Day by Day

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"But it's not FAAAIRRRR," or "Cookie Economics"

The standard hue and cry around which your garden variety socialist will attempt to rally his or her hemp-wearing, birkenstock-clad friends is that a capitalist society is inherently "unfair." The disparity of incomes between the rich and the poor apparently highlights some fundamental flaw in the system, a wrong which needs to be rapidly and forcibly righted through a more "fair" redistribution of wealth from the wealthy elite to the poor downtrodden masses; you know, those souls suffering under the crushing thumb of their capitalist task masters. Or some such.

Let's look at the whole concept of "fair," shall we?

Say, for example, your second grade teacher decides to reward students with cookies for good work. Her plan is simple - equal pay for equal work. If everyone achieves to the required level, everyone gets a cookie. Sounds great, right? Totally fair. Everybody gets the same thing. Now, what if she started giving two cookies to her "favorite" students, the teacher's pets who play her game, while she still only gives one to the others. As a matter of fact, what if she starting NOT giving cookies to the students she didn't like, so she could have more to give to her favorites. That wouldn't be FAIR, would it? Most would agree -- no.

So, now, we return to the original system, where everyone is rewarded with a cookie for a good days schoolwork. But, the way the system is set up, you can only get one cookie per day. Period. So, no matter how much MORE work you do, your reward is…one cookie. Ah, but now let's throw in a little more modern socialism for spice. Because the teacher is so worried about the students' self esteem, and she doesn't want anyone to feel exluded or "disenfranchised," in the noble idea of being "fair" to everyone, she decides to give everyone a cookie NO MATTER WHAT. Every day, every student gets a cookie, all in the interest of fairness.

Pretty soon, Johnny Snotlocker figures out that he's going to get a cookie regardless of whether he does all the homework or not. He can act up in class, pull Sally's pigtails, steal Freddy's pencil...he still get's his cookie.

Soon thereafter, Billy Squaredaway realizes that no matter how well he behaves, no matter how much extra credit he does, how neatly he writes his papers or how helpful he is to the teacher or other students, he also only ever gets one cookie.

What is Johnny's motivation to behave or achieve if he knows that a cookie awaits him at the end of the day, regardless? And what is Billy's motivation to excel if he is going to get the same grade as Johnny, or get the same number of cookies as Johnny?

Let's make this even MORE applicable to modern times. Say Billy does a little tutoring on the side, helps some of the slower students, and they, in turn, give him one of their cookies in thanks. Billy realizes that this is a great deal, and starts building up a pretty good collection of cookies for himself. Soon, however, Johnny Snotlocker finds out about it, and decides he wants more cookies, too. Now, Johnny, not being smart enough or dedicated enough to earn his OWN cookies, figures out a better plan. He complains to the teacher that Billy Squaredaway having so many more cookies than everybody else JUST. ISN'T. FAIR! Billy's got eight or ten cookies, but Johnny and Sally and Suzy all only have one or two. The teacher thinks things over, and realizes that little Johnny has a point. Her goal is to treat everyone equally, to ensure that no one feels either superior or inferior to anyone else. So she marches over and tells Billy that he's got to hand his extra cookies out to the other students who have less. To. Be. Fair.

The light bulb goes on in little Billy's head, and he realizes that, no matter what he does, he's really only ever going to be allowed to keep one cookie. So, he finally knuckles under, waits patiently for the day to end so that he can get his next cookie, and leaves his textbooks to gather dust. Oh but wait, there's more.

For the final blast of realism, the teacher tells Billy that, in order to make sure that ALL the students are getting an extra cookie, Billy has to continue to tutor other students, but give the teacher all the extra cookies he earns so that she can redistribute them more equitably. As a matter of fact, any students who earn extra cookies all have to hand anything in excess of the basic one-cookie amount to the teacher, who, of course, is the only who can determine what is a "fair" distribution.

So, I ask you, gentle reader, which scenario is more fair? Let's try this from a slightly different perspective.

Billy Squaredaway goes to school, gets good grades, gets into a decent college and graduates. Maybe he joins the military or heads straight for corporate America. Perhaps, based on his education, drive, and experience, he develops an innovative distribution system that streamlines a company's processes. He gets a hefty raise, and is soon making $125,000 a year.

Johnny Snotlocker drops out of high school, gets a series of dead end jobs, moves in with his pregnant girlfriend, who also dropped out of school, and they end up living on welfare and food stamps. Most of which are used to buy cigarettes and poptarts. All told, they bring in maybe $27,000 a year.

The socialists will scream that it is Billy's obligation, his duty, to calve off huge chunks of his hard earned money to help out Johnny, who is "poor." After all, since Johnny is a victim of the capitalist process, it only makes sense to penalize the capitalists to help him. It's UNFAIR of Billy to have all that money while Johnny languishes on food stamps, "unable" to earn a living.

I think that it's UNFAIR to expect Billy to be forced to pay his EARNED income to Johnny, just because. I think that it's UNFAIR for Billy to face scorn and derision for having the audacity to actually be successful. I think it's unfair to penalize Billy for being more successful by taking more in taxes to support Johnny each time Billy's wages increase.

I think it's UNFAIR of Johnny to expect, even demand that he be supported, as if it was some right. He had many of the same opportunities as Billy. He made different choices.

What the socialists always seem to miss is that the more disincentives we give the Billys of the world to be prosperous, the less money they will have to pour back into the economy. The more we penalize our highest wage earners and the more we demand they pay into government social programs, the less they will spend on consumer goods, the production of which keeps so many people emplolyed. Make it too expensive for a business to operate due to heavy taxes to support things like welfare and unemployment, the more jobs are lost as the company moves offshore.

You actually create more unemployment be insisting on this bastardized forms of "fairness." We are the strongest, healthiest, most advanced country on the planet. We got that way by encouraging innovation, achievement, excellence and rewards for good performance. Not by the levying of crushing taxes which make rich people into poor people, and the poor people into slaves of the state.

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