What's new

Are theme parks Capitalist or Socialist?

chainedbanana

Mega Poster
Ok I was pondering this question in my head, and without wanting to create any sort of contentious political post ( I don't want to create arguments about which one is best or not) , but more a interesting discussion - are Theme parks socialist or Capitalist, or something in between? and would they transcend any political climate?

Obviously big corporations like Disney which promotes a whole merchandise and entertainment industry and whose resort pricing structures aren't accessible to everyone has Capitalism all over it.

On the other hand smaller parks especially family owned ones seem more concerned with making enough to constantly develop and move forward as well as providing something pleasing to the masses, as well as employing many people.

And from a socialist perspective, in the modern age theme parks are generally financially accessible to most people on some basis (the odd day trip), and provide an import function of entertaining a population, although not everyone can access the resort elements most theme parks now strive to be!

Then of course you have amusement parks - which are free or cheap to access - and then individual amusements are at a cost, but this gives visitors choice, and they at least aren't refused access to a private space!

Thoughts?
 

rob666

Hyper Poster
Every theme park today is run on capitalistic lines...end of.
They run aiming at profit, and if you ain't got the money in your pocket...sod off.
If you know of a park that regularly allows large numbers of unemployed and poverty stricken individuals in on a continual basis, for free, because they cannot afford paid entry, I will stand corrected.
The parks I know pay executive senior officers well, and the day to day staff on minimum wage...if it was on socialistic lines there would be equal pay...not a single park does that.
Blackpool is my favourite amusement park, but the fact they have locked out non paying punters who want to just wander the park for free, and oversupply speedypasses to make more money, at the cost of longer waits for the general visitor, confirms the "Profit over all else" philosophy.
BPB has sucked up to the Tories, and contributed to them, regularly over the years.
A lot of people on low incomes cannot afford the necessities of life, the simple basics, let alone a trip to a park.
Transport to a park, the cost of food and beverages inside the park, and park entry are simple economic hurdles that keep those on low incomes out.
Theme parks are run on hard right lines.
 

solarfall

Roller Poster
I would say even a small park is still capitalist, since the workers don't control the means of production nor are they (presumably) compensated for the actual value of their labor.

As far as pricing, it may be more affordable than purchasing your own roller coaster, but admission is still clearly set at a point to turn the property owner a profit. Even the most reasonably priced parks are still a far cry from something like a public museum that sells admission at a loss and relies on donations or public arts funding. Not that I necessarily think the latter is an example of socialism either, but it's a lot closer to what you're talking about.

Side note - this is referring specifically to theme parks in neoliberal countries with capitalist economies. I'm not really sure how the business model works in planned economy countries like Vietnam or China, but now that you mention it, I'd be kind of interested to learn more about it.
 

chainedbanana

Mega Poster
I would say even a small park is still capitalist, since the workers don't control the means of production nor are they (presumably) compensated for the actual value of their labor.

As far as pricing, it may be more affordable than purchasing your own roller coaster, but admission is still clearly set at a point to turn the property owner a profit. Even the most reasonably priced parks are still a far cry from something like a public museum that sells admission at a loss and relies on donations or public arts funding. Not that I necessarily think the latter is an example of socialism either, but it's a lot closer to what you're talking about.

Side note - this is referring specifically to theme parks in neoliberal countries with capitalist economies. I'm not really sure how the business model works in planned economy countries like Vietnam or China, but now that you mention it, I'd be kind of interested to learn more about it.

Yeah, the theme park boom in China is seen as a sign of the country becoming more Capitalist, and in The UAE - theme parks are seen as a statement of wealth and development!

And in some countries, whilst theme parks aren't state owned they have some GOV funding! or its run partly by the GOV ....but still for profit!

Efteling is run by some sort of Charity - I don't know the ins and outs, yes they still seem to aim for Profit.
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
What a meta question. And in the best economist response I could offer: "It depends."

I'll offer up a few, quick thoughts on how you can qualify parts of the amusement industry either way. I will also qualify that I am realllllly simplifying a lot of economic theory here - if you want to @ me, let's schedule a Zoom call where we can drink beer on this. 😅

Reasons why Parks are Capitalist:
  • Where There's Demand, There's a Market - The simplest form of capitalism is laissez-faire, assuming that minimal or no regulation over pricing mechanism/value of products and services will find an optimal price. Ticket price, price for food, price of add-on attractions or services are all set by the park owner without any insight from government/outside parties. In that way, park business plans are very Capitalistic at their core, focused on pricing and profiting on consumers who visit.
  • Parks Respond to What's Popular - Ride planning, food stall options, and general entertainment rotate and change through the years and decades. Even beloved roller coasters ultimately meet their demise; not out of lack of useful life however, but often to make way for the next new/popular attraction. While parks still have to adhere to general safety and accessibility protocols set by government, they have very free choice on what types of rides are built.
  • What isn't Owned By the Park? - From Disneyland's latest development plan to countless examples of park's expanding hotel and shopping center footprints - it's becoming more and more clear that parks want to maximize time spent on their property and money spent in their shops, even when you think you've actually left the park. Again, with profit and revenue as the main driver; parks will look to ever more options to offer amusements and attractions beyond the traditional park visit.
  • Corporate Partnerships/Sponsorships are Kinda Capitalist - From his first World's Fair to his final visionary park of EPCOT, Walt Disney was fascinated not only with how to bring dreams to life... but how to pay for them. In this way, Disney pioneered the sponsorship model for pavilions, rides, and shows - even hiring out hidden penthouses to corporate sponsors if it meant sealing the deal for sponsorship. Everything had a price in Disney's World (hah pun), which proved to be a highly replicable model used across the amusement park industry still to this day.
Reasons why Parks are Socialist:
  • Economic Development has it's perks - While parks have absolute dominion over their day-to-day and seasonal operations and planning; there are larger organizational planning elements and components that have close policy and regulation tie-in; by engaging as a civic member in their local/state/federal governments, parks stand to benefit from policy and oversight designed around their needs. Seasonal worker regulations (e.g. eligibility for overtime, work hazard liability, etc.), property tax cuts, government stimulus for land and economic development (e.g. Wanda Group, Energylandia, and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi), and other government programming/incentive are examples of how amusement parks reap economic benefit by participating in government programming designed to promote public good/community development. While not necessarily "market Socialism", some of these elements resonate with the Chinese socialist market, which allows private ownership of businesses/services to operate in the country (non-socialist), so long as they adhere/meet strict requirements deemed in the interest of the People's Republic of China.
  • There are some rides you can't tear down actually - While a short list relative to all the roller coasters and attractions around the world, there are some rides listed for historic preservation, and subsequently not able to be removed/modified in the interest of preserving culture/history for citizens. This partly resonates with one socialist economic theory of general equilibrium, that a socialist market factors noneconomic factors in order to achieve equilibrium and market balance - by preserving (arguably) less popular roller coasters/rides in the name of cultural preservation, we are showing social benefit beyond just economic drivers for when to preserve/tear down rides.
  • Parks can be government-owned - Again, it's a marginal list; but there are examples of governments owning, leasing, or operating amusement parks, water parks, or rides. In all of these moments, it is not necessarily because governments want to be in the business of amusement parks, but rather see it as a social venture that provides a needed, public good. This aligns with planned socialist market principles, where governments have a far wider reach/action across market economics.
  • Corporate Partnerships/Sponsorships are Kinda Socialist - From his first World's Fair to his final visionary park of EPCOT, Walt Disney always had a price to his work, but never let that dilute the vision. And for numerous examples, the corporate sponsorship/participation is actually apart of the theme. EPCOT is probably the best known example, from Bass Beer sold in the UK Pavilion pub to GM's Test Track - the line between "business revenue" and "cultural experience" is pretty blurred, and doesn't come off as a capitalistic money grab. Looking even deeper, Toy Story Land's visionary immersion of guests as Toy's in Andy's backyard is only resulting of masterful corporate sponsorship.
    • Looking beyond Disney, there are also a number of parks that have focused on integrating local food affair over large national chains; in this way prioritizing smaller community business partners over large corporate sponsorships that (often) carry very little overhead. Cedar Point's integration of Melt, a delicatessen hot cheese restaurant out of Cleveland, to replace the outgoing Macaroni's Grill (large national chain) after a twitter exchange is a good example of prioritizing community growth over marginal revenues.
  • Amusement Parks Often Give Back to Community - Every high school football field in Sandusky is named Cedar Point field. Disney has extremely close alignment with Make a Wish Foundation. And there are many other examples of charitable donation or coordination with local governments, non-profits, and stakeholders to create additional value beyond economic drivers.
  • And It's Definitely Worth Pointing Out Disney Fast Passes are Free - They could make soooooooo much money on this. But leaving it free provides a socialist driver to allow great access to goods/services (aka rides) by all park guests.
This is all enough to make my economic professors cringe on how much paraphrasing I've done of Marxism, John Stuart Mill, the Wealth of Nations, Bolshevik Revolution, and a half dozen other economists.

Broadly speaking, amusement parks are private businesses with private interest. But given that they provide cultural and leisure activity/value to the general population, there are absolute moments where parks act as community leaders before economic drivers.
 

Ian

From CoasterForce
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Social Media Team
Amazing topic. 99% (random stat) of parks exist to make money. Without that, or deep pocket funding, they'll go bust. By that reckoning alone, they are capitalist.

To be specific, I reckon parks use a particular brand of capitalism; Keynesian. Keynes was a British economist who promoted a plan in the 1930's to lift countries out of the Great Depression. To boil down the concept in the most simple of terms, it means to invest to make make money. If demand falls, invest to improve the product which will in turn make money and increase satisfaction. Not investing is likely to decrease the value and satisfaction of the product. If we're associating capitalism with right wing/conservative politics then Keynesian policies adopted by leaders such Eisenhower (the Interstate programme which stimulated and connected the economy), Reagan (significantly increased miliary spending) and Trump's presidency had hallmarks of it. If you were to put theme parks on a political scale, they'd be centre-right.
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
Amazing topic. 99% (random stat) of parks exist to make money. Without that, or deep pocket funding, they'll go bust. By that reckoning alone, they are capitalist.

To be specific, I reckon parks use a particular brand of capitalism; Keynesian. Keynes was a British economist who promoted a plan in the 1930's to lift countries out of the Great Depression. To boil down the concept in the most simple of terms, it means to invest to make make money. If demand falls, invest to improve the product which will in turn make money and increase satisfaction. Not investing is likely to decrease the value and satisfaction of the product. If we're associating capitalism with right wing/conservative politics then Keynesian policies adopted by leaders such Eisenhower (the Interstate programme which stimulated and connected the economy), Reagan (significantly increased miliary spending) and Trump's presidency had hallmarks of it. If you were to put theme parks on a political scale, they'd be centre-right.
Awww **** we're going straight Keynes now.

A big part of Keynesian economics that also rings oh-so-true in amusement park business is the investment-savings preference of consumers, specifically related to employment. In his own words:

"the prevailing psychological law seems to be that when aggregate income increases, consumption expenditure will also increase but to a somewhat lesser extent."

Since park's attendance and revenue is heavily indexed to expendable income available to consumers - the Great Recession, high unemployment, and other market volatilities often hit these numbers for parks - it would be another prime indicator for how Capitalistic parks are in their operation.
 

cocoa

Mega Poster
socialism is not just 'things being free' or 'doing charity'-- its a political ideology. and certainly, corporate sponsors, 'giving back to the community', or even being an ethical, fun day out are not even in the slightest bit socialist. If the park was owned as a collective by its workers that would be the first step. but its almost meaningless to ask whether an entity that occupies a small niche in the community can 'be' a political ideology. can hair salons be socialist? it can certainly be socially progressive and collectivized and part of a wider labor movement. But really it is the community around it that actually is able to actualize socialism. whether you visit a theme park in capitalist hellscape florida or in a fully socialist government-sponsored park, you are probably just queueing up for rides and spending your day walking around. i'm not sure what sort of political actions can be actualized by theme parks. maybe if they formed some kind of protest art? (like banksy's disneyland...)

i'm not saying theme parks are therefore bad-- as much as I hate capitalism, I acknowledge that all of us live within its contexts and so we must do the best we can with the communities that we are a part of. and theme parks are not high on the list of immoral capitalist entities. of all the ways to make profit, i'm pretty chilled with entertainment, for the most part. i'd take a new theme park over some middleman parasite insurance agency any day.😆
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
socialism is not just 'things being free' or 'doing charity'-- its a political ideology. and certainly, corporate sponsors, 'giving back to the community', or even being an ethical, fun day out are not even in the slightest bit socialist. If the park was owned as a collective by its workers that would be the first step. but its almost meaningless to ask whether an entity that occupies a small niche in the community can 'be' a political ideology. can hair salons be socialist? it can certainly be socially progressive and collectivized and part of a wider labor movement. But really it is the community around it that actually is able to actualize socialism. whether you visit a theme park in capitalist hellscape florida or in a fully socialist government-sponsored park, you are probably just queueing up for rides and spending your day walking around. i'm not sure what sort of political actions can be actualized by theme parks. maybe if they formed some kind of protest art? (like banksy's disneyland...)

i'm not saying theme parks are therefore bad-- as much as I hate capitalism, I acknowledge that all of us live within its contexts and so we must do the best we can with the communities that we are a part of. and theme parks are not high on the list of immoral capitalist entities. of all the ways to make profit, i'm pretty chilled with entertainment, for the most part. i'd take a new theme park over some middleman parasite insurance agency any day.😆
A quick qualifier here - while socialism is indeed a political ideology, this convo would fall underneath market socialism, which is applying socialism elements to market economics. (Again, realizing I was doing a really quick and dirty crash course with my first post 😅)

While traditional capitalism is focused on individual/private parties producing goods and services to be sold in a market for profit, with government's role to step in to correct market failures (e.g. worker safety, taxes, etc.); market socialism differs in that goods produced AND revenue generated are more openly/equally shared by all parties in the market, with government ultimately playing a larger role in owning and managing goods that are produced. There are further offshoots in turn of market socialism, such as mutualism (essentially no government, and all individuals trade services and goods as commodities) or planned economies (government-directed economic growth, playing a heavy hand in picking which public or private firms will succeed).

As always, the wikipedia page has a good crash course. :p https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_socialism
 

chainedbanana

Mega Poster
socialism is not just 'things being free' or 'doing charity'-- its a political ideology. and certainly, corporate sponsors, 'giving back to the community', or even being an ethical, fun day out are not even in the slightest bit socialist. If the park was owned as a collective by its workers that would be the first step. but its almost meaningless to ask whether an entity that occupies a small niche in the community can 'be' a political ideology. can hair salons be socialist? it can certainly be socially progressive and collectivized and part of a wider labor movement. But really it is the community around it that actually is able to actualize socialism. whether you visit a theme park in capitalist hellscape florida or in a fully socialist government-sponsored park, you are probably just queueing up for rides and spending your day walking around. i'm not sure what sort of political actions can be actualized by theme parks. maybe if they formed some kind of protest art? (like banksy's disneyland...)

i'm not saying theme parks are therefore bad-- as much as I hate capitalism, I acknowledge that all of us live within its contexts and so we must do the best we can with the communities that we are a part of. and theme parks are not high on the list of immoral capitalist entities. of all the ways to make profit, i'm pretty chilled with entertainment, for the most part. i'd take a new theme park over some middleman parasite insurance agency any day.😆

Yeah (great points by the way) I think what I meant more is not are theme parks actually socialist/Capitalist themselves as an entity - but more about how they are viewed or would be viewed in different socio-political climates? Are there political climates that simply wouldn't allow theme parks to run or exist? I sometimes think/wonder/worry about the future of theme parks - and how they might look or be run - I hope they have an important enough function that they'll never fall out of favour!
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
Yeah (great points by the way) I think what I meant more is not are theme parks actually socialist/Capitalist themselves as an entity - but more about how they are viewed or would be viewed in different socio-political climates? Are there political climates that simply wouldn't allow theme parks to run or exist? I sometimes think/wonder/worry about the future of theme parks - and how they might look or be run - I hope they have an important enough function that they'll never fall out of favour!
If anything, amusement parks are a great use of propaganda! 😅

Found this North Korean park through some random googling, Kim Jong-Un ironically mandated the park be upgraded to "emphasize the requirement that officials have the spirit of serving the people and must abandon outdated ideological points of view and outmoded work-styles." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangyongdae_Funfair
 

Anthony K

Roller Poster
Interesting topic. I was thinking about this myself recently when I jokingly said to my housemate that I can't commit to being anti-capitalist because of being a rollercoaster enthusiast... but there is some truth to it.

I can't imagine any other system that could produce the coasters we have seen. China is capitalist to all intents and purposes. I can see coasters existing under all sorts of governments as a 'strength through joy' type thing, the carrot rather than the stick, but I think coasters thrive on the competition between parks and the multimillion pound beasts we see would never be justifiable unless there was a despot who happened to be an enthusiast.
 

rob666

Hyper Poster
I know they are heading west, but to say China is capitalist to all intents and purposes is simply wrong.
China is very much a communist state, by any measure.
One party state, direct rule, use of compulsory mass labour in building projects, many people locked up for "training".
Ok, so they are catering to the tourist trade and building parks along western lines, but the country is, to all intents and purposes, very much a socialist state.
 

Boodangy

Roller Poster
Would Linnanmaki be the exception to the rule because its profits fund the charity that owns it.
By my understanding around 4 million € each season (probably not 2020 for obvious reasons) goes to national charities for children and the rest of the profit goes directly to improving the park which is seen in yearly large scale upgrades and almost yealry ride openings, in comparison to very corporate parks a la Merlin that only get a new ride here and there despite massive profits. Also the park is completely open for people to wander through during opening hours and 10 or so rides are completely free for anyone to ride.

On the other hand there is still somewhat of a pay gap between CEO and seasonal employee who don't make much (the pay is probably rich by many countries' standards but barely enough to live anywhere close to the park), although probably still less bad of a gap than most parks, and is probably the closest you can get to a socialist park outside of a fully socialist nation. (I don't know if that's a thing, though since China's parks are capitalist ventures, North Korea's are still only accessible to the elites etc)
 
Top