Dennis Prager spoke at the University of Wyoming this past week, despite student protests. He spends 25 minutes addressing the protests; he had also had a protester on his radio program. The accusations were both absurd and unfounded. For example, he was accused of being anti-Semitic. Um, he’s Jewish, and has written books on Judaism and anti-Semitism.
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He gets to his topic, “Why Socialism Makes People Selfish,” at about 25 minutes into an hour-long speech plus Q&A. I did a transcript of that beginning 10-minute segment on the topic. He says things that I’ve said.
So, the topic was “Socialism Makes You Selfish.” I didn’t forget the title. According to all sorts of opinion polls, you, your generation—half of you believe in socialism and not capitalism. So, let me respond to a few things, the moral and the economic. I’ll just begin with the economic.
The only thing that has ever raised large numbers of people from abject poverty is capitalism. Nothing else in the history of humanity has raised large numbers of people from abject poverty. You would think that would matter to people who care about people living in abject poverty. But they don’t. That’s the interesting thing. People on the left care about equality, not prosperity.
It’s a different moral world. Just understand that. They live in a different moral world. And clarity is our best friend. They don’t care about lifting large numbers of people from abject poverty; they care about the inequality in the Western world.
But inequality only bothers people who are bothered by inequality. That’s a tautology, obviously. In other words, only if you resent the fact that some people make more than others do you resent inequality. Inequality doesn’t bother me.
Mr. Prager then tells a story about being raised middle middle class, related to cars. The man next door bought a Cadillac every year; he was clearly much richer than the Oldsmobile-buying Prager family. They were happy for Mr. Klein. His wealth in no way harmed them.
Then he gives other comparisons and finishes his first main point:
Shortstops make more than surgeons. Is that fair? No. In some utopian world it isn’t fair, because surgeons save more lives than shortstops. OK, that’s just a fact. But it doesn’t matter. In a free society shortstops will make more than teachers and surgeons and nurses, and all people doing sweet and good things. That’s just the way it is. And it’s OK. Why would it bother me? If they make their money legally and ethically, why do I care?
I don’t care. They care. Because they covet. They resent the fact that some people have more than others.
I’ve been pointing this out as well—it’s because they covet. I wrote about that here and here, and more recently here. Prager continues:
Capitalism, not socialism, has taken people out of poverty. Capitalism also has a lot of inequality, because all liberty will have inequality. If you develop an iPhone, you make a lot of money. That’s just the way it is. And everybody likes using some sort of smart phone. That’s good. It’s good for everybody.
Why does it hurt me if some guy has billions of dollars? It doesn’t hurt me in any way. It helps me, because I am more productive, thanks to what that person has developed.
Socialism spends the money that capitalism creates. That is what you need to understand. Socialism does not produce wealth. Only capitalism produces wealth.
And the only moral question is not, “Why is there poverty?” The only moral question is, “Why is there wealth?” Poverty is the norm. Wealth is the aberration. All of the world was impoverished. But capitalism saved them from it.
This is also something I’ve written about. The economic section of the Spherical Model defines wealth as the accumulation of the results of labor.” Why shouldn’t someone who labors and accumulates the results be able to choose how to spend it?
Then Mr. Prager begins his second main point, the other moral argument:
Socialism and all of the doctrines of the left make people, generally speaking, more selfish and in many other ways morally worse than they were before.
Let me give you the biggest single example. Let me read to you a statistic. Americans give more charity per capita per income than any other people in the world. OK? Let me read to you.
This is the Comparative Non-profit Sector Project at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society[i]. It compiled a ranking of private philanthropy in 36 countries from 1995 to 2002. Based on giving alone, the United States comes first. Giving 1.85% of GDP, followed by Israel at 1.34%.
By the way, isn’t it interesting that the two most hated countries in the world are the two most generous countries in the world? Isn’t that fascinating? It shows you how sick anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism are. I have that in my book… my book on anti-Semitism has a whole chapter on anti-Americanism.
Next, one fact stands out. This is Forbes, December 26, 2008. “Among developed nations, those with higher taxes and bigger social safety nets tend to have lower rates of giving.” You hear that? The countries with higher taxes and bigger social safety nets produce cheaper people. Produce less generous human beings. I’ll explain why in a moment.
In charitable giving as a percentage of GDP, nations with cradle-to-grave welfare systems rank far down the Johns Hopkins list. Sweden 18th. France 21st, Germany 32nd. Why? Here’s the answer. In American history—before socialism caught on—in American history, this was the belief: I have to first take care of me; then I have to take care of my family; then I have to take care of my community; and then I have to take care of my whole society. That was the belief.
Socialism kills all four. The state will take care of me; the state will take care of my family; the state will take care of my community; the state will take care of my society.
Which produces finer people? It’s so obvious that it is indeed a rhetorical question. If you think that you’re morally obligated to take care of people, you are a better person than the person who thinks, “The state will take care of my mom; why do I have to?” And that’s the way they think in much of Europe and in all of these other cradle-to-grave welfare places. Indeed, I don’t have to take care of me.
Today, a lot of your generation—indeed, I shouldn’t say your generation, ten years older than you—still live with their parents, playing video games in the basement. “Mom and Dad will take care of me, and if they don’t, the government will. The rich will take care of me.” And this is considered a moral idea. Well, it obviously isn’t.
There’s nothing more beautiful than taking care of yourself, and taking care of your family and community.
And a minute later he adds,
As government gets bigger, we get smaller.
He means small as in small-minded, small as opposed to great or generous.
There’s a lot we know about socialism. It has been tried elsewhere (like Denmark or Venezuela), so we can extrapolate the outcomes. We would be less well off by every measure: less freedom, less prosperity, less civilization.
Yet the pro-socialists are gaining purchase. Our next presidential race will probably include a Democrat who gladly proclaims he’s a socialist, along the lines of Bernie Sanders. They use the appeal of the argument, “It’s unfair that there’s inequality.” They promote coveting.
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This can be countered by education—although I don’t think we can expect our schools and universities to provide it, since they’ve been failing to teach principles of freedom, prosperity, and civilization for many decades now. My Spherical Model project is an attempt to help educate.
But the trend must also must be countered with better morality—standing up for real morality, and calling out fake morality such as unfair income distribution.
Better moral teachings are going to require adherence to the outcomes of the Ten Commandments, honoring God, life, family, truth, and property. That last one relates both to “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not covet”—both of which are sins socialism is based on.
Capitalism, on the other hand, is always moral. I wrote about that in a four-part piece called "Anything Evil about Capitalism?: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, in the first month of this blog, back in 2011. And I also wrote about it here and here.