many years, capitalism and socialism. Reading about the ideas of Adam Smith
and Karl Marx and discussing them in class really made me call into questions my own ideas and
beliefs. To understand why the readings had such an impact in me I will like to give a little bit of
a background history.
I was born in the United States but taken back to Venezuela as a kid, the country were my family
was originally from and the country where I obtained most of my primary and secondary
education. Venezuela is a self-proclaimed socialist country, strongly influenced by countries like
Cuba, Russia and China. In Venezuela the government is always very critical of countries like the
United States calling it “el imperio” which translates as the empire. The Venezuelan government
has been able to influence a lot of the population into thinking of capitalists as evil with the
president condemning people for being rich and always favoring the poor. Growing up in
Venezuela I experienced what I now think of as the dark side of capitalism, I used to think that
capitalism was the reason why the world was so messed up. That was until my family started
being affected by what they call 21st century socialism in Venezuela, everyday we were poorer
and poorer with no real opportunity for anyone to make progress while the government just kept
getting richer and richer. That is when I made the decision of moving to the United States and
my views completely shifted when I was able to experience for myself a country that was mostly
capitalist and that was doing so much better than Venezuela and others. During this time I was
able to experience the other side of the coin, most Americans though of socialism in a very
negative way and even using the word in the politics had a huge impact because of the negative
connotation attached to it.
I was first predisposed to hate capitalism and lean more towards socialism and then after my own
personal experiences my ideas made a 180 degree turn and I was able to realize that capitalism
has proven to be more successful and I was way better off in a capitalist economy than I was ever
before. During the course of the semester and specially during the classes where we discussed
these topics I found myself confused and not knowing what to believe. Now I find myself in a


position where my critical thinking and reason has allowed me to take a look at the big picture
and understand that each system has advantages and disadvantages. I will like to show how my
beliefs and perceptions changed by taking the class and my new understanding of each economic
system. Below I will address what in theory each system proposes with its pros and cons, it is
important to keep in mind that there is not a single country thats is fully capitalist or socialist.
Let’s start with socialism, socialism cares about humans and takes issue with the objectification of
workers and stratification of classes, there is an absence of monopolistic practices as there is less
inequality of income, the fruits of labor are shared equally among members of society and it is
controlled by a central planning authority which provides for greater welfare and decreases
business fluctuations. On the other hand, socialism has had a historic failure when it has been
tested in different societies so it hasn’t been proven to work, there is no private property with
everything belonging to everyone or the government which results in individuals not working
hard because there is no real reward or opportunity and because the government has full control
of society it can result in oppression and abuse of power.
A capitalist economy is characterized by economic growth and expansion, individuals get to
choose what to consume which leads to competition and results in better products and services,
self-interest is the driving force of the market economy and the “invisible hand” is Smith’s
explanation of how the economy and society will do better in general if we all care and act for
our own interest. On the other hand, there is a good chance of a monopoly power that abuses
their position and charges higher prices, an economy based on the market and consumers is
inevitably going to experience the business cycle of expansion and contraction and there is social
division as wealth and poverty tend to be generational.
Every developed country seems to have a form of capitalism or socialism within their society, it
seems that humanity has gotten to the point where we understand that the full application of
either system has huge downsides to it. But why do humans need capitalism and socialism? Our
society is based in the exchange of goods and services, an individual can’t produce everything for
himself so he specializes in a specific duty while relying on others to supply things which he
consumes. The result of exchanging goods and services is an economic system, capitalism and
socialism are just two of the main economic systems the world universally accepts as such.
Humans started exchanging these good and services through barter but it wasn’t an efficient way
of doing so. For example, if you were a farmer that was looking to trade cows and I was a shoe
maker, how many shoes would I have to give you for one cow? What if the farmer doesn’t even
need shoes? This is why we came up with the concept of money, a medium of exchange that
allowed us to trade in a more efficient way.
I have not only learned about our economic systems and their importance but I now understand
the importance of money to society, before I really didn’t pay attention and took money for
granted. Money to me was just something I was supposed to have if I wanted to buy things. After
taking this class I’ve realized that money is a belief system, in reality, money is just a piece of
paper with no intrinsic value but we believe that the paper is worth something because people
accept it as a method of payment for goods and services. The value of money depends on
different factors but usually comes down to how much money is in circulation. The important



part is to understand what makes people have so much faith in money and what makes people
lose faith.
From this class I am taking not only the new knowledge and the expansion of my ideas but also
the understanding that learning is a continuos process. I will continue to read, research and
pursue a more in depth understanding of the different topics we addressed in this class, mainly
because of my insatiable curiosity but also because I understand that these topics have a real and
very important application in the world of business. I would like to thank Professor Engh for
putting together this amazing course and providing us with all the information needed but also
Professor Smith for challenging us everyday and working hard to make us understand the
different concepts and ideas we were being presented as well as their importance and application
in life and business. It was a great experience to participate in this class and share with my
classmates and professor. I hope there is more classes like this one awaiting for me as I continue
my college education.