Friday, November 21, 2008

Why Socialism is Evil

1. Imagine there's an elderly widow down the street from you. She has neither the strength to mow her lawn nor enough money to hire someone to do it. Here's my question to you that I'm almost afraid for the answer: Would you support a government mandate that forces one of your neighbors to mow the lady's lawn each week? If he failed to follow the government orders, would you approve of some kind of punishment ranging from house arrest and fines to imprisonment? I'm hoping that the average American would condemn such a government mandate because it would be a form of slavery, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

2. Would there be the same condemnation if instead of the government forcing your neighbor to physically mow the widow's lawn, the government forced him to give the lady $40 of his weekly earnings? That way the widow could hire someone to mow her lawn. I'd say that there is little difference between the mandates. While the mandate's mechanism differs, it is nonetheless the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

3. Probably most Americans would have a clearer conscience if all the neighbors were forced to put money in a government pot and a government agency would send the widow a weekly sum of $40 to hire someone to mow her lawn. This mechanism makes the particular victim invisible but it still boils down to one person being forcibly used to serve the purposes of another. Putting the money into a government pot makes palatable acts that would otherwise be deemed morally offensive.

This is why socialism is evil. It employs evil means, coercion or taking the property of one person, to accomplish good ends, helping one's fellow man. Helping one's fellow man in need, by reaching into one's own pockets, is a laudable and praiseworthy goal. Doing the same through coercion and reaching into another's pockets has no redeeming features and is worthy of condemnation (see cartoon above).

~Walter Williams' latest column "Evil Concealed By Money"

23 Comments:

At 11/21/2008 8:33 AM, Blogger save_the_rustbelt said...

There is nothing more ironic that libertarian economists who get their pay checks from a government sponsored and funded organizations.

Funny, really funny.

When Michigan has to declare fiscal exigency which univeristies should be shut down and which faculty laid off?

 
At 11/21/2008 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem here is that options #2 and #3 require the people to contribute $50 to mow her lawn as government costs to administer the program have to be figured in. In those costs, one must calculate the individual(s) administering the wealth transfer program would have to be paid wages and benefits far above the going private market rate for such services and would also have to be entitled to a retirement package that allows them to retire with 85% of the highest pay during the last 5 years of employment, starting after 20 years of service.

 
At 11/21/2008 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beware of the coming abuse of the the "General Welfare" clause in the US Constitution. What your's is mine and what mine is mine.

 
At 11/21/2008 9:21 AM, Anonymous Fred said...

Hey save_the_rust_belt,

Did you notice that the list of ten best economics blogs didn't mention Angry Bear? Not even as an also ran, contender, or honorable mention? Why do suppose that is?

 
At 11/21/2008 9:27 AM, Blogger DB said...

I still think P.J. O'Rourke sums it up best:

"There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as "caring" and "sensitive" because he wants to expand the government's charitable programs is merely saying that he's willing to try to do good with other people's money. Well, who isn't? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he'll do good with his own money-if a gun is held to his head.

When government quits being something we use only in an emergency and becomes the principal source of aid and assistance in our society, then the size, expense and power of government are greatly increased. The decision that politicians are wiser, kinder and more honest than we are and that they, not we, should control the dispensation of eleemosynary goods and services is, in itself, a diminishment of the individual and proof that we're jerks."

 
At 11/21/2008 9:33 AM, Blogger Andy said...

The situation is more like:

"If anyone is too old to mow their lawn, then they get $40."

Now you can see how people might support this, because it's really a form of insurance rather than coercion. If you know you won't be able to save enough to mow your lawn then you might want such a policy.

 
At 11/21/2008 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy said...

The situation is more like:

"If anyone is too old to mow their lawn, then they get $40."

Now you can see how people might support this, because it's really a form of insurance rather than coercion. If you know you won't be able to save enough to mow your lawn then you might want such a policy.


When your policy is to rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on Paul's support.

 
At 11/21/2008 10:18 AM, Anonymous qt said...

I know many seniors in their 80s who continue to garden and mow the lawn. Seniors who stay active actually live longer. Don't sell 'em short.

save_the_rustbelt,

The choice of postings doesn't necessarily mean that every sentence is rubber stamped by the blog host. Controversy is a means of shaking up the mix and stimulating discussion.

There are blogs like Greg Mankiw's that routinely post comprehensive studies.

Isn't this a reflection of personality? An outgoing, extrovert who thrives on controversy and mixing it up vs. an introspective, detail oriented introvert. Mankiw by contrast discontinued the comments feature because he found the conflicts exhausting.

 
At 11/21/2008 10:35 AM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Thanks, qt!

 
At 11/21/2008 11:56 AM, Anonymous Michael Smith said...

Another way to examine this issue is to consider this situation:

Suppose the 19th century plantation owners had told the blacks: "You are free to go, your slavery is over. All that will be required is that henceforth you send us 30% of whatever money you earn as free men -- the state will be enforcing this by jailing any of you who do not comply. This is absolutely necessary because without it we could not afford to educate our kids, see the doctor, put shoes on our feet and food on the table. We need the money, so we're entitled to it."

Would today’s advocates of the welfare state agree that the plantation owners “need” for the slave’s money justifies its seizure?

 
At 11/21/2008 1:32 PM, Anonymous qt said...

Michael,

Good one. Frederic Bastiat is smiling in paradise.

 
At 11/21/2008 1:41 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

Andy,

Insurance policies include a premium paid by the insured. I don't see that in your proposal.

 
At 11/21/2008 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

This proves that at least a little bit of the money being forcibly taken from my wallet and given to U. of M. is not being wasted.

So why did people vote for Obama again? I'm still baffled.

 
At 11/21/2008 2:24 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

So why did people vote for Obama again? I'm still baffled.

1) George W. Bush
2) The economy

Take your pick.

 
At 11/21/2008 2:30 PM, Blogger John B. Chilton said...

As seen here, http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2008/11/new-draft.html, as president elect, Obama proposed involuntary servitude until someone pointed out what it was.

 
At 11/21/2008 4:00 PM, Blogger 1 said...

anon @ 2:02 PM asks: "So why did people vote for Obama again? I'm still baffled"...

Well the more its looked into the more it seems that Obama won due the support from the abysmally ignorant and the congenitally stupid...

Not to worry though there is plenty of ignornace to go around: Seventy-one percent of Americans fail the test, with an overall average score of 49%.

Liberals score 49%; conservatives score 48%. Republicans score 52%; Democrats score 45%.
Fewer than half of all Americans can name all three branches of government, a minimal requirement for understanding America’s constitutional system...

walt g offers up the following reasons for the Obama win: "1) George W. Bush
2) The economy

Take your pick
"

Are you talking about this SOCIALIST George W Bush or this SOCIALIST George W Bush?

Keith Marsden formerly an advisor at the World Bank says: Bush Has a Good Economic Record

Let's remember to give credit to where credit is due when it comes to a faltering economy...

 
At 11/21/2008 4:50 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

1,

I'm not taking a stance on whether either of my reasons are true. I'm just not baffled why Obama won. Perception often clouds reality, and voters are not rational.

 
At 11/21/2008 5:19 PM, Blogger 1 said...

walt g says: "I'm not taking a stance on whether either of my reasons are true"...

Oh I understand walt and I'm not saying that Obama was a worse choice than the manchurian candidate...

Your observation: "Perception often clouds reality, and voters are not rational"...

So true but the why of it is what bugs me...

Hence the reason Bryan Caplan wrote a book about it, its a good read also...

 
At 11/21/2008 9:31 PM, Anonymous poor boomer said...

Government redistributes income upward from renters to owners (see Sowell, Markets and Minorities) and I've heard nary a peep of complaint from conservatives.

 
At 11/21/2008 9:34 PM, Anonymous poor boomer said...

Andy said:

The situation is more like:

"If anyone is too old to mow their lawn, then they get $40."

Now you can see how people might support this, because it's really a form of insurance rather than coercion. If you know you won't be able to save enough to mow your lawn then you might want such a policy.
------------------------------------

Have you read Rawls?

 
At 11/22/2008 12:42 AM, Anonymous Max said...

Neither Socialism nor Capitalism is the best economic system.
Nevertheless, Karl Marx believed socialism will replcace capitalism. In history, capitalism replaced feudalism. In feudalism, the King or the Emperor owns everything; and Lords control land and large amount of wealth.
Now in capitalism, there are large corporations and wealthy CEOs and entrepreneurs, like Bill Gates...; those people are the Lords of the feudalism.
So as capitalism developed in a certain stage, income unequally has become wider; poor get poorer and rich get richer; which is more like the old feudalism. So what system will replace the capitalism is the question we should think about.

MaxEconomics.com

 
At 11/22/2008 12:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is true, theoretically correct. But the problem is socially relevant and equally important to be ignored. Problem is how to tackle it ?Either Government or some social system have to find out some kind of solution to this .

 
At 11/30/2008 12:46 AM, Blogger godmals said...

What’s nice about this argument is that you can put anything in place of the little old lady and her lawn and make it appear that any of the current policies in place are socialist.
For example-

Imagine there's another country across the ocean from you. It has neither the strength to enforce human rights (and millions of people are suffering and dying as a result) nor enough money to hire someone to do it. Here's my question to you that I'm almost afraid for the answer: Would you support a government mandate that forces one of our sons and daughters to enforce that countries human rights? If they failed to follow the government orders, would you approve of some kind of punishment ranging from trade embargoes and sanctions, to the taking of life? I'm hoping that the average American would condemn such a government mandate because it would be a form of slavery, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

2. Would there be the same condemnation if instead of the government forcing your sons or daughter to physically enforce the countries human rights, the government forced them to give the country 40million dollars of their weekly earnings? That way the country could hire someone to enforce their civil rights. I'd say that there is little difference between the mandates. While the mandate's mechanism differs, it is nonetheless the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

3. Probably most Americans would have a clearer conscience if all the other countries were forced to put money in a government pot and a government agency would send the country a weekly sum of $40 million to hire someone to enforce their civil rights. This mechanism makes the particular victim invisible but it still boils down to one person being forcibly used to serve the purposes of another. Putting the money into a government pot makes palatable acts that would otherwise be deemed morally offensive.

This is why socialism is evil. It employs evil means, coercion or taking the property of one person, to accomplish good ends, helping one's fellow man. Helping one's fellow man in need, by reaching into one's own pockets, is a laudable and praiseworthy goal. Doing the same through coercion and reaching into another's pockets has no redeeming features and is worthy of condemnation (see cartoon above).

 

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