Responding to a meme

It’s Spring Break, which means I can allocate a little bit of time to taking on a nonsensical meme I just came across on FB.

Ever since Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president launched, I haven’t been able to scroll a single day through Facebook without encountering a thunderstorm of anti-capitalistic/pro-socialist sentiment like the meme you see above.

I know John Green just loves to pay taxes for public education so that he doesn’t have to be bothered by idiots, but what does this meme say about the education system that people can’t think through such a vacuous meme?

First: the world isn’t divided into categories of “people who work hard” and “people who don’t work hard.” Hard work can take many forms, all the way from the daily grind of being a professional athlete to the daily grind of being just another factory hand. The issue with socialism is that central planners take discretion in taxing away money they didn’t earn to spend it on whatever they decide.

Second: income inequality is not proof of theft. It may not be emotionally pleasing to understand how incomes are generated on a free market, just like it may not be emotionally pleasing to know that I’m never going to be able to don a cape and soar the skies of New York City. But just as the laws of our natural world will not bend to our desires, so the laws of economics are not subject to the so-called compassionate demands made by politicians and their compatriots. Sometimes the world is what it is.

Third: we can very quickly put this meme to a test. Think this through: 1) do you ever hear news of herds of inhabitants of mostly private, liberalized economies putting their own lives and the lives of their loved ones at risk in order to sneak illegally across the borders into a mostly centrally planned, closed economy? 2) In which countries are “the poor” worst off–in those countries with mostly private, liberalized economies, or in those countries which distribute goods and incomes via a board of central planners and condemn the accumulation of wealth?

Seriously ponder those two questions.

Fourth: being poor in this country is not the same as being poor in countries like Mexico or Venezuela. Someone as low-income as myself can still enjoy a fantastic movie sitting sprawled out in a reclining chair in a movie theater, while some poor chap in Venezuela was probably obliged to find a substitute for toilet paper in the stall.

Finally, consider the recent words of Garry Kasparov.

I’m enjoying the irony of American Sanders supporters lecturing me, a former Soviet citizen, on the glories of Socialism and what it really means! Socialism sounds great in speech soundbites and on Facebook, but please keep it there. In practice, it corrodes not only the economy but the human spirit itself, and the ambition and achievement that made modern capitalism possible and brought billions of people out of poverty. Talking about Socialism is a huge luxury, a luxury that was paid for by the successes of capitalism. Income inequality is a huge problem, absolutely. But the idea that the solution is more government, more regulation, more debt, and less risk is dangerously absurd.






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