Communism and democracy are often described as opposing political systems. However, communism is largely viewed as an economic structure, not a political theory. Both ideologies purport to be based on equality and fairness, but they utilize very different methods. To adequately compare democracy and communism, take a look at the structures of politics, economics and citizen autonomy that generally accompany each system.

Political Systems

Democracy is a political system, where the power of the government is vested in the people. Democratic governments are elected by the citizens. The structure of the government may take various forms, but the common variable among democracies is that officials are voted into office, based on some kind of majority rule. There are no set rules regarding government within a communist country. Some scholars argue that pure communism has no structured government. Communists countries are most often led by totalitarian governments, where a political regime exercises complete control over the state and its citizens.

Economic Systems

Just as communism does not require any specific government structure, democracy does not require any specific economic structure. However, many democracies utilize a capitalist economic system, which is characterized by private or corporate ownership of goods. In a capitalist society, private ownership of goods is generally proportional to individual earnings. The more you own, for example, the richer you probably are. Communism prohibits most private ownership. Instead, goods are collectively owned by all citizens. The government controls all production facilities and manages them to provide for the population's needs.

Free Market Labor

The systems of labor are also considerably different within communist and democratic nations. Under communism, the governing body sets the wages of all laborers and regulates the payments, so that no one person earns considerably more or less than another. In a true communist society, all wealth is distributed equally among the citizens. Democratic nations tend to embrace a free market system, where private companies set their own wages and individuals can earn as much as the market allows. This type of structure can lead to large variations of income within the society.

Free Choice

Democratic nations generally encourage free choice among its citizens. Under a democratic system, people have the right to choose their representatives and actively participate in the political process. They also have the right to live where they want and worship as they see fit, with very few limitations placed on religious activities. Communist governments assert that their citizens are better off without having to make such choices for themselves. In a communist nation, citizens are assigned jobs and told where they are going to live. Communist nations also tend to practice only one religion, with all other religions being expressly prohibited by the governing body.