First Posted 15-Oct-2014
|Before I get going on today’s post I want to acknowledge a milestone. This is post 100. This site has been up for the better part of three years. In that time I’ve earned a little more than $10.00 in ad revenue and had a few hundred visits to the site. I can’t say how many posts I need before I can say this is more than a hobby. But, to those who challenged me to finish something, 100 posts is a big step in the right direction.|
Now, on with the show:
“DOWN WITH CAPITALISM! DESTROY THE UNFAIR WEALTH DISPARITY! UP WITH ROBIN HOOD! HE’S MY HERO AND HE LOOKS HOT IN TIGHTS!! OBAMA FOR DICTATOR! FREE FOOD IS A RIGHT! FREE EDUCATION IS A RIGHT! FREE HEALTH CARE IS A RIGHT! FREE FAIR TRADE COFFEE IS A RIGHT! STARBUCKS IS EVIL FOR CHARGING MONEY FOR COFFEE! DOWN WITH THE RIGHT! UP WITH THE LEFT!”
Think I’m stupid yet? Agree with any of that? I have friends who would walk a picket line chanting the above and think it was serious. ROBIN HOOD HAS FREE COFFEE HE STOLE FROM STARBUCKS! HE’S SO MY BFF! Some of them believe that some flavor of anarcho-blah blah would be better. ANARCHISM IS BETTER. Really? Anarcho-Socialism is MORE FAIR!
Seriously!? Capitalism is easy. I have some form of money and need some good or service. You have a good or service I desire and are willing to trade it for my money. We negotiate a price and make the trade. Done. Socialism gets in the middle of that and tries to enforce some degree of “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs”. Socialism tries to make it “fair” based on a value system that has a religious orthodoxy no less crazy than my own Christian faith. Socialists assume that there is disparity, that a small minority of wealthy hoard resources which could be better used by the peepul.
UP WITH PEOPLE! There are all these pie in the sky utopian ideals about ending poverty and misery by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. END MISERY, MAKE WEED FREE! FREE WEED IS A RIGHT!
Yes, capitalism is vastly more complicated than that in ‘merica in 2014. We are an empire of over 300 million people. Our GDP is $16 trillion. Only China has more people and controls more wealth. Even they have mostly abandoned the heavy social control of their economy in favor of a free-er market. We have been a socialist democracy since Woodrow Wilson and maybe before that. The difference is the degree to which we tax and regulate our commerce. Until recently we were more free-market than most countries. The current trend is toward more socialist policies, toward higher taxes and more regulation.
I may be oversimplifying, but I believe this is what is hurting us. Neither is it reasonable to say that it would be better if government was not involved at all. As big as our economy is, some regulation is necessary to keep the thing from collapsing into overwhelming avarice. I don’t trust people not to cheat or misbehave. For the sake of contrast, let’s say it would be better if there were no privately held assets. If everything was owned in common through the government. This becomes a feudal system where a few lords control the great majority of wealth, ruled by a titular democracy controlled by a dictatorial president whose power effectively makes him or her king or queen. A $16 trillion empire. That $53,000 in GDP is stripped from us and given instead, to the Peeepul, through government ownership. Since the lords control it and arbitrate who must produce based on ability to fulfill assigned needs, in effect, it ends up being like we are back in the 17th century as tenants and serfs forced to exist on what we can get from our overlords. It’d make it great to be president and bad, very bad to be a serf. That’s more fair?
My anarchist friends would vehemently deny that this is what they promulgate. They say they do want law but don’t want government. The people would be in charge. After much rhetorical tap dancing they finally admit that they would be in charge as representatives of the peepul. They’d decide who had the needs and who had the ability. So, they’d be the 17th century lords feasting on the toil of their serfs. That’s more fair, supposedly.
Since we would own neither the land we live on nor the means of transport or anything, not even the clothes on our back, there would be no reason to give a shit. Tenants famously don’t maintain the apartments or houses they rent. Owners do. Owners give a shit because it’s their shit. They benefit from or suffer from the condition of what they own. Tenants do, sometimes, but many don’t. In a system where the rule is that to each is given based on their needs from each according to his or her ability it’s hard to give a shit because nobody owns shit. The maintenance costs are huge.
Then, who decides need? Who decides ability? What if the most profit is gained in appearing to have the greatest need while hiding any great ability? Where do things come from if everyone is attempting to present themselves as having tremendous need while denying that they have any ability whatsoever. It is a system where ability is punished. Nobody wants to show ability because doing so would diminish need and thus diminish wealth.
And . . . this assumes there is no cheating. Every organization, every system, has to deal with criminals who find ways to game the organization or system to their advantage. Corruption in socialist or communist economies is way off the charts out of control because there is a someone deciding need and ability and thus has control over resources. That much temptation is very powerfully addictive and corrupting. Capitalist economies are not immune to corruption. But without a baron or lord in charge of assigning need or ability it’s harder to cheat. But, if you dump all that, allow private ownership, private capital, private commerce, and try to wrangle a $16 trillion monster into relative submission so on a macro scale it mostly functions to the good, many of these problems disappear. Poof.
Ability becomes the valuable thing. Innovation, hard work, things we like to call good American values, these become treasured. Capitalism is neither completely evil nor completely good. It is mostly good and mostly works for the majority. It works better than any other system of managing commerce yet imagined by us. Is it unfair at times? Yes. Our own history is plenty proof of this. But relative to the other choices, it’s damned good.