I don’t regularly watch Bill Maher’s “Real Time” on HBO. But, I did see a portion of it this past week. Comic actor Jim Carrey, a dual Canadian-American citizen, suggested that voters should “Say yes to socialism.”

It was a remark which could have ended his career in 1950. Yet, in 2018 it is a remark which may lead to greater fame and admiration by the elite establishment which constitutes the entertainment industry and the mainstream press.

Most people consider socialism to be merely a method to redistribute wealth. Those who espouse it do so with the best of intentions. They believe that scarce necessities should be taken from citizens according to their ability and redistributed to others according to their needs. It almost seems virtuous.

But, socialism is not mere wealth distribution. It is a state of mind. It runs contrary to the last two centuries of American economic thought. It is the surrender of the future to the present. It is a declaration that things will never improve.

To understand socialism, we must understand one basic theory of economics: All things of worth are rationed. They must either be rationed by price or by government. There is no other way to distribute goods or services.

For instance, flashlight batteries are rationed by price in normal times. Any business can charge what it wants. The consumer will then pay that which the market deems reasonable. But, during preparation for a hurricane, these batteries are rationed by government. The high demand might cause the price of a single flashlight battery to rise from $1 to $10. A truly free market would “price gouge.” So laws are passed. Government steps in forbidding the rise in price and rations by law.

Socialists believe that life is a hurricane. They want the government to ration goods and services at all times. Their mindset is that food, health care and housing are, like flashlight batteries in a storm, finite. Therefore, government must enact laws to distribute these resources on the basis of social justice rather than market price.

Socialist thinking is based on the theory that there is only so much “stuff” to “go around.” There are not enough houses and there is not enough food. We are all living in a perpetual hurricane. The rich are buying up all the flashlights and the batteries, too. Therefore, all things must be rationed by law.

Traditional American thinking is different. And note that I call it “American thinking,” not “capitalism.” That is because “capitalism” is not the opposite of “Socialism.” Capital markets are an integral part of even Communist nations such as China. Capitalism is a form of aggregating wealth to permit production. It has little to do with distributing and rationing what is actually produced.

American economic thought is based on a theory of abundance. It does not come from Adam Smith or even Milton Friedman. It comes from an ever expanding Western frontier in its earlier years and an ever expanding scientific and technological frontier in its more recent years. It is even the reason that drives Americans toward exploring the expanding universe in outer space.

To be American is to believe in life without limits.

As such, it is an American economic axiom: prosperity is infinite. Americans believe that the universe of resources will expand so that even the poorest among us can be clothed, fed and housed at a price that is reasonable for a hard working citizen.

It is a theory based on fair weather, not foul. It suggests that Innovation will provide all the food, homes and flashlight batteries we need. We simply have to hold back the tendency of government to ration. We must encourage the free market to do its job providing an ever expanding array of goods. The abundance of goods will hold down prices and make prosperity available to all.

Socialism is the product of pessimism. What made America great is its optimism. It is a belief that the economic universe will constantly expand. It is not based upon greed. That is the hoarding of assets. It is the idea that assets can be created and wealth can therefore be shared.

The success of American economic theory means that socialism is just dumb. And, dumber still is Jim Carrey. Socialism is incompatible with prosperity.

 

(5) comments

Kent Misegades

Anyone who admires socialism needs to spend a year in Cuba with normal citizens. Or Argentina, or Venezuela. I have traveled in Eastern Europe during the Cold War when it was supposed to be a worker's paradise. Hardly. I have travelled in Scandinavian countries for business and lived for years in Belgium and Germany. If you are willing to give up your freedom and live in a hamster cage, socialism is just great. If America were still 50 sovereign states as the founders intended it, it would be a great experiment to see a state like Vermont try socialism. Bernie would love it, as he already lives in a Dacia as the Soviet thugs did in the east. I have been to the ornate castle in Rumania where Ceaucescu used to entertain them - before his own people put him against the capital wall and filled him and his wife full of lead. I have seen the bullet holes. That's where socialism always ends - the road to serfdom which ends in gulags, work camps and gas chambers. No thanks, I take Capitalism any day.

Jim Tomashoff

Kent, you're conflating socialism with totalitarianism.

Jim Tomashoff

"Socialism is incompatible with prosperity" conclude Mr. Levy. I would love for the United States to lack the prosperity of these "socialist" countries: Sweden $53,217 Denmark $56,444; Netherlands $58,345; and Norway $74,940. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_in_Europe_by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita 2017

The U.S. per capita in 2017 was $53,128. So let's try socialism if by socialism you mean the following, all of which exist in the countries noted: Medicare for all. Extensive training and then paying teachers substantially more, resulting in education performance light-years ahead of public schools here. Inexpensive to "free" universities. Active partnerships of business and trade schools creating the labor force necessary through paid internships leading to full-time well-paid jobs. Free press, free media, and no secret police. Sounds pretty good to me. I'd even be willing to increase my taxes to realize these ends. I assume Mr. Levy would not be willing to see an increase in his, even if these ends could be realized.

Ed Pieczynski

Sorry, there are a lot more parts to 'socialism than the utopia you describe. None of the European countries you describe is truly socialist. Want a modern day example of socialism.....think Venezuela.

Jim Tomashoff

Socialism, in the European sense, has always been a "mixed-economy" model. The socialism part largely focuses on the role government plays in making people's lives better, less on how they make their money. In all the countries I noted, plus the U.K., Germany, France, Belgium, Ireland, the vast majority of people are employed in private industry. Venezuela is no more "socialist" than the Soviet Union was "communist," the latter was a complete totalitarian state and Venezuela is becoming one.

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