Cartoon: Capitalism/Socialism

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Today’s comic is written by me and drawn by Jake Richmond, creator of Modest Medusa. Jake is a longtime friend and collaborator of mine – he colored my “Hereville” graphic novels – but this is the first time he’s drawn a comic of mine.

Jake’s a terrific cartoonist. The major reason I asked him to draw this strip rather than another is because I’ve always liked how Jake draws water.

This strip was obviously inspired by our current situation. The amount that Congress has allotted to stimulus is frankly not nearly enough to address the size of the economic crisis – but it’s still much larger than what most American politicians would ever support, and even the Republicans voted for it. (For round one, at least. I suspect they’ll give in and vote for round two, but who knows?) When things get dire, it turns out a safety net isn’t optional.

To my patrons: As always, thank you for supporting these cartoons.

As this crisis goes on, I keep being blown away by how lucky I am. I live in a nice house with eight housemates, so I have plenty of company, and none of us are ill. I have a job I love that I can keep doing through the crisis. We have food and even toilet paper.

And I have the pleasure of knowing that my work means enough to folks that they’re willing to support it. I am awed to be so lucky.

Extra thanks, this time, to Claire Nolan (who is also thanked in the sidebar of the cartoon). I hope you like this one, Claire! If you’d like to be emailed a print-quality high-res copy of this cartoon, signed to you by me and by Jake, please get in touch.

(Would any other folks like to be thanked in the sidebar too? Upgrade your pledge to $10 or more and it will happen!)



This cartoon has four panels. All four panels show a man in a one-person rowboat. He’s rowing  The man is wearing an “Uncle Sam” style red-white-and-blue top hat.


The man – let’s call him Uncle Sam – is rowing and talking cheerfully. He’s rowing facing backwards (as people often do in rowboats), so he can’t see that his boat is heading straight towards a large rock jutting above the water.

SAM: Capitalism capitalism capitalism capitalism…


The boat hits the rock, and Sam is thrown over the side of the boat. His hat flies up a little off his head, and we can see that he’s bald.

SAM: Capitali- AHH!


The man, looking panicked, scrambles to get back into the boat, yelling as he struggles, the water splashing around him. His hat floats on the water nearby.



Sam is now back in the rowboat, looking happy and relieved. All is calm. He has put the hat, dripping with water, back on his head.

SAM: Where was I…? Oh yes… Capitalism capitalism…

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6 Responses to Cartoon: Capitalism/Socialism

  1. 1
    Dreidel says:

    Your friend Jake is a good artist, but the cartoon doesn’t make sense politically as drawn.

    It’s true that Congress temporarily turned to “socialism” (if that’s how you want to refer to the one-time stimulus payments during the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus), but the cartoon shows the man representing Uncle Sam getting back in the boat ALL BY HIMSELF with no help in sight.

    Perhaps his panicked mind is imaging ghostly images of fantasy passengers on the boat helping him aboard, but they’re nowhere to be seen in the cartoon.

  2. 2
    nobody.really says:

    I get Dreidel’s point as an intellectual matter.

    But as an artistic matter, you can’t beat this cartoon’s uncluttered simplicity. There’s nothing to distract from the hypocrisy.

    In the end, art prevails.

  3. 3
    Görkem says:

    There is a centrist hypothesis – I forget who was responsible for it originally – that this is actually the considered best outcome – capitalism in the good times, socialism in the bad times. Or more alternatively, that the optimal outcome is cycles of generating wealth (capitalism, or if you prefer, liberal market democracy) and then distributing that wealth (socialism, or perhaps more pointedly, social democracy), which ensures both ongoing long term economic growth and prevents major inequality gaps. These cycles should not necessarily be directly correlated to good times vs bad times, but on the other hand, if that’s what leads people to cycle from wanting wealth-generating market democracy to wealth-distributing social democracy, why not?

    It is notable that during WWII even absolutely dyed-in-the-wool anti-socialist crusaders like Winston Churchill or Paul Reynaud happily implemented near-total government control of their economies for the duration of the war. It is probably fair to say that this doesn’t mean they were secretly socialists all along, just that their convictions about how things should generally be didn’t extend to extreme circumstances. I guess Covid is another such extreme circumstance.

    Which is not a way of saying that Republicans are -right- to oppose even modest welfare spending. They’re just not necessarily hypocrites.

  4. 4
    Sam Cole says:

    I’m not a conservative on most issues, but it seems like a lot of conservatives would say that this cartoon represents exactly how it should be (albeit, they might quibble with describing emergency relief as socialism). The character in the cartoon, after all, seems to be doing perfectly fine in the boat.

    That said, a lot of folks aren’t in the boat, which is why we need universal healthcare and other social programs even when “Uncle Sam” (the country on average?) is “in the boat.” I guess my quibble is that the thing depicted doesn’t seem hypocritical?

    Sorry to quibble with your beautifully drawn cartoon!

  5. 5
    Mookie says:

    Irrespective of what conservatives would actually “say” to signal their agreement, in theory and practice they have never denied the fact that they’d want and in the real world do seek public assistance; it’s just a matter of them thinking and ensuring that this insurance policy should only ever be reserved for themselves and their fellow “boat owners.” An atomized welfare program that aims only to relieve (often the loudest) individuals piecemeal, often for their own mistakes, but never communities as a whole, whose misfortunes are disproportionate and are inextricably linked to institutional failures, not individual choices.

    What better example of their bad faith on this issue than agitating to kick scores of Americans off unemployment insurance (in some cases, before they’ve even received the relief they’ve earned), calling such meagre funds “entitlement,” but pursuing every drop they can wrench from PPP and similar subsidies with absolutely no shame whatsoever?

    I don’t know if it counts as anything, much less a quibble, when it studiously side steps how conservatives, voters and politicians both, actually behave. Evidence of the double standard is simply everywhere.

  6. 6
    Zoe says:

    This cartoon is foolish and betrays an understanding of the true definition of Socialism on par with the idiot Republicans it attempts to mock. The state is equally an organ of Capitalism. Capitalists making use of it to protect Capital is not an “own”.