The Jury Talks Back


You Are All Socialists

Filed under: Uncategorized — Leviticus @ 7:24 pm

I was pulling weeds in my back yard a few weeks ago – they were getting out of hand, popping up all over the place, and they were starting to hurt some young saplings that the previous tenants had planted.

Pulling weeds isn’t exactly a mentally intensive activity, so I had some time to think, and something occurred to me: anyone who pulls weeds is a socialist.

Think about it: if weeds play the Plant Game better than the competition, then weeds should thrive and the competition – trees, flowers, crops – should die out. It’s the Invisible Hand of Botany. And yet we pull weeds so that our other plants can live. We interfere with the market on a regular basis by the adverse regulation of more efficient plants (i.e. weeds).

Now: I believe in the notion of the Free Market – that is, I believe that supply and demand will find equilibrium if left to their devices, and that government interference will cause losses in efficiency, and all that good stuff. On the other hand, I believe that there are times where government inter(vention/ference) in the free market is a good and noble thing. Accordingly, I pull weeds in my back yard.

I’ve been lectured numerous times by conservatives who say that all government intervention is bad, and that the Free Market will always – always – produce the best outcomes if left to its own devices. So, for those of you out there who believe that: how many of you have pulled weeds recently?

Don’t worry, gang – there’s no shame in being a socialist, so long as your heart is in the right place.


  1. You ought to think of weeding as law enforcement. Those damn weeds are trespassing on your garden, so you are simply escorting them off your private property.

    If you don’t agree with that analogy, what would you do if squatters invaded your apartment?

    Comment by Dr. K — 11/8/2009 @ 4:57 am

  2. Or you could think of weeds as community organizers. They move into a community that has a nice place already prepared for them, and they just take over and ruin the quality of life for the productive members of the garden community.

    Sort of like acorns sprouting in a flower bed.

    See, this is fun!

    Comment by Dr. K — 11/8/2009 @ 5:01 am

  3. Or, you could just tear everything out, and let nature take over…
    Think Xeroscape!

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/8/2009 @ 11:27 am

  4. Weeds are illegal aliens, growing for less nutrients and taking space from other plants.

    Comment by gahrie — 11/8/2009 @ 11:47 am

  5. A real Free Market advocate would argue that since illegal aliens are willing to work for less money, that they are more competitive and ought to get jobs previously reserved for citizens.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/8/2009 @ 12:45 pm

  6. I enjoyed your analogy, but believe it may more precisely fit the political spectrum than systems of economics.

    A field with no gardening whosoever is left to run wild – anarchy (the logical extent of right wing philosophy). No benefits of civilization, complete liberty for each individual.

    A field that is completely controlled – tyranny (the logical extent of left wing philosophy). No benefits of liberty for each individual, complete state control. Few weeds in the wheat, but no flowers either.

    I prefer the field cultivated by the Founding Fathers – at the midpoint between anarchy and tyranny. This is the point where the benefits of civilization and the benefits of individual liberty are optimized.

    Comment by Pons Asinorum — 11/8/2009 @ 1:32 pm

  7. Interesting. I like that analogy, too. A healthy Republic is a well-kept garden.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/8/2009 @ 2:45 pm

  8. If it wishes to be; for, the hallmark of our healthy Republic, was always the pre-eminance of the Individual over the State.
    In other words, if I want my garden to grow wild, it’s none of your business, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the liberties of others.

    BTW, it was always explained to me that Anarchy actually represents the bottom quadrant of the political circle, where there is an absence of political philosophy, neither RW or LW (but of course, I took classes on Politics,Government, and Philosophy sometime in the Pleistocene Age, or thereabouts)

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/8/2009 @ 5:33 pm

  9. Leviticus – A real Free Market advocate would argue that since illegal aliens are willing to work for less money, that they are more competitive and ought to get jobs previously reserved for citizens.

    You’re correct about that. They would, unfortunately for you, also argue that the same illegal aliens wouldn’t be eligible to vote or receive any government assistance whatsoever. The aliens get injured? Pay the doctor. They need food? Get a second job. Tough cookies in the garden.

    Your analogy about weeding isn’t correct, because it presents the false choice of either a socialist system or no system at all, along with a conflation of two disparate ideas. The free market will provide the most value for the widest number of participants without coercion, and that this cannot be achieved by central planners.

    What you’re doing on one side of your false choice is confusing a free market with anarchy – a system that eschews any sort of standards and rules. The two are not the same.

    Take transporting goods and services, for example. The idea of anarchy is that anyone can drive any vehicle at any speed in any direction that they would like. While this system may work well with only a few participants, the density of today’s cities demands a system whose complexity increases proportionally with said population.

    The free market recognizes this need for a system that maximizes the efficiency of the roads so as to maximize the freedom of mobility for its citizens. The operative idea here is freedom of mobility, and it is exactly that idea that both represents the free market and enables our economy to flourish. The government’s job is to maintain the system, not dictate it.

    Your argument assumes that any system with set boundaries equates with socialism. That is incorrect. For your garden to be truly socialist, you would need to not only control weeds, but the growth rate & direction, water consumption, and photosynthesis of each plant – ahead of time.

    “But that’s way too much for me to deal with!” you say. “I could never keep track of all that”.

    Yes, I agree.

    To make another analogy, our current health care system, if translated to transportation, would mean that when you want to travel within New Mexico, you don’t drive yourself. You call a company to which you pay a monthy fee, and they provide a driver and a car to take you from point a to point b. You have no idea how much any of this costs, as the company pays it, but because the directions of travel and times of day are regulated by the government, the company is sometimes reimbursed partially with taxpayer dollars, depending on who needs the ride.

    Now, if along the way, you find out you need to go somewhere else, sometimes that’s not available. Oh, and because there’s a separate group that controls the system for accrediting drivers, along with a ton of government regulations and legal liability, there’s a scarcity of drivers, many of which simply won’t take certain routes if they aren’t profitable enough. Also, you can’t use a car service from another state like Texas, Arizona, Colorado or Oklahoma. They’re not allowed to compete for your business.

    Oh, and there’s more. Rather than allow vehicles to cross state lines without regulation, or fix the disconnect between drivers and payers, or allow for more drivers, vehicles or increased competition, the Obama administration has cooked up new regulations that will start a government run taxi service, which will be paid for by the taxpayers, employing political cronies, and increase regulations for where and when the other drivers can run fares. At least until the money runs out.

    That transpo system is enough to make you want to stay home and dig weeds.

    Comment by Apogee — 11/8/2009 @ 8:33 pm

  10. So, socialism is total centralized government control of an economy? And socialized health care is total centralized government control of health care, and so on and so forth?

    I mean, that’s the definition I was taught (more or less), and that’s the definition you seem to be using, but the term is bandied about so flippantly these days that I’d like to clarify our terms before we go any farther with the Analogy Game.

    And, as an aside: my analogy about weeding isn’t meant to be “correct” – it’s meant to be rhetorical, to drive home the point that there is a proper role for government in most things, and the real problem is discovering what that role is. I have heard numerous conservatives argue the contrary.

    Finally, within the terms of the original construct: what would you, as a free market advocate, say about weeds? Would you pull them? Why? Isn’t pulling weeds interfering with the free market (even if it’s not full blown socialism, as you accurately pointed out)?

    Again, forgive me my hyperbole – you’re right that I’m offering a false choice between socialism and anarchy, but I’m doing it to draw out discussion. Bear with me.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/8/2009 @ 9:08 pm

  11. No, I’d pull weeds because they block the operation of the agreed system that allows the garden to flourish.

    In the same way I’m glad when the cops arrest and haul off to jail some idiot who parks his truck sideways on the freeway and starts throwing rocks. That’s not socialism in action, that’s the preservation of the rights of everyone else.

    Regarding socialism…

    Like large corporations, governments are made up of people. A conversation with a government or corporation would be very quiet, as you would be the only one talking.

    When you set out to define ‘socialism’, what you are really defining is a system that allows certain individuals in the government to control the capital and means of production. Friedman was right – it’s all capitalism, it’s just who controls the capital.

    From my earlier analogy, I do not believe that any individual or group of individuals – especially government employees – are capable of selflessly controlling something as complicated as an economy. Most pro-socialists envision themselves at the helm of such a collective, and not under the boot. When they ultimately find themselves coerced under the boot, they often switch to the schadenfreude mode whereby “at least everyone else is miserable”. Socialism, due to the control afforded the government members, is essentially un-democratic, as the enactment of the programs must be agreed to by the citizens for legitimacy, and we know how many citizens currently support the health care agenda.

    Also, I do not think Obama and his administration are ‘socialists’. I think socialism is something they would love to use to gain more power.

    Obama’s policies and actions don’t make much sense from a socialist point of view, but they sure make sense from a corrupt point of view.

    That’s always how ‘socialism’ works. The people hand over the reins, and the crooks get to work.

    Comment by Apogee — 11/8/2009 @ 9:39 pm

  12. “No, I’d pull weeds because they block the operation of the agreed system that allows the garden to flourish.”

    – Apogee

    I figured someone sharp would land on this response: that by choking out competition, weeds are essentially functioning as a monopoly, which must be broken up in accordance with Free Market dictates.

    Your comment brings us back to one of the fundamental arguments about socialism – that is, can it ever function in an honest, ideal manner, to the benefit of all, or is it doomed to the corruption and stagnation which precedent seems to indicate?

    I don’t have an answer to that – although I would say that I seriously doubt that a fully socialist government could ever function effectively. For me, “socialism” is more of a general aspiration for the common good than anything else (which I know is insufferably vague), without the totalitarian overtones that conservatives ascribe to it… but they subscribe those overtones to it with good reason, so we sometimes find ourselves talking across each other (that is, not comparing like terms).

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/8/2009 @ 11:00 pm

  13. “…weeds are essentially functioning as a monopoly…”

    My impression is that weeds act as thugs, interferring with the orderly conduct of the garden, violating the social compact, and therefore, deserving isolation/destruction.
    Again, as in Apogee’s use of transportation as a justification of governmental involvement in insuring orderly commerce, the police power exists to “serve and protect” those who wish to engage in lawful behavior within the social contract, but does not create the rules, leaving that to the Representatives of the People (who, have to a great degree, abdicated their responsibilities by their un-constitutional delegation of rule-making power to the Executive – but, that is an argument for another day – since we are speaking in the theoretical here).

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/9/2009 @ 10:07 am

  14. Free markets cannot remain free without some authority to keep them free. Somebody will always show up to try to rig the game in their own favor. The challenge we all have is to keep control over that authority. Not an easy task.

    Comment by BarSinister — 11/10/2009 @ 6:55 am

  15. BarSinister – Somebody will always show up to try to rig the game in their own favor.

    Unfortunately that somebody right now is the Government.

    Comment by Apogee — 11/11/2009 @ 8:24 pm

  16. Two words: Chauncey Gardiner

    Comment by Kevin Murphy — 11/11/2009 @ 8:41 pm

  17. So to be a socialist, I must see people as weeds?

    Well, historically that’s accurate.

    Comment by ras — 11/13/2009 @ 4:12 pm

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