In Defense of Socialists

Let's say for a moment – hypothetically – that someone out there had a son, and the son hit his head, and hitting his head sent him into convulsions, and the going into convulsions sent the man's wife into a panic, and the panic sent her to the hospital, and the hospital sent her to a room.  And let's suppose that the room was empty, and she wondered where the doctor was, and the doctor appeared for five minutes and then disappeared again, and she was given no medicine, and she waited for three hours, and at the end of it all, she was sent home without anything more than a recommendation to see another doctor – and that almost a month later, after receiving absolutely nothing more than a recommendation, she received a bill.  The original charge: $1,200.  The cost after insurance: $350.

Now, it is needless to say that this hypothetical woman (who happens in this hypothetical circumstance to be my wife) has a household income of $1,200 like so many other working-class families, and that even with a respectable insurance policy, the cost of getting nothing was almost a third of a paycheck (which is the recommended maximum for rent).  It may be even more needless to say she received something more than nothing.  The hospital was standing.  The room was existent, and filled with light, and all kinds of machines, and a television with cable service and a bed, and a nurse and a doctor with salaried pay, and people to handle phone calls.  To say she paid for nothing is more than unfair.  But to have received nothing, to have been helped nothing, to have been told nothing useful or calming or anything more than that there is probably someone else who can help you is a very bad purchase for $1,200 – and it might seem a little bit strange that nobody had told her the cost of it before she was charged.

To an unreflecting person, unacquainted with the costs of running a hospital and having it ready for as many kinds of emergencies as possible, this would come across as something like theft in the midst of a tragedy.  After all, we know, deep down inside ourselves and without any kind of questioning, that there exists something in the mind known as fairness, and that an extreme unpleasantry exchanged for something that couldn't even be described as helpful seems a terrible transaction to make – and that the person receiving the horrible end of it had only the foggiest idea of the transaction that was being made.  Horror leads to waiting, which leads to poverty.  This leads to the next realization, which is that it means poverty for only one party and riches for another.

That there is a class of people living upon this system – not the clerks or the secretaries or the nurses or even the doctors, but a class of people known as hospital capitalists, living and thriving off what in many cases can be described as our misery – is the unfortunate realization everyone comes to the moment he has been gouged.  And it makes even the staunchest capitalists wonder, perhaps in darkest suggestions at the back of the mind, whether capitalism itself is actually right.  Sure, we love it and praise it and talk about how badly things go in socialist countries like Venezuela and Cuba.  But when we come across something as rotten as this, as unfair as this, which comes across so entirely lacking in liberty of choice as this, what are we to make of it but that we are supporting something immoral?

This gut reaction, horrible in the extreme, is what capitalists have been fighting for centuries.  And the arguments they use against it, however true they are in the long run, and however just frequently enough in short, are oftentimes seen as nothing more than arguments.  The man in the factory sees things differently.  He sees with his own eyes the things he makes with his own hands – and sees somebody else getting rich off them.  He saw women and children working themselves twelve hours a day for six days a week and getting mangled by middle age.  He saw people who owned everything throwing away people who had nothing when the people who had nothing were injured while getting him everything.  And he saw, perhaps most cruelly of all, masses of beautiful and necessary things being thrown in the garbage while people were starving, simply because people who weren't starving couldn't be richer by giving them.

Capitalism, of course, is the only economic system in the world that is tailored to our reality.  Labor, however helpful it looks, has never been the only engine for the creation of wealth.  It requires a mind to think of things people actually want and new ways to make them cheaper and connections to network with and savings to draw from.  And these are the things, brought about by our entrepreneurs (and hospital capitalists), that have made our lives better in innumerable ways we could never have dreamed.  The hospital was expensive, and it was expensive because it fully prepared for anything we could throw at it.  Mass production is production for the masses – which means it is production for the poor.  The poorest Americans have smart phones and warm clothes.  The banana republics and communist dictatorships, on the other hand, promised many things and were capable of delivering only one: "justice."  All the unpleasant things we encountered on a day-to-day basis and the inequalities we suffered and the hardships we faced would be borne not only by our populace, but by our capitalists as well; and the capitalists would be lorded over by bureaucrats and statesmen, who were not only incapable of being just when put into power, but not even capable of making the things that the capitalists made.  And so men starved – but they were "equal."  They rotted – but they rotted in "justice."  People were starving – but it wasn't because others were throwing their excess food away.

There are ways to improve upon the capitalist system.  There are regulations to be put in place so that people (in hypothetical cases with hypothetical hospitals) can be told what they're getting before they are charged for it.  There are things we can do to ensure we don't kill ourselves by killing our environment.  There are two-day weekends to enjoy, and overtime pay to be paid, and there are things bosses should never be allowed to do to their workers.  There are people who are injured on the job who need to be taken care of.  But when it comes down to it, the free holding of property, and the right to do what you want with it, even if it means throwing it away while other people need it, must not only be left in place, but wholeheartedly trusted with our future prosperity.  The explanations for its success lies in books written by Rand and by Mises.  The proof of its success lies in the difference between capitalist and non-capitalist countries.

That capitalism and free men have their backs against the wall shouldn't be a surprise.  They have always had their backs against the wall, because the arguments against property and liberty are eternal and powerful – and something that even a child can complain about.  The childish simplicity (and we may almost say morality) of socialism is not anything invented in the 19th century because of the Industrial Revolution.  It is older than the Old Testament and the (sometimes socialist) Laws of Moses.  It's the response of the human heart to suffering and a knee-jerk reaction in the face of inequality and, perhaps even more powerfully than this, the inevitable reaction to the haphazardly distributed fortunes of fortune.  We fight the socialist not even because he's ignorant, but because he's human, and our struggle against him exists not because he's a fad, but because he's eternal.  It is our job as capitalists to educate him about the sources of material progress and the horrors of a life without liberty, and never for one second to believe that socialists are defeated.

Every new generation is a generation of natural socialists.  Capitalism, on the other hand, is an art of life – and like all arts, it is something that has to be made.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Let's say for a moment – hypothetically – that someone out there had a son, and the son hit his head, and hitting his head sent him into convulsions, and the going into convulsions sent the man's wife into a panic, and the panic sent her to the hospital, and the hospital sent her to a room.  And let's suppose that the room was empty, and she wondered where the doctor was, and the doctor appeared for five minutes and then disappeared again, and she was given no medicine, and she waited for three hours, and at the end of it all, she was sent home without anything more than a recommendation to see another doctor – and that almost a month later, after receiving absolutely nothing more than a recommendation, she received a bill.  The original charge: $1,200.  The cost after insurance: $350.

Now, it is needless to say that this hypothetical woman (who happens in this hypothetical circumstance to be my wife) has a household income of $1,200 like so many other working-class families, and that even with a respectable insurance policy, the cost of getting nothing was almost a third of a paycheck (which is the recommended maximum for rent).  It may be even more needless to say she received something more than nothing.  The hospital was standing.  The room was existent, and filled with light, and all kinds of machines, and a television with cable service and a bed, and a nurse and a doctor with salaried pay, and people to handle phone calls.  To say she paid for nothing is more than unfair.  But to have received nothing, to have been helped nothing, to have been told nothing useful or calming or anything more than that there is probably someone else who can help you is a very bad purchase for $1,200 – and it might seem a little bit strange that nobody had told her the cost of it before she was charged.

To an unreflecting person, unacquainted with the costs of running a hospital and having it ready for as many kinds of emergencies as possible, this would come across as something like theft in the midst of a tragedy.  After all, we know, deep down inside ourselves and without any kind of questioning, that there exists something in the mind known as fairness, and that an extreme unpleasantry exchanged for something that couldn't even be described as helpful seems a terrible transaction to make – and that the person receiving the horrible end of it had only the foggiest idea of the transaction that was being made.  Horror leads to waiting, which leads to poverty.  This leads to the next realization, which is that it means poverty for only one party and riches for another.

That there is a class of people living upon this system – not the clerks or the secretaries or the nurses or even the doctors, but a class of people known as hospital capitalists, living and thriving off what in many cases can be described as our misery – is the unfortunate realization everyone comes to the moment he has been gouged.  And it makes even the staunchest capitalists wonder, perhaps in darkest suggestions at the back of the mind, whether capitalism itself is actually right.  Sure, we love it and praise it and talk about how badly things go in socialist countries like Venezuela and Cuba.  But when we come across something as rotten as this, as unfair as this, which comes across so entirely lacking in liberty of choice as this, what are we to make of it but that we are supporting something immoral?

This gut reaction, horrible in the extreme, is what capitalists have been fighting for centuries.  And the arguments they use against it, however true they are in the long run, and however just frequently enough in short, are oftentimes seen as nothing more than arguments.  The man in the factory sees things differently.  He sees with his own eyes the things he makes with his own hands – and sees somebody else getting rich off them.  He saw women and children working themselves twelve hours a day for six days a week and getting mangled by middle age.  He saw people who owned everything throwing away people who had nothing when the people who had nothing were injured while getting him everything.  And he saw, perhaps most cruelly of all, masses of beautiful and necessary things being thrown in the garbage while people were starving, simply because people who weren't starving couldn't be richer by giving them.

Capitalism, of course, is the only economic system in the world that is tailored to our reality.  Labor, however helpful it looks, has never been the only engine for the creation of wealth.  It requires a mind to think of things people actually want and new ways to make them cheaper and connections to network with and savings to draw from.  And these are the things, brought about by our entrepreneurs (and hospital capitalists), that have made our lives better in innumerable ways we could never have dreamed.  The hospital was expensive, and it was expensive because it fully prepared for anything we could throw at it.  Mass production is production for the masses – which means it is production for the poor.  The poorest Americans have smart phones and warm clothes.  The banana republics and communist dictatorships, on the other hand, promised many things and were capable of delivering only one: "justice."  All the unpleasant things we encountered on a day-to-day basis and the inequalities we suffered and the hardships we faced would be borne not only by our populace, but by our capitalists as well; and the capitalists would be lorded over by bureaucrats and statesmen, who were not only incapable of being just when put into power, but not even capable of making the things that the capitalists made.  And so men starved – but they were "equal."  They rotted – but they rotted in "justice."  People were starving – but it wasn't because others were throwing their excess food away.

There are ways to improve upon the capitalist system.  There are regulations to be put in place so that people (in hypothetical cases with hypothetical hospitals) can be told what they're getting before they are charged for it.  There are things we can do to ensure we don't kill ourselves by killing our environment.  There are two-day weekends to enjoy, and overtime pay to be paid, and there are things bosses should never be allowed to do to their workers.  There are people who are injured on the job who need to be taken care of.  But when it comes down to it, the free holding of property, and the right to do what you want with it, even if it means throwing it away while other people need it, must not only be left in place, but wholeheartedly trusted with our future prosperity.  The explanations for its success lies in books written by Rand and by Mises.  The proof of its success lies in the difference between capitalist and non-capitalist countries.

That capitalism and free men have their backs against the wall shouldn't be a surprise.  They have always had their backs against the wall, because the arguments against property and liberty are eternal and powerful – and something that even a child can complain about.  The childish simplicity (and we may almost say morality) of socialism is not anything invented in the 19th century because of the Industrial Revolution.  It is older than the Old Testament and the (sometimes socialist) Laws of Moses.  It's the response of the human heart to suffering and a knee-jerk reaction in the face of inequality and, perhaps even more powerfully than this, the inevitable reaction to the haphazardly distributed fortunes of fortune.  We fight the socialist not even because he's ignorant, but because he's human, and our struggle against him exists not because he's a fad, but because he's eternal.  It is our job as capitalists to educate him about the sources of material progress and the horrors of a life without liberty, and never for one second to believe that socialists are defeated.

Every new generation is a generation of natural socialists.  Capitalism, on the other hand, is an art of life – and like all arts, it is something that has to be made.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.