Response to a Socialist
I first of all have to begin this letter with an acknowledgement of your impressive ability to think critically. It is an attribute that has lent itself well to your pursuit of improving the world around you, as well as helping you to avoid falling for the canned responses of your opposition, which might consist of such lazy explanations as "because that's the way it's always been."
However, despite the fact that your questions have certainly given me pause for consideration, I have to say that in the end, I am less discomfited by your retorts than I am discouraged to see that while your questions do much to break the assumptions of others, it would seem that they leave your own assumptions peacefully removed from the battlefront, where they are free to revel in all the glory of their hypothetical superiority. "Critical thinking" it would seem, is much like having the ability to dismantle a motor, minus the ability to repair or replace it.
And I know that you are arguing for the chance to let your ideas prove themselves in the real world, but history would seem to show that the real world has fought hard to divest itself of such atrocities. Which is, undoubtedly, what your ideas have proven themselves to be throughout the ages, best illustrated to us perhaps, in the twentieth century by such impressive characters as Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.
"Nonsense!" You say. "Socialism (and that IS what you present) is communal virtue!"
Sure. I would simply invite you to consider the words of Vladimir Lenin: "Communism is the goal of Socialism." And the history books are filled with examples of what THAT looks like.
Regardless, it is no rebuttal to simply point to the excrement beneath the frosting. I must explain how the second transforms into the former, and in so doing, offer defense for the stubbornness of choosing to stand where I do. With that in mind, I should like to begin by presenting what I hope is an accurate representation of your ideas.
Help the Unfortunate
In our correspondence, you have given much to the concepts of helping the less-fortunate to find a foothold in society and in the marketplace. The reforms you support are strongly aligned with this theme, and on the surface, speak to the pitfalls of such inequalities. And pitfalls there are- there is no debate there.
You don't, again- on the the surface, assert any inherent evil in the existence of inequality outright, but I would submit that your not-so-subtle suggestions that inequality could well be the culprit of societal complacency, goes a long way towards a vilification of the well-to-do. When faced with the faces of starving children, how could one not be moved towards action? Which is an important question, because when the product of such apathy is death by starvation, are not the perpetrators of inaction complicit in some way?
In this way, inequality becomes intrinsically evil. And though it might interest you that while I do not disagree with the responsibility to care for the poor, I will defend to the death, your right to ignore them. Where we draw our lines, you and I, are between individual and societal responsibility. Where you see the sovereignty of the needs of the poor, I see the sovereignty of the individual.
Charity vs Tax
But then you would ask that when the poverty of the nation becomes a societal burden, should not the whole of society respond with equal responsibility? That's a fair enough question, to be sure. But again, history would seem to illustrate that there are many communal forces in society that have and will step to the plate, without being drafted by the state.
"But that's not enough!" You might say.
And you would be right. But here's the problem: while the needs of the poor have always and will continue to far exceed the capacity of charities, it would be a poor repair indeed, whose "solution" wrought greater misery than the problem that it sought to address. Curing poverty by means of enforced equality would be a lot like attempting to save the drowning victim by sinking one's boat.
Even if you are the giving type, there is a big difference between you giving what is yours, and the state giving what is yours. It is a truth of comparatively little consequence that charity by compulsion is no charity at all, but what is far more important than that, are not the virtues lost to socialism, but the evils introduced thereby.
A "Level" Playing Field
In an effort to demonstrate that Equal Opportunity is not the reality of the American landscape, you did not cite our laws, which legally guarantee such consideration. And of course you gave no nod to Capitalism and a (relatively) free market, despite those very systems having effected the greatest exodus from poverty since the dawn of man. But instead you made an appeal for the recognition of unique external life challenges for every person. Because one might grow up in an encouraging environment, you argued, the inequality between them and the child not so-encouraged, could result in a disparity in ultimate life success. Of course, this is not to be argued, but as I asked before, and will ask again here: "In what version of non-reality do you imagine a scenario where people are not faced with unique and individual external challenges?"
The most obvious solution for children beleaguered by unencouraging parents is to remove the source of their discouragement: their parents!
In addressing the source of inequality, there are two basic origins of imbalance: internal and external inputs. External inputs, like wealth and environment, are events or circumstances not subject to the will of the individual, but which can still impact the formation thereof. Internal inputs, as their name would indicate, are events brought forth from within the psyche of an individual, and account for a majority of the responses that a person gives to the external stimulus. The patterns revealed by such actions are often described by the title of "character."
As gracious as you are to allow for the existence of individual character, Axel, your belief in the virtue of a universal experience of external inputs betrays a deeply socialist ideology. If equality is to be realized, you have argued, any imbalance of experience must be removed from the equation. It is the proverbial Utopian existence of socialism. At its most innocent, this would entail something like "giving everyone a chance to bat," but taken to its more practiced and pernicious extreme, this same ambition manifests itself in things like the elimination of private property. It is a concern for the latter that I question your loyalty to such ideas. Equality sheds itself of every virtue when its realization requires the elimination of diversity.
The most recent of your proposed reforms, cited the misfortune that some have had to endure as a product of troubled childhoods. These unfortunate life circumstances, which for the sake of argument, you described as a sort of "programming," if reversed, could ostensibly provide an avenue through which a person could also be liberated from the stresses of having had to always "watch their back."
Certainly this is a noble goal, but there is a big difference between the individual experiences of growth which you have arbitrarily labelled as "programming," and the actual predetermined course of exposure therapy you describe, which is designed to produce a consistent psychological outcome of a general populace. Whatever describes the probabilities of the first, the second is engineered, making it by definition, a form of programming. The primary danger of programming, of course, are the anomalies- what we call "bugs." Bugs defy expectation, are uncomfortable to endure, and because of this, have a low life expectancy.
And by "bugs," I of course mean actual people.
Even if a government attempts to limit its programming to a goal of something as innocent-sounding as "damage control," it is at the end of the day, still taking a list of personality attributes (like the suspicion inspired by a threatening environment) and declaring those traits obsolete. If all external inputs are equal, then so should all internal outputs be just as predictable. Anyone who might continue to harbor the unpleasantness of obsolete behaviors would quickly establish themselves as a "bug" of the system, and find themselves persona-non-grata.
Of course, there is but one way to guarantee a universal experience of external circumstances, and that is to flatten the landscape in every direction.
Only a sterilized society (by every sense of the word) can be relieved of risk. Just as the adolescent graduates from the home, the subjects of a socialist regime must reverse this development when unshouldering their responsibilities to the state. Self-defense, education of their young, etc... These burdens are taken back in exchange for obedience. The family unit is dispersed, with the government as parent, and every citizen as its child.
And yes, while it is the practice of parents to design the growth of their children, that is a responsibility, on a familial level, entrusted to them by virtue of the immaturity of their charges. Children, until properly raised, are not capable of survival, much less constructive decision-making. Unlike such children, however, the subjects of a government are frequently capable of far greater accomplishments without the "parental" oversight of bureaucracy.
"Parenting of the state," is perhaps the best description of socialism, as it is a process predicated on the assumption that its subjects cannot be trusted to decide what's best for themselves. At the epicenter of every socialist movement, there is a group of people so highly esteemed of themselves, that they feel duty-bound to liberate their fellow countrymen from the burden of independent thinking.
In regards to the inequality of life circumstances, let's consider a case-study: Because I lost my eye to a childhood accident, my life is vastly different than yours. I hope that you would not campaign to have your own removed just to even the odds, but where you would prescribe a childhood devoid of traumatic accidents, nature would beg you to recognize the futility of such attempted boundaries. In the end, you cannot withhold adversity- you can only dispense with it evenly. As any gardener can tell you, the only way to have equality throughout your entire lawn, is to cut every blade of grass down to a single size.
"But no!" You say. "I want everyone to be lifted up!"
Sure. Without laboring ourselves with the question of who will be doing the lifting, let us suspend reality long enough to pretend that a value-added tax (VAT) could finance national equality on any level of any kind.
Even without getting tangled up in how to finance such a universal cure for hardship, the mere concept alone is ludicrous to imagine. One pictures a collective sanctuary from danger. A "safe space," you might call it. Which by the language itself, betrays the failings of the entire enterprise, right from the start- because there will ALWAYS be someone on the 'outside' of whatever bubble that is created, no matter how inclusive its design.
Regardless, whether fueled by a universal basic income or enforced by federal mandate, this vision for what you would allow to be described as a state of "equal opportunity," could finally qualify American society for consideration as something other-than-inherently-damaging.
There are two problems here, and they are as follows:
1) A mis-diagnosis of the problem.
...and as is virtually guaranteed by such mistakes,
2) An application of the wrong solution.
Where the second point is evidenced, is by what happens when the "remedy" is applied to the wound. It shouldn't require the trial of failure to see that burn ointment is not the appropriate response for a pulled muscle, but it will at least reveal what the problem isn't. In much the same way, we can observe the futility of "safe spaces" to reduce violence, and the impotence of "gun-free" zones to stop shootings and determine that our problem is not that we lack enough rules or laws. Were that the case, then as has been continuously attempted, more of the same would clean the whole mess up, not make it worse.
Similarly, it takes little imagination to see the futility of fostering maturity by implementing a program for the universal coddling of the American populace. A glance at the greatest figures of history will reveal how essential it is for growth, that hardship be endured.
As regards the proper diagnosis of the original problem, the correction is quite simple. As I've written before, "'income inequality' has but two origins: a tyrannical ruling class, or the existence of an entrepreneurial demographic." For those troubled by the first, a revolution of sorts is in order, but for those troubled by the second event, they need but to remove their head from their ass. Envy does not beget beauty, and no amount of coveting your neighbor's goods will produce a single penny in your pocket.
If it's the pockets of the poor that are the concern, however, there are better ways to help them than by forcing open your neighbor's wallet. There is a great deal to be said for working to combat poverty, but those who are enlisted in such a struggle by means of coercion, will forever be looking to recoup whatever they've lost to the fight. What serves the poor is not a henchman willing to shake down all passers-by, but a fellow man who actually cares. As always, inspiration is the better recruitment for any cause, but it is unfortunately the more elusive option. While laws have many times preceded their own acceptance, no law in the history of mankind, has itself, changed a single heart.
At the end of the day, policy is a product of culture- not the other way around.
If you truly wish to help the poor and avoid burning down your country in the process, I strongly encourage you to simply lead by example, and divest yourself of the messianic image of Mr. Yang.
Thanks for the conversation, and I applaud your desire to help. Good luck and don't get dead.