Disclaimer: I realize this might offend people, so if you think capitalism is bad, don’t read it. It’s my opinion, however biased or wrong it may be. It’s not god’s word, it’s not writen on stone tablets, and I might not agree with it myself, in the future. It’s just one way of looking at it.
I’ve seen much solidarity around the office lately, when Greece came up as a conversation filler. It reminds me of an old joke that used to be around when Germany was united – about people voting yes for unification and disagreeing with it when they were told the cost for that unification would come out of their own pocket. I mean, change the system, by all means, just don’t touch my money. Facebook and social media is a good example for this, especially if it’s used as an excuse for not doing anything. I mean, I did “like” that post, right? I did my share.
You know where socialism begins? I have a wee theory here, one that’s sort of confirmed over and over again. Socialism doesn’t begin with the poor and it certainly doesn’t come from the rich – it starts from the middle class. They’re the ones demanding it from day one. And yes, it comes from those employed by others. It’s also a lesson in it, I think. Living in poverty is a bad thing, I know, but it also makes one vulnerable and fearful – a good argument against sticking your head above the crowd, since everybody knows you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Those in the upper echelon of wealth can provide some good social subsidies, they can help the poor with education, jobs and health care, if they choose to – and they have, more than once. It’s not like they don’t want to be called philantropists, it’s their ego on the line. But the poor won’t organize for fear of losing more than they can afford and the rich obviously won’t give them that power because they know it can force them to give more than they are willing. Enter the middle class, stage left.
I began this little theory a decade ago, while working on a paper about a certain corporation that shall remain nameless, and since then it evolved into something else. The middle class is a rather vague term for it, so I’ll try to keep it simple. There’s two kinds of people in it – people that work for themselves and people that work for others. It’s a simple definition and it does the job, since the mentality needed for each category is quite different. For instance, the people who work for themselves are self employed, business owners, service providers and the like – they are independent and work to increase their own wealth. The people who work for others by choice, setting aside those who are willing to try their own luck but can’t at this point for various reasons, are not independent. They are educated, they have the knowledge, but they seek safety and thus are willing to trade job security and stability for independence. These people are those who aren’t willing to try, even if it could get them a better life, because they fear failure and avoid risk. This particular group is the one that starts it all.
I know a thing or two about unions, actually. It started as a good thing then changed into something else, because why not. You see, it’s one thing to demand for improved working conditions and better pay for the workers and compromise with their employer, that’s the right way to do it. But is it ethical to threaten the employer into not firing those who don’t work or are toxic to the workplace simply because they’re union members? I’ve seen good people fired and idiots kept, this way. Power corrupts. It started with the unions and spread everywhere, like a plague. Being good at your job isn’t a guarantee for keeping your job anymore. Being good at something won’t get you a job, anymore. There are rules, regulations, all sort of things that don’t reward good behavior or competence, all in the name of special circumstances. It won’t matter if a woman is brighter than any two people in a certain workplace, she won’t get the job because in a social setting, the employer can’t fire somebody for underperforming and hire her. Everybody has to have a job. They won’t fire an old man for doing a crappy job, if they have few older men working there – they could be sued for age discrimination. They won’t fire a gay man for doing a crappy job, that’s against the law. They have been sued for not hiring a woman on a job requiring heavy lifting. The system is designed to protect even if there’s no ethical point in there.
Obiously the employer can rig the system, just like the employee can – and they do it too. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, for either party involved. It’s not right, it’s not moral and it certainly isn’t ethical. But you know who hurts more? No, it’s not the rich, they can afford to hire the best people at rigging the system and the best lawyers. It’s the small business owners, who rightly feel they’re screwed by everybody, by the government issuing idiotic laws and by the employees who blackmail them. They can’t afford the best lawyers or the best game riggers, they either close up shop or hit back hard. But why is all this happening? Why is socialism demanded by the middle class employees? Well, here’s my little theory – it’s all psychology. It’s a good way to show a bad mechanism, how power corrupts.
There’s no reason to believe those who have power aren’t affected by personal relations, beliefs or biases, so the moment the middle class realized they have power over their employers, they started abusing it for personal gain. Their demands might have ignored reality, sometimes, by asking for better wages when their employer was on the brink of collapse, by demanding unprofitable departments be kept for social reasons, like they’ve done in Eastern Europe when communism collapsed. They might have demanded many little things without regard to economics or productivity, because it improves things on the short term. That’s the problem actually, our education teaches us to cope, not to plan. Economics doesn’t work that way, things can fail even if every worker gives 110%. Performance is no guarantee for success. I’ve seen it close up, I’ve been there once or twice. It won’t matter. Socialism teaches entitlement. Everybody has the right to survive, I’ll grant you that, but it can’t guarantee survival. That’s life for you.
In truth, every little thing adds up and as soon as politics gets involved, it’s a self sustaining circle of failure. You see, politicians want power – and gaming the system for votes is the fast way to get it. Sure, it’s a good thing to provide for those who can’t find work, but once that’s done what’s the next step? How is the next politician to get his slice of power? Well, here’s the thing – more welfare. Sooner or later, performance won’t matter, competence won’t matter – because you can’t back out of the system. You can’t remove parts of welfare without public uproar. You can’t take back what you’ve given out, not unless you care about losing your power as a politician. You rely on votes. You expand the vote base, you expand it to include more and more people without concern for economics. The politician coming after you will do the same. And the next one. And the next one. Now, you have two sides – the welfare recipients and the money generators and they hate each other. Now what?
I don’t like it. It leads to nothing good. There’s a psychological reason for it, it’s called reversed class bias. People believe their wealth is part of their identity, most of them anyway. In that regard, having less money than others means they’re somehow less valuable then them, so a cognitive defense mechanism suddenly springs into action – they aren’t worth less but believe instead that wealth is a direct consequences of social class inclusion, hence in the name of equality wealth should be redistributed to lesser classes. And guess what – do you think they ask to be equal to Bill Gates or Warren Buffett in terms of work hours or job opportunities? No, they ask for money, for less difference between the poor and the rich. They think they have the right to have more, because the gap between the wealth levels is so big. Tax the rich, give to the poor. Serves them right, actually, because everybody knows the rich print money. If they somehow got themselves reclassified into the upper class, they’d be rich themselves.
You don’t think it’s true? Then why the huge interest in living in “better” neighbourhoods? Why the need to have a bigger house, a bigger car or clothes from “exclusive” brands? You think having a big house costs you nothing? They don’t care about that. They want to look like “upper class”. They want to join the upper class, only they want the rich to pay for it. That’s the whole point. I’m not rich. I’ve never been rich. But I’d rather grow my money than spend them on crap I don’t need just to look like I belong to some arbitrary group. That’s my problem, though.
You know the saying “teach a man to fish and he’ll feed himself a lifetime”? Socialists don’t like it. As for me, I’d rather want my kid to be able to take his chances and risk a little in a business venture without having so many financial consequences to haunt him for the rest of his life than to hand him a million euro and have him spend every last cent of that within 2 years. Easy come, easy go – that’s why people used to a low income get hit so hard after winning the lottery. Especially if they believe the key to higher status is how much one spends. They’ll lose it all in under 5 years, because they think having money means they have to change their lifestyle. I wonder why Bill Gates always wears those sweaters and why Buffett loves fast food, if that’s true. I keep wondering, though that won’t matter, like ever…