Duration: ½ a period Learning Targets

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Duration: ½ a period
Learning Targets:

  • Differentiate between the three economic systems of capitalism, socialism, and communism

  • Apply the specific characteristics of each to a game of “rock, paper, scissors”


  • Hershey Kisses

  • PowerPoint on Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism

  • Handout: “Capitalism, Socialism, Communism…What’s the difference?”


Part I: The Game (Anticipatory Set)

  1. Give all but three students three Hershey Kisses each

  2. Conspicuously give the remaining three students ten Hershey Kisses.

    1. Responses should approximate: “that’s not fair” and “why do they get more?”

  3. The students then compete with each other in Rock, Paper, Scissors, with the loser having to give up a Hershey Kiss to the victor.

  4. Once a student runs out of candy, they will be instructed to sit down and watch.

    1. Take note of their complaints as this happened.

  5. The remaining students continue playing until only a few students have candy left.

  6. At that point, stop the game.

Part II: Discussion

  1. Ask the students the following question:

    1. How did you feel at the start of the game?

    2. How did you feel when you ran out of candy and had to sit down?

    3. What tactics could you have used to get back into the game? (Steal, bargain, buy someone off, lie)

    4. Was the game fair?

    5. What could the teacher have done to make it fair and should he do it?

      1. Take note of their responses.

Part III:

  1. As a class, read a short synopsis of each economic system: capitalism, socialism, and communism

  2. Use PPT to further explain all the points dealing with capitalism, socialism, communism

  3. Next use the Rock, Paper, Scissors game to illustrate how each of the three systems work:


Capitalism: For example, the box for capitalism had three points: private ownership of industry (students started with their own candy), freedom of competition (students played rock, paper, scissors), and results in unequal economic classes (some students won, most lost). The class struggle was played out in the students’ complaints and the workers’ revolt through their responses about how they could have gotten back into the game, and arguments about the game’s fairness.

As we approached socialism, informed the class, that I, being the government, have decided to collect all the candy and redistribute it equally. Those with empty hands will rejoice, while those who have been incessantly staring at their candy, unable to eat it, voice their complaints. Ask students how they felt now, and if the action was fair. We then proceeded to the box on socialism: government ownership of industry (teacher collected candy), goal is to bring economic equality (teacher redistributed candy equally), and aims for a classless society (students now all have the same amount of candy).


Ask the class if they wished to play again. Hopefully only a few kids (or none at all) would want to participate. This led us to our final box, communism: goal of classless society achieved (students would refuse to play game again and choose to share candy) and no government needed (teacher would no longer need to supervise).

Capitalism and socialism are somewhat opposing schools of thought in economics. The central arguments in the socialism/capitalism debate are about economic equality and the role of government: socialists believe economic inequality is bad for society and the government is responsible for reducing it via programs that benefit the poor. e.g. free public education, free or subsidized healthcare, social security for the elderly, higher taxes on the rich. On the other hand, capitalists believe that government does not use economic resources as efficiently as private enterprise and therefore society is better off with the free market determining economic winners and losers. This lack of government involvement in the economy is called “laissez faire” (literally “let it be”)
The U.S. is widely considered the defender of capitalism and large parts of Scandinavia and Western Europe are socialist democracies. However, the truth is every developed country has some programs that are socialist.



At its root, capitalism is an economic system based on three things: wage labor (working for a wage), private ownership of the means of production (things like factories, machinery, farms, and offices), and production for exchange and profit (you pay for what you get). While some people own means of production, or capital, most of us don't and so to survive we need to sell our ability to work in return for a wage.

In terms of government involvement in the economy, capitalists believe in the principle of “Laissez-faire economics, which means to "let it be". Therefore, capitalism is opposed to government intervention in economics because capitalists believe it is inefficient. Rather, a free market produces the best economic outcome for society. Govt. should not pick winners and losers.


Influential Leader: Adam Smith is often identified as the father of modern capitalism. In his book, Wealth of Nations, he discusses the importance of division of labor and free trade, the limits on government intervention, all signify the moment when economics transitions to the “modern.”


Socialism is an economic system where the means of production, such as money and other forms of capital, are owned by the state (the government) or public. Under a socialist system, everyone works for wealth that is, in turn, distributed to everyone. Under capitalism, you work for your own wealth. A socialist economic system operates on the premise that what is good for one is good for all. Everyone works for their own good and the good of everyone else. The government decides how wealth is distributed among the people.


In a socialist economy, the government provides for the people. The taxes are usually higher than in a capitalist system. There may be government-run health care and a complete system of government-operated education. It is a misconception that people do not pay for these services. They do pay for them through higher taxes. Socialist systems emphasize equal distribution of wealth among the people.


In a way, communism is an extreme form of socialism. Many countries have dominant socialist political parties but very few are truly communist. The key differences between socialism and communism are due to the fact that socialism is simply an economic system, while communism is both a political/governmental system and an economic system. The second main difference between socialism and communism is that within communism the distribution of goods and services takes place according to the individuals needs, while in a socialist system, goods and services are distributed based on individual efforts (e.g. paying taxes). Finally, within a socialist system, capitalism CAN exist (e.g. privately owned companies), while in a communist system capitalism CANNOT exist. https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:and9gcrotfxwmxz0jbh02wx99kzv2m60dkup483biis947pxbw3stdfu3g

Influential Leader in the development of Socialist and Communist theory: http://www.onthisdeity.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/karl_marx.jpg

German economist, philosopher, and revolutionist, and one of the most original and influential thinkers of modern times, Karl Marx produced much of the theory of modern socialism and communism. In his publication the Communist Manifesto, Marx declared that all history was the history of class struggles. Under capitalism, the struggle between the working class and the business class would end in a new society, a communist one.

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