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In which I respond to a Socialist's demands: reproach for the wealthy, the provision of a better life for all

Posted by – 10/28/08

I enjoy conversations on other blogs, and in one I’ve been following lately, a foreign Socialist interjected with his thoughts. Mine follow.

Not to break up this discussion or anything; but SO WHAT if obama has a preference for marxism? SERIOUSLY? This absurd clinging of the United States to pure capitalism is precisely what has caused its downfall. Hellooo? Economical crisis anyone? Caused, in fact, by pure, uncontrolled, capitalism?

Most european nations and governments apply certain socialist principles to their democratic governments to promote their citizens rights and give them a better life, all the while preventing big companies from taking over and those who are too greedy from having ALL the money (even rich, powerful countries like the UK and Germany). True, it isn’t PURE capitalism, but that’s why it’s good. It seems that at some point you americans decided that letting people fight for their lives and money in an unfair race where some started almost at the end is better than giving everyone the chance to live dignified lives. I thought this was about PEOPLE. about making the world a BETTER place for EVERYONE. But maybe I was wrong.

I just find it astounding how so many of you let the outdated anticommunist propaganda of the past affect you, to the degree that, while the world has moved on and decided to work with the best of both systems, you still doggedly cling on to one that has proven itself insufficient. SERIOUSLY.

socialism and communism aren’t evil, they just trust humans too much. STALIN was evil. BIG difference.

- roxesdios

roxesdios, so much of what you said was utter balderdash. You’re coming from the position that assumes fairness means that everyone ends up with the same in the end. Our Declaration of Independence in America proclaims that we are all created equal, not that we must be kept so! What about everyone having a chance to work as hard and as much as they want to achieve their dreams? Why the animal demand to penalize the man who finally reached his dream simply because this other man over here never did? Many — in fact the majority of the US — would argue that it’s not very fair to take from someone who has earned it to give it to someone who hasn’t, however pathetic the hypothetical situations Socialists love to use to promote their agenda.

What kind of world do Socialists want to achieve? A world where everyone has anything they want? A world where there is no pain? And you want to bring that about by GOVERNMENT of all things?! All that does is make me giggle. All pipe dreams, my friend. Achieve all that in your own countries, I say, and perhaps then we will follow suit. Your rhetoric bespeaks a determination to believe that capitalists are “clinging” to something of the old order when in fact reasonably regulated capitalism is what has allowed the United States in less than 232 years to go from nobody to the world’s greatest super power. Failures of capitalism? No, my friend. One cannot himself set up a doomed system, rejoice when it fails, and point to his enemy as if he caused it all. The fall of the housing market was not caused by deregulation, but rather in large part by absurd, seemingly compassionate regulation requiring unwilling banks to qualify for mortgages people who previously, under the government- and self-imposed bank regulation, would never have been eligible. In the late 90′s, the Left leveled charges of racism at banks and corporations for practicing common sense due diligence. The housing market tanked when the economy slowed, as economies are usually prone to ebb and flow. (Most people have conveniently forgotten that the boom of the first 7 years of the Bush Administration actually helped forestall the inevitable mortgage meltdown.)

We cannot legislate our way out of pain and economic downturn, a concept clearly lost on Socialists. Neither does it say anything particularly impressive about a person that pushes for the government to take money from the rich so that the poor might have more social programs — and the success of the government-provided variety is dubious at best. Contrary to Barack Obama’s pronouncement that “we need opportunities in America for people to serve,” there are a vast assortment of non-profits and foundations already available. Plenty of organizations, not enough volunteers. Feel free to donate your own money. Quit donating other people’s money and enjoying the perverse sense charity you derive from it.

A better place for everyone? How about equal misery for everyone. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes, by Winston Churchill:

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

 

Is Britain’s phenomenon of ambulance stacking working out well for everyone there? How about Canada’s healthcare? “I’m sorry about that possible brain tumor, Mr. McCreith, but since everyone ‘deserves’ healthcare, you get to wait 4 months before you can even get your first MRI. I don’t care if you die before then. The system doesn’t allow me to care. It does the caring for me.”

What you don’t realize is that America has one of the last healthcare systems that performs well. Why else would people plop down thousands to come here for surgeries they can’t get in their own country? And it’s not pure capitalism, convincing as your straw man argument might seem, but rather a partially free market healthcare system. We’ve got a safety net for those that can’t afford it already provided… and we see how well that works. Why is it that liberals always think the answer to a poorly performing system is to trash the part of it that actually works and reconstruct the entire thing around the failing remainder? I’m absolutely flummoxed.

Do you really think poverty can be eliminated entirely? My guess, if you’re truly rational, is that you’d agree it cannot. The next best thing we could do then is to minimize it as much as possible. Though true poverty really does occur, let’s look past the generalization that the Census Bureau applies to 37 million Americans. Forty-three percent actually own their own homes. That’s owners, not including renters. I just now bought my first house, and I would be lumped in with the 37 million Americans based on my tax returns. But I’m not actually poor. Today the per-person expenditures of the lowest-income quintile households equal the median American household in the 1970′s (adjusted for inflation, of course).

The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)

More than a third of those in poverty have an automatic dishwasher.

Do you really think all 37 million Americans in poverty match the tired political stereotype of the single mother working two jobs who just can’t seem to pull herself out of poverty? Not even close. She does exist, certainly, but not in the masses that the Left would have you believe. I suspect most Americans in the 37 million fit into one of two categories: the lazy and/or poor financial decision makers, or the hard-working, 80-hours-a-week kind of person who will be the object of much ridicule in a few years for making over the sanctioned limit of $250,000. (It’s actually $200,000 for an individual, $250,000 for a couple, but facts seem to have taken a backseat to the fiery gospel of envy.) 

So yes, poverty does exist. But it will always. Quit overblowing it to push an agenda. Power will always be held by the few as well, but I fear the day it is so concentrated to government officials — the implicit wish of Socialism. In an address to Congress, President Gerald Ford said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

Do more to increase your own wealth so that you can make a difference, and all the while be practicing the discipline of giving. Don’t jealously look at another man’s wallet and ignore your own responsibility.

It’s not an unfair race; unfair would be the top quintile of earners paying 67% of the tax burden, the top 1% of earners paying over a quarter of it. The tax policy in America is more progressive than it’s ever been. So my question for you is, how much is enough? The Left and the Socialists always complain that the evil rich aren’t paying their fair share. Alright, fine. I disagree, but let’s go with your premise. How much is their fair share? Hmm? Or can that question always be answered with “more.” That’s been the history of it anyway, and that’s what we’re concerned about. Quit with the rabid jealousy of “the rich,” and go earn it for yourself. (Although context clues tell me you’re not in America. So sorry about that.) “The Rich” are the ones that provide investment, growth, and jobs. Good luck finding a poverty stricken venture capitalist to fund your brilliant new business idea. I’ve never in my life worked for a poor man, have you? It is, in fact, that incentive for profit that drives the wealthy angel investor to pump money into a fledgling, potentially successful small business. It is the aversion to loss that demands he perform his due diligence. A burgeoning government, on the other hand, has no incentive for such wise investment. The funds are seen as unending; they simply blame the rich, blame their opponents, and promise things they can’t possibly provide.

Life in America is actually quite cushy. A little too much, perhaps. Revolutions of the past fought for the impossible opportunities with which we’re now surrounded, and yet still we are not satisfied. We want more, but we’d rather others sacrifice so that we may have ours.

No, I say. Government, get out of my way and let me earn a fair wage.

UPDATE @ 5:28am: The continuation, which I believe is necessary to post:

Kev, it’s true, I’m not from the US. I happen to be from Venezuela (yes, the country with the oil and the idiot president). Bevause of the curse of oil, Venezuela is one of the countries in South America with the highest export income, and no more than that. Oil destroyed us. Everyone got used to getting a lot of money with no effort. Now no one wants to make an effort. saw how having a lot of money and distributing it unfairly destroyed my country. To be able to have a future, I was forced to leave. Now I live in Spain (which is far from perfect, but hey, it’s not a rapidly “undeveloping” third world nation). In Venezuela, about 90% of the population can’t afford the most basic necessities: food, energy, etc. Chavez speaks of his “bolivarian socialism” talks about taking money from the rich, critizices oligarchy (all the way becoming the richest man on the country), and giving money to the poor. Not creating jobs, Not creating welfare (that doesn’t exist in my country). Not giving them opportunities. To relate it to a phrase we all know: he isn’t teaching people to fish, he is in fact giving everyone maybe a fish eye o a fin and keeping the rest of the fish to get other countries to support him. This money isn’t given to EVERY poor person, of course, but only those who agree to vote for him. Because voting in Venezuela, despite claims to the contrary, have long ago stopped being secret, those who are being paid to vote for Chavez (because they are poor, or because the work for the government or government funded organizations) will lose their jobs, their money, and sometimes even their dignity, if they do not. I know this because I personally know people to whom this has happened. I am living this process of sharing the miseries (yeah, I know that quote, too, I happen to love it). I am CERTAINLY not in favor of socialism. The application of actual socialism as a system is idiotic. However, you must agree with me that capitalism has never been applied as it was meant to either. Yes, capitalism is probably the best system we have at the moment, and, theoretically, it would be fair to have the person who works the hardest having the most money. But that’s not how the world works. You seem like a smart man, surely you are aware of this. Capitalism was never fair because there was already class separation, etc, around. True, capitalism helped millions to improve their lifestyle, to make a better life for themselves. At no moment am I criticizing the past merits of capitalism. It did, in fact, make the world a better place. But the world also sadly has corruption. greed, incompetence, abuse of power, and many other terrible evils such as these. People acting in this manner are inevitable, and also precisely what has caused so much unfairness in the world. Capitalism being as “fair” as it is what let them be successful.

You say the race isn’t unfair. I disagree. The world is a highly competitive place. I’m sure you and I both want teachers around the world to be the most prepared, intelligent, and capable people around. Yet how many capable teachers can never be formed because they don’t have the money to pay for their own education? How many awful teachers get the job, simply because the could get the degree, not because they were the best suited to teach? It’s just an example. You’ve probably had your fair share of ignorant, idiotic teachers who did nothing more than keep you unmotivated. I’m sure you wished they were more capable. So why do you think it’s so unfair to give capable, but unavailable hypothetical teachers the opportunity to get a proper education, to get all the chances they can, so they can give the youth the best education and create opportunities for themselves? I don’t understand. This is just an example of course, accurate or inaccurate as it may be, there are millions more that can be given, but I doubt I know enough to give them properly.

You are right (gasp! people who disagree can admit this??), I was wrong in declaring that what the United States has is uncontrolled capitalism. Since the great depression there have in fact been many regulations on how the market works, as it was the only way to get it work. You are also right, sincerely idiotic regulations forced banks to give mortgages to people who, logically, should’ve been unavailable for them. I despise mortgages, honestly. They scare me. They seem like a double-sided blade. People are convinced that, just by taking one out, they can get all these things they’ve wanted and lief will be better , never taking into account the fact that this solution today will probably make things harder for them tomorrow. I completely, totally agree with you on that account. Uncontrolled mortgages and giving them who people who couldn’t really afford them was one of the main causes of the Great Depression, after all; though no one seems to remember that.

See, we actually agree on a lot. What we mainly disagree in, Kev, is that you seem to think it is okay to be content with what you have. The United States is rapidly losing all the power it gained in the past because it seems intent on sticking to these past decisions. Times change, my friend, the world changes, and countries must change with them. Yes, capitalism as we know it is precisely what gave your country power, but in today’s world, it may very well be what takes it away. It’s like insisting on keeping your BETA tape player, and refusing to adapt to the new world of DVD, simply because BETA was the best system at some point (I know nothing of electronics, so, again, ignore these inaccuracies, and try to understand what I’m trying to say).

We managed to shake the unfairness of monarchy, the feudalist system is almost inexistent, capitalism saved us from the awful injustices from those times. Now, when we find that capitalism still has glitches, it is time to update it (not to become socialist, but simply to try a new kind of capitalism), like you would any computer program. It is quite frankly silly to think that this is the best we can do. As humans we are constantly adapting, our world is constantly changing. Why do you want to stop that? True, the social democracy in Europe isn’t perfect, either, but, hey, a person can live a dignified life on minimum wage. It seems that you believe this isn’t right, or something? Why?

The days of the fight for survival, I believe, should be over. There IS enough money in the world to give everyone the opportunity to live a dignified life, yet most people don’t. Just like there’s enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet millions die of starvation each year, simply because most cling to this idea of the fight for survival, and everyone getting what they worked for. I can’t imagined what the world would be like if people applied this belief to their own children and families, honestly. 

It’s not about everyone having the same income, it’s not about the government taking everyone’s earnings and sharing them as the government sees fit (we can all agree that Cuba, USSR, North Korea, China, etc., are proof that this doesn’t work), it’s about giving people the chance. And meanwhile, I honestly don’t mind giving some of my earning to people who need them more. In fact, I already do. I already did, even when in Venezuela. I was lucky I could leave. Sure there will always be poverty. And it is true that the competitiveness created by capitalism is exactly what has allowed nations to function properly (who would take the time and effort to become the best possible doctor if not for the potential pay, am i right? You know, other than the two or three who actually care about others); but why it seems to be that helping those who are suffering is bad for the world, I simply don’t understand.

I just don’t get it, Kev, please explain it to me, why do you think it’s unfair to help those who don’t have the ability to help themselves?

roxesdios

roxesdios! It’s almost like reading a piece from a different writer entirely. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of capitalism ever being “applied” in the same sense that Marxism or Socialism were meant to be applied dramatically to an existing system (often it meant the overthrow of the current system). From my understanding, Adam Smith and the economic thinkers of his time weren’t so much advocating a radical change in a system as much as they were explaining why the successful components of an economy were successful.

I absolutely agree with you that Capitalism is flawed. Very much so. But like you said, we’ve got a bunch of flawed economic systems, and it’s simply the least flawed. The world is very much in a state of disrepair and it can be solely attributed, in my view, to the fallen nature of man. Nothing we construct will ever be perfect. The best we can hope to achieve is to minimize the bad. To a large degree, I would consider Capitalism to have had this effect on the American economy.

The race isn’t unfair if you’re looking at it in worldly terms, again going back to the comparison of a bunch of flawed systems and noting that it is the least flawed. But when one throws in perfection as a standard, and I think we should, certainly the race is unfair. And there’s that classic expression my father always used, “Life isn’t fair.” I honestly believe that when a person recognizes this simple truth, their outlook on life and what’s expected begins to radically change. And again, I’m really focusing on America here — there are horrific conditions in the rest of the world that frankly do not exist here. When bad things happen to me, my first response is, “Well, what can I do to change this. No one else is coming to bail me out, and whining over how it happened or who did it to me doesn’t change my situation.”

You have rightly noted the rampant greed and corruption seen in men. And yes, that’s where the fault lies in any economic system in which we’re involved. But short of removing men from the equation entirely, corruption will always exist.

It is interesting that, as an example, you show a concern for unqualified teachers getting a job simply because they could get a degree but were not actually the best suited to teach. And that is one of the rubs I have with the Socialist-esque movement in America. They preach that everyone should be able to go to college, but in the process of trying to make that happen, standards along the way have been reduced to the point where the unqualified can pass as well. And in an effort to bring equality to the system, we’ve been forced to dumb it down so that none are rejected. The “bleeding hearts,” as we call them in the States, seem particularly frightened of ever telling someone they aren’t good enough. I seem to remember in my upbringing that it was precisely those times of rejection that forced me to reconsider what I was doing and either hone my skills or find something else to do. I think scholarships for highly performing students is a great idea! But here in my home state, we just recently allowed a lottery to fund college scholarships, and nearly everyone gets $3,000 per year as long as they graduate high school. I’ll give you one guess at how much the cost of tuition rose per year across the board. It wasn’t a good idea (and besides, the lottery is just a tax on the ignorant), and so the market corrected itself and reached equilibrium. There’s a running joke here in America that College is the new High School. Several of my peers went on to get a Master’s Degree simply because the Bachelor’s Degree is losing its value. Everyone’s got one now, so what does it matter if you’ve got one, too? A company that wants someone particularly qualified is now more likely to look for a graduate with a Master’s Degree. It seems to me that those on the Left insist on trying to outsmart the market through regulation, but the market will always correct itself. If we think of markets as rivers, it helps with the analogy. Rivers can be carefully tamed (i.e. reasonable regulation), but you don’t want to go overboard with your adjustment of a river. When you build up a massive dyke against the natural flow of the market, it only makes the collapse that much more devastating.

Regarding mortgages: “…this solution today will probably make things harder for them tomorrow.” Absolutely brilliant. You’ve latched onto something here that I’m afraid most people miss. Planning ahead, especially financially, is crucial, and living for the moment with your money will always end in destruction. Not only do many of my fellow citizen miss out on this nugget of truth, my own national government seems to throw caution to the wind in this regard.

I do think it’s okay, even wise, to be satisfied with what you have. But I suspect that you are not speaking from the perspective of an individual’s situation in life, else you might agree. As far as adaptation goes? Certainly we as a society must be able to adapt. Blindly clinging to tradition invites disaster, but blindly chasing anything labeled Change simply because we are unsatisfied with some small details of our society is foolishness as well. Change must be carefully considered — in the same way that we were discussing earlier regarding finances — especially when that Change involves giving more control to and demanding more provisions from Government. Being from Venezuela, you know better than most Americans the danger of trusting in Government.

A new kind of Capitalism. I like that! That sounds great. As long as it’s not simply a repackaged, veiled form of Socialism. Absolutely let’s do better! But look at the progress in our world today. Is it coming from Government? No! It’s coming from individuals and groups that decided they were tired of sitting around waiting for somebody else to change things. See kiva.org for example.

Government, in fact, continues to be the source of the most oppression and grief in the world today. At the very least, like in the US, it’s an encumbrance. Look at the United Nations as well. Look at the possibility for so much good, ruined by international politicians’ self-interest and agenda. So much corruption and waste there as well. If I were an investor looking to make an impact in the world, where would my money be best spent? Something like Kiva would be a much better avenue it would seem.

I don’t at all want to stop progress — a common misconception about Conservatives. Rather, I want to achieve the most good by keeping Government reined in so that we might more freely, efficiently, and compassionately impact the world for good. The best thing Government can do is get out of the way.

I’m looking at the minimum wages across Europe, and forgive me, but I’m not really seeing a great disparity between the minimum wage here in the US and in Europe. It’s a little higher there, depending on the country, but the cost of living is also typically greater in Europe. Regardless, minimum wage is the minimum, not the living wage. The cost of literally everything would sky-rocket if the US set their minimum wage to a living wage, a step that would ironically do nothing more than increase the overall cost of living thereby canceling out much of the gains made by minimum wage workers. I understand you can’t raise a family on minimum wage here; again, it was never meant for that. I can’t imagine the lack of motivation we’d see if a person could get any job at all and live comfortably.

The fact that there is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone and yet so many starve is why I cannot understand the Left’s rabid determination to make everything green. Do they not recognize the consequences of converting our corn crops to non-edible, ethanol producing corn? Do they not understand that it was the single greatest reason that the price of corn the world over went through the roof?!

Certainly we should provide for those that truly cannot provide for themselves! But it is a very specific definition that describes such a small group, not the broad interpretation the Left seems determined to throw around everyone who claims hardship. (Read: pandering). In any properly functioning society, there must be some mechanism to determine between the truly needy and the slackers and punish the slackers, else there is no motivation to contribute if one is able. Right?

The belief that you find incredulous was applied by my father and mother in our household, and they’ve raised four hard-working children because of it. Obviously we were provided for when we couldn’t take care of ourselves, as any decent parent would do. But we were given weekly chores that were tied directly to our allowance. We knew that if we didn’t work, we didn’t get money. I learned the value of a dollarearly on. As a child, my own self-interest drove me to contribute where a more philosophical understanding of the needs of others wouldn’t have. To be clear, I was also taught that with every dollar, you save some, you spend some, and you give some. Giving is a necessary part of the human spirit, and it’s commendable that you’re one of the joyful givers in this world. But it should be by choice, not by force. Let’s cultivate a society that encourages others to be giving people. A society that rips it from our wallets is providing only a lackluster short-term solution, setting up an environment that requires our leaders to come back within a short amount of time to demand more. And we see it in America every election cycle. Again, how much is enough? “More.”

Everyone deserves a chance! And that’s what the American Forefathers so brilliantly understood and crafted into our Constitution. People are still coming to America in droves because anything is possible here. The greatest misconception about Conservatives is that we don’t care. The truth, in fact, is that Conservatives give more in both time and money than Liberals. Of course, when someone is personally donating money, they’re much more careful about where they put it. The responsibility of oversight is placed on the capable individual, not the distant bureaucracy, and we often find that the most effective non-profit organizations do not even accept Government funding. The misleading political rhetoric from the Left is that for Conservatives, it’s “you’re on your own.” Americans see it all the time when legislators are dragged through the streets, so to speak, for voting against something that seems compassionate and helpful. The real question here that Liberals never want to ask is, “Is Government the best way to accomplish this?” More often than not, the answer is no.

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2 Comments on In which I respond to a Socialist's demands: reproach for the wealthy, the provision of a better life for all

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  1. Kev says:

    As an aside, why does the angry Left always rage against the windfall profits of evil corporate America without so much as a mention of the windfall profits of Hollywood celebrities?

  2. Kev says:

    Apparently I need to amend myself already. The Obama camp seems so confident of a win less than a week out from the election that they’ve quickly been dropping the sanctioned level of wealth for families from $250,000 to $200,000 to $150,000… Incredible.

    Friends, if a politicians says he’s going to raise your taxes, that’s one bit of change you can believe in. The corollary is that it’ll always be far more change than you bargained for.

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