Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Straw Man Debates, No. 2: Socialists are Ignorant

MOCKBADOC: Any political or social movement has to start with the recognition of a problem. Socialism is no different. If you read about the history of the Socialism movement, it started with the recognition of an inherent inequality between the workers and the people who benefited from their work. It must be understood, however, that the times in which this realization was made were fundamentally different from our own.

Flowerchild: What do you mean, exactly?

MOCKBADOC: Well, let's look at the places where socialism really took root - Europe in the 1800s. The biggest hotbeds of political unrest were Great Britain, Russia, and Germany. In all these cultures, the power was wielded by a noble aristocracy, and the vast majority of the population lived not as citizens, but as subjects.

Flowerchild: So?

MOCKBADOC: In a culture that is aristocratic, there are two distinct classes of people - the nobles and the non-nobles. A typical worker could never hope to achieve much of anything that was outside his or her class. If you were unlucky enough to be born the son of a coal miner, you were incredibly unlikely to become anything else. The acquisition of property and the securing of a good education and the means with which to use that education to better yourself all were controlled and doled out by a central, often tyrannical power class which received that power through no work of their own, but as a birthright.

Flowerchild: I don't see how this is relevant.

MOCKBADOC: Exactly my point. We in the U.S. saw this inequality as problematic almost a century before these other countries, and we decided on a course to stop it - our Revolution against Great Britain. We solved this problem of inescapable class structure by giving all our citizens (ideally) access to whatever they could achieve by their own hard work. We abolished royalty. The people who became wealthy in our country did so by working hard and making good decisions. In this way, we solved the problem the Socialists sought to solve, but by a different, and I believe a superior method.

Flowerchild: But we still have poor people. We still have those who work but don't get to succeed. Surely some sort of leveling of the playing field must be done.

MOCKBADOC: You seem to believe, like many liberals, that Socialist countries have solved the problem of having poor people. You are wrong. In the U.S.S.R., people were assigned to duties based on what their government thought their capabilities were. They earned little or no income, and as such, had no chance of rising to a higher level. In fact, the whole idea of rising to a better life was anathema to the Communists, because to do better for yourself meant that their "egalitarian society" was made void. So, if you were assigned the job of coal miner, you could hope for nothing but to remain a coal miner for life. You were still poor, you just had the twisted comfort of knowing that all your peers were poor, too. Except, of course, for the Party Elites. They had a pretty sweet deal.

Flowerchild: Okay. I'm really going to have to insist that you get to what this has to do with us.

MOCKBADOC: All I'm saying is that we don't live in autocratic 19th century Europe. If you are a coal miner and hate it, you have the choice to use your liberty to get out. Additionally, you have immensely better conditions than they did. Finally, you make an income that you can use however you want. You can buy a new house, a new car, whatever. This is hardly the hopeless set of circumstances that were being fought against by the original socialists. And to try and make the case that the workers need to rise up against the bourgeois in this time, and in a country where opportunity exists for anybody that wants to exercise their liberty, is more than silly. It's idiotic.

Flowerchild: Why shouldn't workers demand better pay, then? And what about all the people that make huge salaries, like oil and gas executives, while the roughnecks bear all the life-and-limb risks and make only a small salary? And what if you're born into a poor family? Surely you can see that you have a harder time becoming a millionaire as an inner-city kid than as a Rockefeller, right? I just think that everyone should have a truly equal opportunity to make it big. I'm not a Communist. I just think that everyone should have a truly equal opportunity.

MOCKBADOC: You just walked right into it. There is no way that you can ever achieve the sort of equality you are speaking of without taking rights away from people.

Flowerchild: That is a ridiculous claim.

MOCKBADOC: No. It is the exact reason that Marx called the kind of socialism that Europe still practices today a "halfway point" between aristocratic capitalism and true equality through complete Communism. No half-measure of Communism can benefit anyone. Take education, for example. We've spent several decades trying to ensure that every single person who wants to try college can get a college education. The result? Lots of jobless people with degrees, and a critical shortage of skilled workers like machinists and carpenters. These good-paying jobs must be sent overseas while the people with a B.A. in political science work to pay off their college loans as managers at Taco Bell. We've flooded the market. The fact that people can't see this is proof that socialists are ignorant.

Flowerchild: So what are you suggesting? That only certain people get access to a college education?

MOCKBADOC: Yes I am. The ones that show aptitude for college-type pursuits. In the same way, people who are skilled and have a passion for carpentry or mechanics should be allowed to do those things. We have allowed ourselves to become victims of a sick mindset, preached to us by the liberal intelligentsia, that only intellectual pursuits are valid or have value. Because they look down on machinists as being some sort of sub-human, then we have begun to act that way, too. Go to any construction site. What do you see? Latinos. Are they inherently better carpenters, masons, plumbers, and electricians than their American competitors would be? No. It's just that all the people who would have made a very good living doing these occupations are off in some junior college somewhere struggling in vain to be accountants or something. To believe that you can make a happy accountant or doctor out of everyone is ignorant, and shows a thinly-veiled contempt for everyone who doesn't go to college.

Flowerchild: So let me get this straight. You want to rob poor kids of the chance to go to college, and instead assign them to a life of construction work. Real compassionate.

MOCKBADOC: First of all, who said anything about the poor? Lots of poor kids could go to college, if they show through their test scores and interests that they have the raw material to be doctors or architects or accountants. Lots of rich kids, on the other hand, might end up choosing to be electricians or carpenters.
And again, you tip your hand. Your disdain for construction work is evident when you say things like that. I can tell you, people who are good at construction make a very good living, and have a good lifestyle free from college debt.

The trick is to realize that all jobs have value and to make all these jobs attractive to the people that are inclined to do them.

Flowerchild: How do you plan to do that, then?

MOCKBADOC: If people who are naturally inclined to be doctors get the opportunity to be doctors, and people who are naturally inclined to be machinists get the opportunity to be machinists, then we will be the proud home to the very best doctors and to the very best machinists on earth. People who hire machinists will be able to attract the best of the best by paying more. In this way, the market benefits the employer and the employee alike. The worker is thus empowered, making socialism unnecessary.

I advocate excellence. Socialists elevate the idea of "equality" as if by making everybody equal, you make everybody happy. I disagree completely. I think that forcing people to be something they are not makes them unhappy. In fact, I think that forcing people to do anything at all is evil, and should be avoided. Additionally, I disagree with the entire premise that you can ever achieve true equality. Even under the most "equal" of systems - Communism - there were still people who did construction and people who were engineers. Was this equal? No.

This is why I think socialists are ignorant (but not the only reason). They think they can insure that all people are happy by forcing their views on everybody. I prefer to have the freedom to choose for myself what makes me happy, then go out and get it. Anything that stands in the way of that is a "human rights violation", to use the language of your twisted philosophy.

Flowerchild: You, my friend, are a fanatic, a loon, and a philosophical dinosaur. You should be careful. You'll be one of the first sent to one of Obama's re-education camps.

MOCKBADOC: I'm sure you're right, friend. I'm sure you're right.