Anonymous said: I'm often told that people would be lazy if people are guaranteed free food and water in a Socialist type of society. What would you have to say about that?
I think it’s a reversal of the question: How many lazy capitalists like hedge-fund managers contribute nothing to the collective good of society while fleecing the rest of us of shelter, food, and water? There is something deeply troubling about the idea that in order to qualify my existence on this planet I must prove my worth by producing commodities, that somehow if I don’t I should not eat. Socialists are not lazy. We want to control the fruits of our labor, including the food we produce for the capitalist class.
Not to mention that humanity evolved complex societies purely by having to work less for food and shelter and not more. The ability to produce surpluses of food through agriculture with a smaller work force meant more free time for humans to explore other areas of interest, like astronomy, architecture, art, etc. The idea that humans need to “prove” their worth through production of commodities or else are likely to grow “lazy” has no definitive support. There’s also a big problem with making everything about production and profit: it means that if things are not profitable, we hit an inevitable wall in the current system, because humanity has very little reason outside of self interest to solve problems which do not directly yield profit (in a profit based system, specifically), and even have deterrents to do so. Let’s say you want to find a cure for a disease, but the cure wouldn’t provide you with profit, or even a living wage for you to carry on your research. Unless someone with a lot of money is willing to fund your research without asking for anything but results in return, it isn’t realistic to dedicate your efforts to it.
However you may feel about Bill Gates, he made a really obvious and powerful point recently when discussing the issues of malaria around the world:
“The malaria vaccine in humanist terms is the biggest need, but it gets virtually no funding. If you are working on male baldness or other things you get an order of magnitude more research funding because of the voice in the marketplace than something like malaria.”
Helping the poor, in the short term, is not profitable. Anyone who can think in long term understands the consequences of growing poverty, even in the sense of pure self-interests (you can’t horde capital and power for very long and expect that the system will not crumble, and that crime rates will not skyrocket, and that people at the bottom will not be fed up, etc.). But, people who think in long term usually don’t think in capitalist terms to begin with, because they understand the failings of a system that focuses purely on immediate or short term profit, and which thinks that the value of a human being is how he or she produces commodities and yields profit for the system. People who think in the long term also understand that, contrary to popular belief, capitalism is an extremely inefficient and wasteful system. Even one person struggling in poverty is an utter waste of human potential. Just imagine of how many people have lived and died in terrible conditions, never achieving more than subsistence, while, with proper opportunity and chance, they may have solved some of the biggest problems our species faces.
Capitalism is an extremely problematic system, and we need to stop pretending like it isn’t. This isn’t even just an issue socialism vs. capitalism, or communism vs. capitalism, or any kind of -ism vs. -ism. Capitalism, on its own, has severe shortcomings that are becoming readily more apparent as humanity begins to move forward. There will come a time, in the future - provided we manage to survive as a species - where our descendants will look back at us and wonder how we ever managed to live under our current conditions.
— John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany (via simply-quotes)