It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant, it’s that they know so much that isn’t true.”
On 2 February Jesse Myerson published an article on the Salon site titled “Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism)”. Mr. Myerson has been called a ‘lefty millennial’ and wrote a similar article for Rolling Stone on 3 January. The seven ‘misconceptions’ in his article aren’t so much universal misunderstandings as straw men Mr. Myerson sets up to advance his argument.
1. Only communist economies rely on state violence.
Mr. Meyerson equates rule-of-law with state violence against the individual. He also seems to think that property owners came into possession of their holdings through some magical means rather than working for them. He then defeats his own argument by advocating state violence against property owners.
2. Capitalist economies are based on free exchange.
The argument here is two-fold: the ‘market’ controls the individual, and the origins of capitalism are rooted in the dispossession of the British peasant. The first argument is true to the extent that people require certain necessities to live, and must obtain them through some sort of trade. On the other hand, so what? Trading is a form of social interaction, and humans are social animals. The only people who are provided for without effort on their part are invalids and children. As Mr. Meyerson is a Progressive, we know which category he falls into.
Capitalism did not start in Industrial Revolution England, and the peasants by definition didn’t own the land Mr. Meyerson alleges was seized. Capitalism has been around ever since the first person figured out that if they became the best hunter or gatherer or flint knapper, they could trade that skill for other items they might need or want.
The very existence of the article defeats his argument. I don’t suppose Salon held a gun to his head to produce the article (free choice), and I imagine he was paid (market).
3. Communism killed 110 million people for resisting dispossession.
This is a bit of a red herring. Mr. Meyerson acknowledges that tens of millions died under Communist rule (and continue to do so to this day), but that the deaths don’t really count, because many of those killed were themselves Communist. Oh, OK. That does make a difference. He goes on to state that ‘ Famine is not a uniquely “left-wing” problem.’ I’ve never heard anyone say that it is, although I’m hard-pressed to think of a capitalistic society in which famine was wide-spread.
Contrary to the articles assertion that the numbers are ‘made up’, it’s historical fact that more people have died under Communism than any other form of government.
4. Capitalist governments don’t commit human rights atrocities.
I’ve never heard anyone make this claim, and Mr. Meyerson trots out the genocide of First Nations peoples and slavery to counter this ‘argument’. No sane person denies that these atrocities occurred, but most people not suffering from a massive case of white guilt would acknowledge that what was true in the past is no longer so. If one looks at the American social landscape of even 50 years ago, it’s apparent that we’ve come a long way in a very short period of time, and done so in a relatively bloodless manner. In the Progressive mind, though, it’s always 1930.
5. 21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors.
Here we get to the crux of the modern Communist’s argument: the belief that somehow modern Communism would be a kinder, gentler version of previous incarnations. Mr. Meyerson and his fellow travelers think that somehow they are smarter than everyone who’s tried before. He also argues that people would be more sharing, altruistic, and generally better if it weren’t for that darn evil capitalistic system we’re burdened with.
This attitude is the result of blind ignorance with hubris. Humans are no different than any other life form in that we’re inherently selfish. Any organism is going to take care of itself first, and if there are resources left over, then others. This isn’t some perversion of a fantasy ‘better nature’, it’s natural law. The inability or unwillingness to grasp this most basic fact is at the core of the Statist inability to understand the world.
Every time some iteration of Communism has been tried, its failed. Every. Single. Time. Statists brush this inconvenient truth aside with some variation of ‘Well, they just didn’t do it right.’ Humans have been experimenting with collective government for thousands of years, and it hasn’t worked yet. Even small children learn from their mistakes; not so, apparently, Progressives.
6. Communism fosters uniformity.
Mr. Meyerson argues that Communism fosters diversity, apparently through artistic pursuit. However, everything he advocates is entirely possible in a capitalistic society, and at a much higher standard of living. Communism does foster uniformity: with the exception of the small minority running the State (and I’m sure Mr. Meyerson views himself in that minority), everyone is uniformly miserable. I’ve talked to people who were residents of the Eastern bloc prior to 1991, and exactly none of them have extolled the freedom available under Communism. In fact, to a person, they left at the earliest available opportunity.
7. Capitalism fosters individuality.
Using the examples of cookie-cutter subdivisions and office cubicles, Mr. Meyerson maintains that capitalism stresses uniformity over individualism. He also states that capitalism discourages individual entrepreneurship, which is the exact opposite of what occurs. Most of the job creation in this country comes about because people follow their dreams and engage in new endeavors. I’ve had some side project going for most of my adult life, and now make a living from two companies that didn’t exist two years ago.
I can grow the current companies, start new ones, or do something completely different. All this is possible because of capitalism, not despite it. The biggest obstacle I face is people like Mr. Meyerson pushing the idea that being a taker is somehow more valuable than being a producer, and then enacting laws that enable this mindset.
I’ll make a deal with you, Jesse. I’ll gladly provide you with a one-way ticket to the Communist country of your choice. If you stay five years, I’ll pay for your trip back to the US. Then you can tell us all how great Communism is.
A TV Commercial I’d Like to See
INT Coffee Shop. Two twenty-somethings at a table, one with a laptop open (probably a Mac).
JESSICA: Something wrong, Brad?
BRAD: Well, I turn 27 in a few months, and I have to buy my own health insurance. But all these plans are kind of pricey, and include a lot of things I don’t need. I mean, I’m never going to get a mammogram, or need maternity leave.
JESSICA: That may be true, but you can’t be turned down for insurance, and you’re not tied to a job just for the health benefits.
BRAD: But even on the most expensive plans, I’ll be out thousands of dollars before the insurance coverage starts. I looked at plans last year, and they were more affordable with features I could tailor to my needs.
JESSICA: Oh, those were probably ‘junk’ insurance plans, and they aren’t allowed under the Affordable Care Act. The plans you can get now are much better for you. President Obama fought hard so you would have more accessible, affordable health care.
BRAD: I don’t know. I mean, I’m young, in good shape, and don’t have any medical issues. Maybe I won’t buy insurance.
JESSICA (concerned look): Now Brad, you have to have health insurance. It’s the law. And think of the peace of mind you’ll have.
MALE VOICE OVER: Remember, you have to have a government-approved health plan by March 31st. It’s the law, and you voted for it.
It’s been snowing steadily since mid-morning, and looks to go through the night and well into tomorrow. We only get snows like this about every three to four years; certainly nothing like most of the country experiences every winter. Fortunately I could do all my work from the office today.
Interestingly, the only weather site that correctly predicted snow today was Weather Underground (link on right under Websites), a site I used professionally when I worked as an energy analyst. All other prognosticators, including the local TV stations, called for snow Friday night.