6. What Are “Isms?”

Capitalism, Communism, Socialism … why is the world obsessed with identifying with “isms?” And what do these things mean?

Key Terms 

  • Individualism: Allowing individuals to make their own choices independent of what the “collectives” may want.
  • Collectivism: Forcing individuals to act in a way that others have decided to be the “common good” to allegedly benefit the most people; prioritizing a group of people over each individual in it.
  • Socialism: A political and economic system in which people are  given products or services no matter what they produce.
  • Free  Market: An economic system where people are allowed to freely cooperate and exchange goods without excessive regulation  
  • Crony Capitalism: When successful businesses use government power in order to gain control in the marketplace



Here’s the transcription of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi Connor.

Connor: Hey Brittany.

Brittany: So I’ve been noticing a lot of important words end in ism. Have you ever noticed this?

Connor: Ah, the isms? Yeah. Let’s , there’s quite a few of these. So what, isms come to mind for you?


So individualism was the first one I could, I could think of collectivism is another one capitalism. What’s another one. Help me out with another one.

Connor: The big S socialism.

Brittany: Ah, socialism. Yes. Yes. So these words are on the news all the time. Often in the same conversation, we hear people talking about how important they are, this person believes, and this ism, this person believes in another ism. Now we probably don’t need to go over each individual ism today because there are, I Googled it earlier. There are hundreds of isms.

Connor: Oh, wow.

Brittany: Yes. Lots of isms but I kind of wanna discuss, you know, what is, what is an ism? What are these things that we, we live by? So fervently, you know?

Connor: Yeah. Let’s should we maybe walk through each of the ones you mentioned and help our listeners understand what they are?

Brittany: Yeah. So let’s do individualism, which is my favorite ism. I know we’re gonna give a little warning about isms, but that is my favorite ism.

Connor: So there’s the warning. That’s Britttany’s favorite ism. It’s mine too. And our listeners who have our Tuttle Twins books, they’ll remember these terms from several of our books and individualism, which we’ll talk about here. And then also collectivism, which we’ll talk about next were discussed or, introduced in the Tuttle Twins and The Road to Surf Them.

Brittany: That’s a good one.

Connor: And so that’s all about whether it’s good for individuals to make decisions or, or the collective groups to do it. So, Brittany, I, stop you on the street. You pull out, pull out your EarPods and I say, Hey, what is individualism? How do you respond?

Brittany: How do I respond? Well, I think you gave us, a little bit of a preview, but it is it’s when a system or a government, whether that is a government or not, it could be a community puts the rights of the individual ahead of, or at least values. Them a little bit more than the rights of a collective. Now I’m gonna talk about what a collective is, cuz that is a little bit confusing too.

Connor: Mm-Hmm

Brittany: A collective is a group, right? It’s a group of people. So collectivism versus individualism is, is whose rights? I don’t wanna say matter first, I feel like I’m being this is me being candid, not recording. How do I say this without being rude?

Connor: I think of oh, you know, when we defined it in the the Tuttle Twins and the Road to Serve them, what we said for individualism is that it’s protecting the right of individuals to act in a way that they decide is best for themselves.

Brittany: So who should choose for you? Is the…

Connor: Yeah

Brittany: Okay.

Connor: And just like you said, prioritizing the individual over the interests of any group that he, or she may be a part of. So think of it this way. If you’ve got some friends that you’re, you know, playing together with, on a playground or your neighborhood or your city, or even your church, your school, the government, when you have this group of people and they say, well, we think everyone ought to do this.

Well, what if you disagree? Right? Like what if, what if your neighborhood is like, we think everyone should paint their garage pink to, you know, for breast cancer awareness or we think, cuz it’s the 4th of July everyone should paint an American flag, you know, on your fence. So what if you’re like, No I don’t really want to right. Individualism, in my opinion, Brittany, is we have the right to decide what’s best for ourselves. That to me seems like the American way.

Brittany: Yeah. You remind me of something else too. And maybe this didn’t happen to you in school, but when I was a kid in school, if a few kids, maybe one or two kids used to do something bad, my teacher used to punish the whole class. Did you ever have that happen to you?

Connor: Oh yeah, yeah,

Brittany: Yeah. And I remember sitting there thinking this isn’t right, because I did not do anything wrong, but I am being punished for someone else’s collective bad decision, right. For two or three people’s bad decision. And that always kind of irked me a little bit. Maybe that’s why I love individualism so much because I remember being a kid and thinking I should be judged for what I did or I should be, you know, what my actions were not on the actions of a group of people.

Connor: So the real question, miss Britney, is that when you were a teacher, did you ever punish the whole class?

Brittany: No, I actually, I’m very proud of this, very proud of this. On the first day of class, we had a whole discussion on this and I shared the story I just shared with you. And we had a rule that if I did that, or if I got even close to doing that, that there was a respectful way. We used the word decorum. That’s one of my favorite words. So there’s an assignment for you look up what decorum means, decorum decorum, that there was a right way, a respectful way to say, you know, raise your hand and say, you know, Ms. Hunter, I think you might be wrong about that. Or I think you did this and we would discuss it. But that was very important to me was making sure that each of my students knew that I was going to be great, both grading their work on their own merit and that nobody was going to be disciplined or, you know, for anything that they did not do themselves,

Connor: It seems like every individual wants individualism though for themselves. Right. It seems like everyone wants to make their own choices when it comes to what they want to eat, what type of shampoo they want to use, what car they want to drive, where they want to study, what they want to believe.

So, so I don’t know of any individual. Who’s like, no, someone should tell me what to think and what to do and where to live. Like no one feels that way, but I think the key problem comes in when a lot of individuals, even though they want that right for themselves, they’re not always comfortable with other people having that. Right. They’re not always comfortable with, oh, you know, my, my neighbor is gonna have a lemonade stand on their driveway. You know, I don’t like that. What if someone’s gonna get sick or, oh, someone’s gonna, you know, rent out their, basement on Airbnb to someone else. Oh, I, I don’t, I don’t like

Brittany: That. How dare they?

Connor: Yeah. Some someone’s gonna I mean, even in some neighborhoods they have these rules and like what’s called an HOA. It’s kind of like a government. We all love HOAs. And by we all love, I mean, we all hate. But you have some of these communities who are like, Nope, you can’t put up any flag. You know, I remember seeing one person get in trouble because he, I shared this silly example earlier, but this guy literally painted the American flag on his fence. And, and the rule in the neighborhood was you can’t do it. And they punished him for it. They made him repaint it and take it down. Otherwise they were gonna find him and make him pay money. So everyone’s like, yeah, I wanna be able to do whatever I want. I want individuals and for me,

Brittany: But not for anybody else, but not

Connor: For anyone else. I want the ability to control what other people do in a way that I prefer. And that’s why we get a lot of these government rules that boss people around because people are like, Hey, I, I wanna be able to kind of dictate what other people do. So that seems more like collectivism. Right?

Brittany: Okay. Yeah. So what about these other ones? Let’s dive into these other ones. So capitalism and socialism. I hear these on the news probably more than the first two. These are the ones I’m hearing all the time. And they’re so they’re not, they’re not super easy. Now we used the word free market. Sometimes

Connor: Mm-Hmm

Brittany: Now free market is very similar to capitalism, but they’re not the same or are they?

Connor: So how so, how would you define them differently then?

Brittany: So I would say, cuz I know that we talked about this a little bit in an earlier episode, capitalism almost has sometimes this negative connotation that it’s bad. Where, where free market almost sounds a little bit, a little bit nicer.

Connor: Mm-Hmm

Brittany: But in reality, they’re, they’re the same thing.

Connor: That, that’s what I think. I think when people think of capitalism, sometimes they think of the system we have right now, which isn’t really capitalism when the government can give certain businesses money, you know, like when it says, Hey, to the airline industry, you’re struggling right now, here’s all this money. Or when they go to farmers and they say, Hey, we’re gonna, you know, pay you all this money to help you because we know it’s tough right now when the government is taking our money, our taxes and giving it to certain businesses. There’s a lot of people who don’t like that. And then they’re like, oh, capitalism is bad. Look at all these people who are benefiting, but that’s not real capitalism. Capitalism. Britney is what you said. It’s really the free market where it’s not a partially free market. It’s not a mostly free market. It’s a, a actually free market where you and I can buy and sell and exchange where we can go to the store and they can say, here’s the price. And I’m like, eh, that’s too much. I’m gonna go buy it online. Or

Brittany: We could have lemonade stands without having to get a license.

Connor: Absolutely. So why the, the word, I think a lot of people get hung up on capital in the, the capitalism, right? So capital is really just money. And so maybe some people don’t like capitalism, cuz they feel like it’s the love of money. Like all we’re trying to do do is earn money and it’s the Scrooge McDuck. Its the, you know, whatever, I, I just want more and more and more money. When in reality I think there are some people who get kind of addicted to earn money and they, they just love to be rich. But in reality, a lot of people want to earn money so that they can, you know, buy nice things, which in turn helps that company or that person who sold it to them. And they’re able to pay for, you know, groceries for their kids and, and so on and so forth.

So capitalism is really just using money to buy and sell things. So maybe let’s talk very briefly Brit about, you know, this isn’t quite an ism, but capitalism requires capital, which means that we need this medium of exchange. Right? So the people who read the The Tuttle Twins and the Creature from Jekyll Island, remember that we talk about that, you know, we could barter. So Brittany, if I, I have chickens and they lay eggs and then I can say, Hey Brittany, you know, I have these eggs. I really like those headphones you’re wearing right now, will you with me? And so we have to decide two things, number one, that I want your headphones, but that also you want eggs and you might not want eggs. You might be like, eh, I gotta have eggs or I don’t need,

Brittany: I need apples or I need something else.

Connor: Yeah. Right. And so we we’re kind of mismatched. So capital is nice money. This medium of, of exchange is nice because I can give you money for your headphones and then you can go buy different headphones or buy something else completely. That’s why capital is nice because it allows us to buy and sell and exchange things so much more easily than if we were just barterring. Or if someone was like bossing us around saying you’ll trade with this person and do this. That would just be silly. It wouldn’t really

Brittany: Be, no, you sound like the next ism. We’re gonna discuss what you just said. Yeah. So socialism, do you

Connor: Remember, do you remember Britney really quick? Do you remember watching Lion King when they would say Mufasa? What

Brittany: Would happen? Ooh, do it again. Yeah, of course.

Connor: That’s, that’s what I’m trying to have. Every time someone says socialism, I want this like shiver of my spine. They’re like, Ugh. Except don’t say it again. <Laugh> don’t


Say it, but you, you said something interesting. You said capitalism was the opposite of a system where, where somebody, maybe it’s a government will tell you what to do with your business or, or what to produce with your business or even if you can have a business. So this sounds a lot like socialism,

Connor: Right? Yeah. It reminds me of you mentioned Atlas shrugged. And we have one of our books based on that, The Tuttle Twins and The Search for Atlas. And in there, there’s a gentleman who is explaining that. What happens at the circus is just like what happened in his, his country, Russia that he came from and that they were trying to impose all these controls and prevent people from, from benefiting and earning money and doing what they wanted. And, so he was worried that he was seeing more socialism happen. I’ve seen articles, Brittany of people who come from like Venezuela or who come from Cuba or who come from Russia. And they live in America now. And they’ll write these articles and they’ll say, guys, you’re like, we’re turning into socialism. I fled my country because things got so bad because of socialism. I came to America cuz I wanted capitalism. I wanted the ability to prosper and thrive and yet you’re turning it into a socialist country again. So why is it? Imagine, imagine America becomes 100% socialist Britain. Describe for us what you think our, our economy would look like. What would the world look like if we were had like way more socialism than we had now. And why would that be a problem?

Brittany: Yeah. Well we can all probably remember, not too long ago when we were dealing with the, the coronavirus that there were lines outside of grocery stores. Now that was different. That was because we were dealing with, with supply shortages and, and social distancing was the main reason for it. But in socialism, imagine if that was happening every day, that’s socialism, you go to the store and there are lines because there’s not enough food because there’s no incentives to make food. Everybody’s treated equally. Everybody makes the same. There’s no, there’s no way to get better or to improve. So that means a store does not have very many items. And let’s say, you go and you want let’s save a favorite shampoo. I have a favorite shampoo. I’m a girl. I have a favorite shampoo. Now, if I have a favorite shampoo and I go to the store, it’s a very likely under social.

I can’t get that. There’s only gonna be one kind of shampoo because the government had decided that we only needed one. Let’s say clothes you and I probably dressed very differently, Connor. Right? I think we have different styles. Quiet. Now let’s say that we couldn’t do that. There were only certain styles you could wear. And there was only two kinds, one shirt for boys, one shirt for girls, you know, one, one pair of pants for girls, one pair, pants for boys, no choice. Everybody looks exactly the same. Awesome. What a boring world that would be. That’s socialism, where the government tells you what you can and can’t do. And, and business is especially and what they can produce. So shoes only one person can produce shoes. So we’re all wearing the same shoes. That is a world I do not wanna live in, but it’s worse than that because they also tell businesses how they can serve their customers. So so there’s a lot of people who talk about socialism today and that’s why the word comes up specifically, a man named Senator Bernie Sanders. Does that name sound familiar to you? Connor.

Connor: That also gives me the shiver at my spot.

Brittany: I was gonna say, that’s the other one?

Connor: Right? Bernie Sanders. Oh.

Brittany: And he’s somebody that, you know, people like Connor said flee to America. So they have choice. The thing about capitalism is it gives you choice or socialism does not give you that option. But then you have modern day politicians like Bernie Sanders who actually wanna take us back to eras where people have, they’ve been fled. We’ve already moved past that. We don’t wanna go there anymore. But people like Bernie Sanders are championing these, these ideas. And, and that’s what makes isms in general. So scary.

Connor: What’s also interesting for me, Brittany, you mentioned Bernie Sanders and, people like him who support socialism, what we, what you and I can point to when we are concerned about socialism is examples from around the world and around history where socialism has been tried. Brittany, has there ever been an amazing success of socialism around the world?

Brittany: Not one that I can think of.

Connor: Yeah here, there are always massive failures. People, starve, people go hungry, they lose their jobs.

Brittany: They don’t have electricity in the modern world.

Connor: Yeah. They run out of basic goods and services in Venezuela. Right? You have this country that was among the richest in all of south America. And they have massive oil reserves. What that means is their, their country. They have a lot of oil deposits, which they can extract and sell.

Brittany: There’s a lot of money in oil. They probably, they did do very well for themselves. Right?

Connor: Right. But then they adopted socialism increasingly and now people can’t even survive that the country is, is broke. You have people trying to flee it’s all completely fallen apart. But Britney, here’s another question. When these government leaders implement socialism and the average person becomes very poor, they start losing jobs. They’re struggling to survive and provide for their families. That also happens to the politicians as well, who implemented the socialism, right? Don’t they also struggle and starve.

Brittany: That’s the funny thing. Connor. I’m sitting here. They can’t see shaking my head at you. Because that is not what happens. In fact, at the height of, of everything happening in Venezuela, which is still happening, people were starving and the president of Venezuela threw, I think it was a multimillion dollar party for a former a now dead socialist president. Wow. So here, his people can’t eat and he’s up, you know, in his, in his house throwing this big lavish party. Well, his people are literally starving. And that is, I think that paints socialism for exactly what it is.

Connor: And then you have Bernie Sanders. The reason I brought all this up and trying to implement socialism in America. And, and here’s a guy who has used his position to become rich his position as just a politician. And he has not one house, not two houses. He has three houses. I don’t..

Brittany: Nice houses, very

Connor: Nice houses. And you know, when he was running for president, he was criticizing these millionaires. These millionaires are the problem. There’s too many millionaires. And then it was revealed that he is also a millionaire. And so then he shifted his, his tone, his message to say, we have too many billionaires because it was revealed that he was part of this supposed problem that he was fighting against. But that is what happens with socialism is not only does it not work, these grand notions of more equality and more fairness what really happens is that people become more poor and wealth money is concentrated within the government, among the, the politicians at the top. So they all benefit just like you said. And, and they just continue to do that until, you know, something collapses or something bad happens. Socialism is actually really harmful to a lot of people.

Whereas Brittany, we’ve talked about how capitalism can help people. We talked in another episode about how rich people can invest in that’s right. We did that Kings used to not even be able to get, and now you look at Africa, there’s wide spread poverty, but what has innovation and what has the market and capitalism produced? They all have cell phones, right? The cell phone adoption in Africa is crazy high. Can you imagine that like none of us had cell phones, you know, 15, 20 years ago.

Brittany: No, no.

Connor: And now, you know, the poorest person in Africa can get one and talk to their relatives around the world. It’s incredible. It’s amazing. And that wasn’t socialism, that was capitalism. So these isms are really important. There’s a lot more Brittany, we could talk about, we could so many isms, you know, communism and all kinds of other things.

But, but these are super important. So I’m glad you brought that up. Make sure the guys that as you go about your studies that you learn about these isms, because some of them are really dangerous and it’s important for us to know, you know, what they are, why they’re a problem. And also for those of us who believe in a free market, or believe in capitalism, it’s important to understand what is, you know, real capitalism, right. And what’s fake capitalism. What’s, what’s the word that we use crony capital crony,

Brittany: Crony Capitalism

Connor: Crony Capitalism, Conies are like these, these like bad guys that kind of get in with the government and they’re, they’re not really capitalists they’re, they’re doing it wrong. So it’s important to understand this stuff, guys. Thanks for sticking with us. Make sure you’re subscribe. Tell your friends about the way the world works and we’ll see on the next episode, see that again,

Brittany: Talk to you, next time!

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