One of the ongoing themes of this blog is that “government” isn’t a real thing. We discussed it in Part 2 of this series last week and in my piece a while back on how the “emperor has no clothes.” Of course, it isn’t the only social construct that isn’t real. Race and class are two more. For humans, giving something a name elevates it in our minds, even if a rigorous definition of the word proves it to represent a pretty meaningless idea. If I had the time (and frankly the interest,) I could discuss the way in which modern philosophy is designed to confuse us rather than enlighten us. Maybe another day.
But today I want to briefly touch on the way in which very “real” things are often ignored or wished away by much of modern political thought. One is the inherent violence in government action. The “taxation is theft” meme may have become a laughable one but it expresses truth. If theft is someone taking something of yours without your consent, then taxation is indeed theft if you do not consent. But government also simply defines certain actions as a crime, whether it be carrying a weapon or smoking marijuana or running a poker game out of your basement. And they have the audacity to pretend it is any of their business, even when no harm came to anyone. I don’t know how many times I have watched Cops and realized that they only people doing harm were our supposed heroes.
Another idea frequently wished away is that of scarcity. I might argue that the entire idea of socialism comes down to pretending that, either scarcity doesn’t exist or that it will cease to exist in the very near future. There is plenty of everything if only the evil rich folks didn’t hoard it all. We can give everyone everything they need simply by raising taxes on the rich people and the corporations. In one sense, they are right. Things once thought to be very scarce indeed such as rich food and cell phones are now ubiquitous. There are almost as many cell phones now as there are people on Earth. And one of the biggest problems lower and working class people in developed nations suffer is that they are overweight.
While it is likely a moral conundrum as well as a competitive advantage, one feature of our human condition is that we are never entirely satisfied. I often point out that humans are not the only species that solve problems but we are the only ones who invent problems. As long as there are people, there will be needs, real or imagined, that are not satisfied. That means that scarcity will continue to be a real part of our experience. You can’t wish it (or legislate it) away, no matter how much you might want to do that.
Socialism doesn’t make poor people rich, it just makes rich people poor. Equality of misery is hardly a desirable condition. And it ignores the tremendous information the idea of “price” provides in the marketplace. The allocation of resources to best serve human needs is simply far too complicated to be done by a team of bureaucrats, no matter how clever they are. An entirely free market is not perfect. Nothing is. But it is the best way to provide people the goods and services they most desire.
One final thing that we too often ignore is the simple way in which we treat one another. I see more and more people who feel like it is entirely acceptable to treat others like crap if they don’t measure up to our standards. And the intolerant right wing is just as bad as the intolerant left wing. Don’t vilify all immigrants, Muslims or liberals. But also don’t vilify all straight white males, Christians or conservatives. We are all flawed human beings but we also have a right to be judged, not by some arbitrary label, but by the “content of our character.”
Are there other realities we ignore or other fantasies we entertain? I would imagine so. And I would imagine we will touch on them in the future. Until then, thanks for following along and have a great weekend!