Socialism: A Hate Story
posted at 5:35 pm on October 6, 2009 by Doctor Zero
Ann Althouse was one of the few people who bothered to drag herself to see Michael Moore’s latest exercise in agitprop, Capitalism: A Love Story. Her reaction to the film is interesting. Describing a sign she saw in the lobby, she says:
“Dump ¢apitali$m/Join the Socialists.” And, indeed, the movie was a big promotion of socialism. Capitalism is “evil” — Capitalism is a “sin” — we were told over and over. And if only all the downtrodden masses would see this truth and join together we could have socialism.
Here is how she describes two of Moore’s typically dishonest examples of sinful capitalism:
There were some teenagers in Wilkes Barre, PA who had suffered a terrible abuse of their due process rights, and the fact that a for-profit detention institution was involved didn’t transform what was a criminal scheme into a broader indictment of our economic system.
And there were the life insurance policies that companies take out on their [low level] employees. Maybe these shouldn’t be permitted — and calling them “Dead Peasant” policies was kind of outrageous — but if they are wrong, we can make legislation banning them. We have plenty of regulation in this country that keeps us away from a completely free market, and we can procure that legislation if that’s what we want. I was disgusted by the camera trained on the face of a boy who cried over the death of his young mother. The real villain there was asthma. It said nothing significant about capitalism, which made it grotesque exploitation to use that boy in the movie.
Moore’s method involves finding people who are unhappy with their circumstances, lying about the particulars of the cases to make them illustrate his points better, and converting them into wholesale indictments of the free market, and America in general. Althouse captures the overall flavor of Moore’s work with this observation:
Moore shamelessly and repeatedly advocated the violent overthrow of the economic system. It was somewhat humorously or moderately presented — such as through the mouth of a cranky old man who was being evicted from his home — but it came across that Moore wants a revolution. He kept advising the workers — and the evictees — of the world to unite and shake off their chains.
Socialist and fascist agitators have always relied upon the support of the disaffected. No system of government, from the most rigid collective state to the most energetic free-market democracy, can ever achieve a completely satisfied population. There are people who don’t do well in a capitalist system. Some of these people suffer from bad choices – freedom cannot exist without the possibility for error. Some suffer reversals of fortune through no fault of their own. Prosperity requires risk, which carries the possibility of loss. Some people will be wronged by criminal enterprises, large or small. No system of laws is invulnerable, and even the most dedicated law enforcement personnel are not infallible.
The irony is that no system of government is more brutally unfair to the disaffected than the kind of total State that Michael Moore lusts after. A central State has more power to rob its citizens, waste their resources, cause devastating economic fluctuations, and cause physical injury than any private corporation. The State is far more difficult to change, and more likely to persist in its mistakes. It is utterly inescapable, to a degree that Microsoft and Wal-Mart can only envy.
One of the most persistent and dangerous illusions of socialism is the belief that money becomes magically virtuous when government handles it. Politicians are at least as greedy as any captain of industry. The installation of a politburo does not eliminate ambition from a society – it changes the means used to fulfill those ambitions. The political class achieves its desires through force, by definition. Unlike commerce, force produces no side benefits for the larger population – the politician and his constituents get what they want, at the expense of everyone else.
The people Moore caricatures as cold-hearted fat cats don’t go away under a socialist government – what a silly, childish notion! The million-dollar marketplace of high-level transactions still exists, but now the most important commodity is political power. You can already see this happening all around us, as the transition to a command economy has radically accelerated under Obama, after puttering along in a lower gear for decades. What high-rolling mega-corporate CEO doesn’t love the idea that his company is “too big to fail,” and thus insulated from market forces by a shield of taxpayer money?
Political influence is one of the smartest investments those “fat cats” can make, which is why the immense Obama government became so fabulously corrupt so quickly. When you slide billions of dollars across the landscape, you can’t be surprised to see a crowd of ruthless people chasing it. Those people won’t go away when you complete the transition to complete socialism – they’ll just become Party elders and commissars. They’re not terribly inconvenienced by having to wear Party jewelry, and learn a few new songs. Their children might have already been taught the lyrics in school.
What about the little guy? Doesn’t he benefit under benign socialist control? Of course not. He never has, anywhere on Earth, during the many times collective governments have gained power. The common man might realize some short-term gains when the socialist government marches into power – wow, free health care! It never lasts. It can’t. Socialist control destroys the very mechanisms of prosperity it needs to pay off on its promises. The capitalist incentives for hard work and risk-taking are replaced by the collectivist impulse to do the least that is required of you, and accept whatever benefits you are given. People are, in the main, rational actors. They respond to incentives. There are always exceptions – people who answer a religious calling, or give 100% effort under any circumstances, due to their inner drive. Those people are never numerous enough to produce prosperity for a nation of millions.
Socialists despise competition – they find virtue in the idea that everyone deserves everything, and benevolent leaders have a responsibility to provide it. Competition doesn’t disappear under socialist control – that’s another childish fantasy. Instead, socialism replaces competition between individuals with competition between groups. The former is energetic and constructive, while the latter is bitter, and almost inevitably violent. In a total State, the individual has no way to improve his situation, no way to build a better life on his own. Instead, he must join a collective – a group large and powerful enough to influence the government, which dispenses all benefits. You can see this sort of thing all around you today, since our government is already titanic, and has confiscated much wealth to spread. It will get much, much worse if we’re ever foolish enough to slip all the way into Michael Moore’s idea of a total State.
The architects of the State can have all the good intentions in the world – they can be paragons of selfless virtue – and it doesn’t change a thing. The nature of the system they create will inevitably corrupt it, because the nature of the people trapped in the system doesn’t change. They want more for themselves and their families, and if they can’t earn it, they will band together to demand it. There is only one reliable way to hold those bands together over the long term, only one predictable response to the diminishing returns gained by each sacrifice of liberty… and only one emotion the leaders of each collective entity can easily encourage, to maintain their own power: hatred.
When everything you have is provided by the State, you will easily come to hate anyone whose demands take priority over yours. They are not your competitors. They are your enemies. Even now, in what may prove to be the last days we can regard ourselves as a free nation with a bloated government, we can see how much anger simmers among those who believe the urgency of their demands outweighs any consideration of the cost to others. You may recall an attempt by ObamaCare supporters to launch a viral meme last month, with a Facebook and Twitter message that said something like “No one should have to die because they can’t afford health insurnce.” A slogan like that does not allow for argument, or even picky questions. You either support socialized medicine, or you want people who can’t afford health insurance to die. What attitude is appropriate, when confronting people who want those who can’t afford health insurance to die?
Capitalism is indeed a love story, born from the enduring respect of free men for the maturity and liberty of their fellow citizens. It is better to be poor in a capitalist society, than middle-class in any of the miserable “worker’s paradises” that litter the world. Free people working together, and in competition, generate the prosperity that stands as the only medicine against poverty. Children and pets might be loved without respect, but not adults. The alternative to respect and love is clearly visible in the ugly hypocrisy of a bitter millionaire, who charges the dwindling number of suckers foolish enough to take him seriously for the privilege of being told a dark fairy tale, which requires them to become slaves before they can live happily ever after. Listen to the desperation and anger growing in the air around you, and ask yourself if Michael Moore’s hate story is likely to end well for anyone who isn’t already rich, powerful, and ruthless.