Tag Archives: Capitalism

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

3 Apr

It’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot: “We need to change this capitalist system!” Yet no one who tells me that can tell me what replaces it. Or how we replace it. Just that it’s unjust. But we know what happens next; there’s plenty of examples of what replaces it.

Now, I’m going to have real trouble being fair to this viewpoint, mostly because it’s hard to nail down these idealists on what kind of system they’re actually working for. If you could force one of these folks to actually drill down on what they want, they’d probably say “a socialized system, like Europe, where the even poorest are taken care of.” This is said by people who obviously have never seen how the poor live in Europe. They may have gone backpacking, stayed in a youth hostel, and thought… “you know, this ain’t bad. It’s not a private room, but everyone seems happy.” That was their vision of socialism.

Search the word “banlieue.” This is the French public housing neighborhoods, many of them filled up with immigrants from former French colonies in Africa, many of them Muslim. The same activists who tell you that “America is the most racist country on Earth” wouldn’t notice that French people won’t even hire black immigrants, regardless of how many university degrees they hold. So a man with a Master’s in Banking has to flip falafel. (We have the same problem here, except the man has a Master’s in Fine Arts, and he’s white.) That is socialist France.

Okay, maybe they weren’t thinking France, they were thinking Norway. Their public housing is immaculate (well, at least this picture from four years ago is), prisoners can work normal jobs outside before returning to jail in the evening, and they welcome immigrants from all over the world. Sounds perfect, right? Then if it works in Norway, why doesn’t it work in France? First off, a lot less people. There are 5.3 million people in Norway; 65 million in France. Second, Norway has oil, France doesn’t, so there’s a lot more money to be spent per person. And unlike the US, they don’t spend a quarter of their budget on the military.

As an activist-y friend of mine once said, “if we cut the military by a third, we could pay for every social program in America!” He would be right… for a while. The problem with social programs is that costs don’t stay flat. Medicaid, our version of socialized medicine, now costs state governments anywhere from one quarter to one third of their budgets, depending on where you live. If you can depend on high-quality healthcare that you don’t have to pay for, why would you put money into a insurance premium? I certainly haven’t paid a premium in five years and I’m not even on Medicaid! And as anyone will tell you who’s on it, Medicaid isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Okay, maybe the activists don’t mean socialism, they mean communism. After all, if everyone pulls their weight, we can work together and achieve amazing things! Let’s just… walk on past examples of how that doesn’t work, and let’s go to examples where it did. The best example of communism at work is the kibbutz. Israeli pioneers built communal farm communities where there was nothing (except poor Palestinian share-croppers) and built a lush paradise. Working together, everyone gets shares of the kibbutz’s profits, old and young people are taken care of, and they’re prosperous.

It’s the prosperity that eventually defeated communal living. Today, kibbutzim are still there, and the share holders are prosperous, but they have to hire non-citizen Indians and Pinoys to actually run the farms. The kibbutz’s kids… left. Why stay on the farm when there was college to go to, and an exciting city, and so many opportunities other than driving a plow? So just like the US, they imported a brown underclass to do the jobs they didn’t want to do.

The Amana Colonies are the best example of the communal experiment. In 1856, these not-Amish (but they look like them) moved out to Iowa and created seven villages that created one of the most successful true communist communities united by faith. The experiment ended in 1931, where the Great Depression combined with local disasters caused the community to incorporate. The corporation is still there today… but the people aren’t. Most of them left or died out; today, there is only one of their churches remaining, attended mostly by elderly people.

So what’s my point? I’ve given some of the best examples of what activists on the left are asking for… and they fail every time. Capitalism has been around for over two hundred years and it’s still here. It’s not pure capitalism, there’s plenty of government control, but it has lifted more people out of poverty than anything else known to man. “But we still have poor,” you say. Tell that to the Nigerian working class who lives with dirt floor and an open fire to cook on. Our poor have big screen TV’s; our homeless have smartphones. As an Indian national once told me, “in America, the poor are fat.”

So be careful what you ask for, my idealistic friends, you might get it. Of course, I could be just full of crap–what do you think? Am I glossing over some important points? (I am.) Let me know in the comments below! And after you type, check out my books, which are not set in utopias, despite the fact that many of them are set in libertarian worlds. However, if $1.99 is too much to pay, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

Aren’t We Woke? Buy Our Products!

29 Nov

I ran across the term “conscious capitalism” the other day and it gave me an uncomfortable vibe. Not that I object to corporations doing good, but because I don’t like such an obvious heart tug. It’s good for the Earth, but how does this help a company’s bottom line?

I’ll admit, my first prejudice against this term came because I heard it in a commercial – told by a recent female college graduate. With her “like, you know” cadence, I couldn’t help thinking, “they must be just giving MBA’s away.” But again, I wasn’t the ad’s demographic. They’re trying to convince teens to go to their school. “Get out in four years, get your business degree, change the world for good.”

So I did some surface-level research. “Conscious capitalism” seems to be a new branding on traditional business practices. This reminds me so much of mission statements that go no where. Sure, [your grocery store] gave $X million to charity, but where did that money come from? Maybe from all those screens when you’re checking out to give money to the [whatever] fund? So really, did the grocery store give that money, or did you?

Does it really work? Suburu has rebranded themselves completely as the green-loving, earth-caring, responsible car manufacturer. Were you more likely to buy a Suburu after this? Me, not really, but again, I’m not their demographic. In the conscious capitalism article, they used Whole Foods as an example of how this worked, and just then… everything clicked.

It comes down to the business adage, KYC – Know Your Customer. People who buy Suburus and go to Whole Foods tend to be liberal, younger, and make a higher income. These are people who participate in Climate Marches. To keep their customer base, they can’t come across as those capitalists (even though they are), they have to tell their customers “we’re like you–we believe in the movement.”

Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but even the cynical like me still believe in free trade coffee. (I watched the documentary Black Coffee and it completely changed my mind on this issue–go ahead, it’s streaming free!) When I go to the shelves, I see a brand that says “free trade,” it might even have an accreditation label… but how much research am I going to do to determine how free trade it is? I’ll just pay the extra couple of bucks, get a better cup of joe, and feel righteous.

Is something locally sourced? From where? How would you know? My wife has supported CSA’s (community supported agriculture) before and so you knew exactly where it was grown, but that’s a level of commitment beyond going to the store or even the farmer’s market.

So I’ll admit, I’m biased against “the cause” because I don’t believe that their motives are genuine. But I’ll admit, I may be missing something. If you know what it is, let me know in the comments below!

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