Fisking “You Might be a Socialist”

If you believe this “meme” is meaningful, you might be an idiot.
Not everything government does is socialism. Socialism has a meaning and it’s not just “anything funded with tax dollars”. It’s when the means of production are centrally controlled and managed.

Second, just because something has been imposed by law and one, not wanting to spend time in jail, chooses to make the best of it, does not mean that one is a socialist any more than obeying the king’s edicts for fear of his armed men makes one a monarchist or laboring in the Gulag makes one a communist.
Then, there’s the idea that if one likes this particular thing that you call “socialist”, or which even might be socialist (I’ll get to that in a minute), that one must, therefore, accept anything and everything that might be socialism. The poison, as they say, is in the dose. There’s a concept called “hormesis” where things that are normally quite toxic can, in small doses be beneficial. Most medicines, indeed, are metabolic poisons, but in carefully controlled doses they can be used to improve ones health.

On the flip side, things that are generally considered beneficial can become toxic at high doses. Too much water, drunk in too short a period of time, can kill you by disrupting the body’s electrolyte balance. Too much oxygen (as at high pressures) kills. Even something as innocuous and relatively inert as nitrogen can cause narcotic effects and death.

So, even if these things were socialism, and were good things on balance, that does not mean that the next thing would also be good.

Public Roads.

One can make the argument that roads, by enabling the transport of raw materials and products, and enabling commerce in general, are a means of production making central control of them socialistic. Point here. However, if there weren’t public road construction do you really think that businesses would be completely stymied at the prospect of getting raw materials for themselves and their products to market? That the road has value also means that people would be willing to pay for it. Now, one might argue that there would be fewer roads without the public funding of them because of the high external benefits–people other than the specific businesses wanting a road to get access to markets and suppliers can also use it–i.e. people other than those party to the specific transaction benefit from it. There are ways to deal with that, use fees either per trip or subscriber (much easier today with things like the various electronic toll paying gadgets people can mount in their cars). But as things stand now, the roads are there. Indeed, it’s very hard to get to anywhere I want to go–work, shopping, various activities, without using them. So, whether I think the roads should have been funded with public taxes rather than from some private mechanism is not up to me. Others have made that decision and I’m stuck with it. But it doesn’t make me a socialist to make the best of a situation that others have created for me.

Social security.

By the strict definition, Social Security is not socialist. If we go by a somewhat extended definition to include wealth transfer from those producing to those not producing, then it is. However, once again, it’s the law. That law was passed without my consent. I had no say in it. I have no say in its continued existence. So, once again, making the best of a situation that was created without my consent does not make me a socialist.

Public Libraries.

Now this one is simply not socialist. It’s kind of reaching to consider libraries, particularly libraries with large fiction sections to be “means of production.” But even if we go with that, you might consider that historically a lot of private individuals have founded and funded libraries open to the public. Does the name Andrew Carnegie ring any bells? We would have libraries even without public funding. But as things stand now, once again, the decision was made without my consent. So here we are. I didn’t make that choice. That choice was made for me. And once again it doesn’t make me a socialist to make the best of a situation that was created by others.

Public School.

You mean publicly funded political indoctrination centers, because that’s what they’ve become–quite effectively if you think this meme of your is actually meaningful. And once again, I am required to send my children to school. And I’m being forced to pay for those public schools even if I choose to send my children to another school, or to teach them at home. And maybe I would be better able to afford private school, and even kicking into charities to help kids whose parents cannot, if the government weren’t taking half of my paycheck for a host of programs nobody either wants nor needs. But the government is taking that money and, so, I can’t afford to pay for both. So I’m left with public school…that decision having been taken out of my hands by others, which does not make me a socialist.

Summary


So, no, doing these things does not make one a socialist. Even if they are socialist, which is questionable, there is a difference between making the best of the situation you find yourself in and actually approving of that situation.

It’s like you are sitting at the card table and the game is Texas Hold ‘Em. You might prefer Five Card Draw, but you can’t play by those rules, not when the rules in front of you are Texas Hold ‘Em. You play the hand you’re dealt, by the rules on the table. You may try to convince the other players to switch to Five Card Draw, but so long as they continue to insist on Texas Hold ‘Em, you play Texas Hold ‘Em. It’s the only game in town (or other games are worse) and sitting out entirely is simply not an option (and thus it’s not a perfect metaphor).

Sucks, but there you are.

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