Editor’s Note: This week, Michele Gabriel looks at the myth of Socialism’s Failure. In spite of the opinions of some conservatives, and even conservative professors, it is not a flop.
‘An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all). After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that.’
First, let me point out that this example represents communism more than socialism, but that isn’t my issue. My issue is the flawed assumption that everyone on the low end of the grades got poor grades for one reason and only one reason – they’re lazy and didn’t study. It assumes a level playing field. It assumes that all of these kids have the same access to the same resources.
Applying it to society is preposterous. Here’s a more accurate description of how things work in our society. All these kids attend class. Some attend class in a wealthy rural neighborhood with very well paid teachers, small class sizes, internet access, access to tutors, and all of the books and school supplies necessary to help them be successful. Some attend a class in a poor urban setting where the teachers don’t even have degrees because the school can’t afford to pay for teachers. If they have books at all, they’re sharing them with their neighbor. They are likely operating on empty bellies. Some of them don’t have power, heat or adequate housing. Not only do they not have access to tutors, they likely don’t have access to parents since they’re working two jobs just to survive.
Those with all the opportunity and advantages are the students getting the “As” in this analogy. They’re getting rewarded by going on to higher education which will prepare them for more real-world opportunities. Those with very little opportunity, even when they’re doing the very best, will only get that higher education if they’re noticed and receive financial assistance in some form – that assumes someone helped them understand the college admission process and timelines. No matter how well they do academically, they’re the “Fs” in the analogy. The people I am trying to reach with this post fall somewhere between these two extremes. You’re the “Bs” and “Cs”. That isn’t to say many of you weren’t straight A students. I’m just grouping people to show how the system works. You get some opportunities. Win some, lose some. You’d like more resources to be an “A”, and you’re convinced you’d have those resources if some of your resources weren’t given to the “D” and “F” students because their internet, housing (Section 8, HUD), food (SNAP), etc get paid for with your tax dollars. Never mind that the “A” people have significantly more than both you and the “D” and “F” students.
Now, here’s the other flaw….an A is really the best you can do in a class. There is a CAP on how well you’re ever going to do regardless of your resources. In that scenario, you’d think the resources would then trickle down to you and to the “D” and “F” kids. The A kids no longer need them. They’ve achieved the ultimate success. Except in society, there is no cap. We’ve created a capitalism that not only rewards the A students, but allows them to amass resources beyond the A.
The likelihood of a “B” or “C” student becoming an “A” student is fair. Hard work, creative thinking, networking, or the right academic path can all be added to their arsenal of resources and put them in a position to become an “A”. On occasion this can happen with a “D” or “F”, but it is far less likely and requires a lot more work to get to the same place.
The best way for anyone who isn’t “A” to gain ground is to get more resources. This analogy assumes that all Democrats / Liberals in this country want to average the grades so no one is an “A” and no one is an “F”. That is not what anyone is looking to do. We’re not asking to average the end result, we’re asking that resources be provided more fairly. Instead we continue to bestow more and more rewards on the “A” people at the expense of the “D” and “F” people. The gap widens over time. When you’re a “B” or a “C” there are two ways to become an “A”, step on the bottom or pull from the top. Our current situation has everyone stepping on the bottom, making it even more difficult for those people to climb out. Leveling the playing field is the only way to determine the real ability of someone to get an “A”.
In order to reduce the need for safety net programs, we need to reduce the number of those who need the programs. We need to bring the entire average up. Even with all the As (the 1%), the average grade is a D. We’d like to get the average to a high C or a B. The way to do that is by ensuring that the students on the low end have the appropriate resources to do better. It isn’t going to happen overnight, regardless of approach. “F” students don’t suddenly start getting “As”.
Some will argue the “lazy” argument and, admittedly, some people will continue on in “F” status regardless of how many resources they are given to do better. But a great majority of the people who need support want to do better. They need the tools to help them get there. Solving healthcare, education, and housing issues in this country would go a long way in reducing the need for governmental support programs. That starts with the “A” students (corporate leaders and the very wealthy) doing their part. Offering full-time employment with a living wage, health care benefits, and paid time off rather than limiting hours to 30 to avoid those costs would be a great start. Paying their fair share of taxes to fund education and level out the foundation for our youth would be a huge game changer.
In the short term, the reliance on social programs would not change, but over time, when the children of today’s “D” and “F” students get to class, they’ll be armed with the appropriate resources to support themselves. They’ll always be “A” people with their penthouse apartments and luxury vacations. They’ll always be “F” students who go through life not knowing where their next dollar will come from. The goal shouldn’t be to average that out. The goal should be to make sure everyone has access to the basic resources to give them the opportunity to reap the rewards. Right now we’re only rewarding the people who are already “As”. The assumption in the analogy is that the “A” students are working harder than everyone else. In society, your grade is not always indicative of your effort. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, you never going to be more than an “F” because you don’t have the right books.
The above analogy is trying to convince the “B” and “C” students that they, as “As”, will collapse if they don’t get unending rewards. It is pitting the “B” and “C” people against the “D” and “F” people rather than focus on the very real fact that the “A” people are blaming the people they’re stepping on for being stepped on.
If this analogy was based in reality, it would make sense to wonder why we’re blaming the kids with “Fs” for being “Fs” when we gave them no tools to do any better. The best way to improve the overall average, is to make sure everyone has the right resources to be successful.