I am a researcher in the field of verification. In this field, the systems are verified against desired properties. For example, we may want a space ship to have a property of not exploding in mid-air. After building the ship, we may also want some engineer to analyze the ship design to verify that indeed the ship will not explode. In our research, we are developing tools and techniques for the verification engineer. The ideas of the field can be applied in any dynamic system, e. g., Economics, Society, etc. Some parallels are very interesting. Here is an example.
In verification, we divide the desired properties of the systems into two classes: safety and liveness. Safety properties require that something bad will never happen. For example, the space ship will never explode. In contrast, the liveness properties require that something good will eventually happen. For example, the space ship will some day reach to the Moon. This distinction is there because verifying safety properties are computationally much easier as compared to verifying liveness properties. In our field, the first question the other researchers ask, “Are you dealing with safety or liveness?”.
I recently realized that the distinction between safety and liveness can be used to see the distinction between the socialist thinking (welfare state) and the capitalistic thinking (free market). Today, the argument between socialists and capitalists is raging all over the world. A socialist demands social justice, a safety net against extreme poverty, a liberal set of laws, etc, while assuming that the society is sufficiently wealthy. On the other hand, a capitalist demands efficient economy, free market, simpler laws to start businesses, minimal state, well defined property rights, etc, while assuming well developed legal and political system to protect citizen rights. I see both of them demanding desirable properties of the social system, while assuming too much. In fact, assuming something, which exactly the other one is demanding.
Essentially, the socialist wants safety.
Inequality in the society will never be above a certain level.
But he doesn’t consider an undesirable situation in which the society is mostly egalitarian but does not have enough food. Everybody is equal but hungry.
On the other hand, the capitalist demands liveness.
Some of the people will eventually create wealth.
But he doesn’t consider an undesirable situation in which the society is vastly wealthy but a few oligarchs control almost all the wealth. Most of the society is poor and exploited by the oligarchs.
What we need is each of the properties without ignoring the other one.