As an old almost forgotten adage goes, “The truth hides in plain sight.” This means that most human activities are dedicated to hiding truth because it offends us personally, at an emotional level, and since it is in plain sight that common sense must be obscured. We must become magicians and snake oil salesman, distracting the audience with the waving of the hand while the other hand slyly hides the prize.
So it is in politics where in 2016, it is suddenly popular to bash capitalism again. This, as the world’s leading socialist state in Venezuela implodes, socialist Europe goes broke and cannot lead itself, and even our socialist-style social programs here in America have driven us to a $19 trillion debt. Of all the things to blame, it would seem that capitalism would come dead last!
And yet, that is why it is blamed: the crowd needs a scapegoat. It cannot admit to itself that not only are its social programs mere gimmes disguised as altruism, but that they have failed to do anything of real impact except make the problem worse. Our social programs take most of our taxes, and most of that is taken from the middle class, which is why the middle class is eroding while the underclass grows.
That shows us the intersection between typical human political thinking and typical human individualism. Individualism says that the world is there for the individual, and implies that nothing changes since the time the individual first encountered it. Try this with older generations: you will note they are stranded in 1965 in their minds because that is when they came into the world. Typical human political thinking is that since “everyone must get along,” you can use those who are succeeding to bolster those who are not, and then — problem solved! Except, of course, that viewpoint looks at the wrong problem.
The real problem is not that some are starving; it is that their society does not provide wealth that they could take advantage of. Robin Hood programs take income from where it generates more income and distribute it to where it goes to dead-end uses because its spending is exclusively at the consumer level, and the lowest level of consumer activity at that. The reason nature concentrates resources is so that they can have more effect; dispersing them lessens that effect. This is why socialism and welfare states are paths to death.
And yet these programs are popular. Why? Me, me, me: people think in terms of themselves and they like the safety implied by welfare and socialism. “I cannot fail, because I will be subsidized,” the thinking goes. Even more, they delight in the thought of taking from the people who did make it big and giving to the rest. Punish those bastards for making us all look bad. They forget that in the meantime they set up giant bureaucracies and dump money onto clueless people who spend it badly, enriching all the wrong people in the process.
Capitalism on the other hand does not deserve an -ism at all because it is business, pure and simple. The only difference between capitalism and communism is accountability. Under capitalism, the individual makes financial decisions and reaps reward or failure. Under socialism, the group absorbs both loss and gain. It is like decision insurance and as in insurance, only the owl-eyed bureaucrat makes out like a bandit. Then because the entire system is risk-averse, no one makes decisive actions, and so entropy takes it to the cleaners.
Our current fad for blaming capitalism — popular among both inveterate leftist Boomers like
Jerry Garcia Bernie Sanders and clueless products of public television Millennials — is to avoid blaming what we should blame. Yes, we should blame our socialist drift which has driven the West into debt and trashed its public institutions. But even more, as a society we are unable to make any good decisions. We are risk-averse there too. And what kind of insurance do we have there? Oh yes: democracy, or the system where no one person is accountable.
The leader is elected, but he is held in check by laws and the representatives. They can in turn blame the opposition party. And the voters can blame each other. The problem is that decisions are not made, but assessed. If enough people vote for something, it is adopted and everyone can blame everyone else. The scapegoat mania spreads. And so in the West, we have a rotting infrastructure: it is unpopular to demand spending on anything but bennies. Both USA and EU are awash in third-world refugees who secretly (or in some cases, not so secretly) resent us and want to destroy us: it is unpopular to cut anyone out, to violate any individual’s human/civil rights. And so it is that the same risk aversion that destroyed the Soviet Union has taken hold here.
The real culprit in 2016 is democracy, or emocracy as we might call it because it consists of people making decisions with their emotions instead of reality-based thinking, and yet we cannot blame it because it is popular because it hands out the bennies. So what can we blame that has a small audience of supporters, so as to remain popular? Why, capitalism of course; in theory only the rich support it, and they are few. See, Romans, the day is saved; we have found the witch and we can burn it. Nonetheless doubts remain.
I first encountered these doubts when I saw the results of first British socialism and next Euro-socialism. In the UK, people talked about how they had adopted the new ways, which seemed suspiciously like a productized form of what their Communism enemies were doing. At first, this hybrid between the socialist welfare state and union dominance of production seemed pleasant. Then I saw the expensive rotting council slums, the industry which could not make a working car, the massive bureaucratic shutdowns. When I went to mainland Europe, I was at first pleased with how the state supported students, the elderly and the poor until I saw the cost. Everything was expensive and any change was nearly impossible because of red tape. No, I thought, I prefer the frontier mentality of America where we expect next to nothing from government and pay accordingly. That has its own problems, but the solution is not to go toward this European socialist model.
Humanity is its own worse enemy. The perpetually popular ideas are risk-averse ones that spread that risk to the group and in the process, remove accountability from the decision makers. Trade unions, welfare states, socialism itself and mandatory insurance all fall into this area. The perpetually unpopular ideas are the ones which place the burden on the individual and favor the individuals who do right, because these make people aware of their risk of failure. The fear spreads like a plague. Once it has taken over, people will do anything but blame the cause.
As a result, humanity has come down to a vital decision point in the West. Do we stop the risk-averse madness and start taking responsibility, or do we continue beating the dead horse of these failed policies in the hope that someday they will magically start working? Common sense says one thing, and mass popularity — democracy — says another. One comfort is that either way, these may be our last elections and so the problem will solve itself, one way or another.