Patterico's Pontifications

5/27/2005

Sneaking Apples From the Great Wealth Tree

Filed under: General — Dafydd @ 4:27 am



Hello, and welcome to words from the Lizard’s Tongue. My name is Dafydd ab Hugh, and I’m one of the guest bloggers who will be tormenting you until Patterico returns.

I am not a blogger in the strictest sense. I am guilty of publishing fiction, but I’m still (still!) working on my web site, which will contain a blog. And articles, columns, movie reviews, fiction, two partners in crime (Brad Linaweaver and my wife Sachiko), and bilingual contributions (English and Japanese), a streaming internet radio show, and, and…. well, “good enough is enemy of the best,” I always say.

Because I’m only a guest here, I will mostly not blog about current events; there is plenty of that. When my own blog is up (when the best gives way and lets good enough have a clean shot), I will write about issues both eternal and temporal. But for now, I will focus on metablogging about more fundamental issues; and to make things easy, I’ll hide most of my posts behind the magic “more” button.

Fundamental issues — such as the topic at hand: stealing apples from the Great Wealth Tree.

The greatest economic divide is not between rich and poor; it’s between those who believe that only the creators of wealth have the right to distribute it, and those who believe that wealth is intrinsically part of “the commons,” and that everybody has at least some stake in deciding how it is spent, even those who had nothing to do with making it. We can roughly label these two philosophies capitalism and socialism.

Most people believe a mix of the two, but that’s not my point. I want to peek behind the impulse towards socialism (however weak or distilled) to the fundamental worldview it requires.

The base claim socialism relies upon is “fairness”: it isn’t fair, they say, that some are so rich while others are mired in poverty. But this makes no sense if you believe that people create their own wealth; if you build a house, few would claim as a matter of principle that you have to let everyone else live in it. The only way the “fairness” argument works is if socialists believe that wealth is a natural resource.

But more than just that. After all, oil is a natural resource; but it requires intelligence and effort to extract it from the ground: crude oil is not created, but oil-in-the-barrel is. The “fairness” doctrine requires you to believe not only that wealth is a natural resource, it’s one that simply falls like manna from heaven equally upon the just and unjust alike.

Socialists must believe that each person is born with a Great Wealth Tree. Each man or woman can reach up and pluck wealth-apples from his Wealth Tree. And each Wealth Tree is the same size — otherwise wealth disparity could still be a natural phenomenon unrelated to human endeavor, and as fruitless to correct as it would be to pass laws to equalize everyone’s height, weight, and IQ (cf. “Harrison Bergeron,” by intelligent socialist Kurt Vonnegut, jr.)

So if each person has his own Great Wealth Tree, and if every Wealth Tree is the same size… then why is there a disparity in wealth between people and nations? Simple: according to the only worldview that can support socialism, if one person has a bigger pile of wealth-apples than his neighbors — he must be leaning over and plucking apples from his neighbor’s tree.

And at last, we understand why socialists consider all the rich to be “robber barons” and demand re-distribution of wealth “from each according to his ability to each according to his need”: because they can’t believe that intelligent gardening can grow a bigger Wealth Tree, and the only way one man gets rich is by sneaking his neighbor’s apples. This crabapple view of the world is the logical root of all socialist ideas.

7 Responses to “Sneaking Apples From the Great Wealth Tree”

  1. “We can roughly label these two philosophies capitalism and socialism.”

    Socialists believe that the creators of wealth ought to be entitled to distribute it. As an oversimplification, they just believe that labor creates all wealth.

    actus (3be069)

  2. … whereas the capitalist world-view is that you pick your own apples, make a pie, and sell it for a lot more apples!

    If wealth is *created*, rather than merely “picked”, it invalidates the socialist world-view. One reason for the slow demise of the socialist world-view is that our increasingly sophisticated economy creates most wealth “out of thin air”, in the form of intellectual property and services. You might argue that one farmer is more successful than another because his land is more fertile – an injustice easily remedied (as seen in Zimbabwe). But it is much harder to confiscate the sources of a doctor’s, an artist’s, or even a skilled salesman’s wealth. You can only tax the profit, which ultimately gets put to the test of practical economics.

    M.S. Periot (0b453c)

  3. “But it is much harder to confiscate the sources of a doctor’s, an artist’s, or even a skilled salesman’s wealth”

    I’d say its much easier to use someone else’s intellectual creation without their permission than to use someone else’s land without their permission.

    actus (3be069)

  4. I don’t believe this is a productive way of looking at things because (for the most part) wealth is created by groups not by individuals and there is no obvious best way of dividing things up among the group. Wall Street firms are about as capitalist as you can get and there is still plenty of argument about how to allocate the profits.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  5. Sorry James,

    Groups are individuals also. No individuals, no groups. The collectivist fallacy lies in thinking that a group is more than an individual. It isn’t.

    Socialism isn’t just a philosophy, it is a religion.

    Charles D. Quarles (593219)

  6. […] ed with that economic system: how do you divide up the apples? Unless you believe in the Great Wealth Tree, these resources are both limited and unevenly […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » The Wishing Ring, part 3 (0c6a63)

  7. Sneaking Apples From the Great Wealth Tree…

    My v-e-r-y f-i-r-s-t entry into the world of blogging, courtesy a surprise invitation from blogger extraordinaire Patterico to help him out by posting something “interesting” on his site while he was on holiday. Fortunately for Patterico, he also inv…

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