Let’s sum up and conclude this examination of Steve Roth’s handy compilation of leftist bromides, non sequiturs, self-congratulations, and just plain ol’ errors, “Why Welfare and Redistribution Saves Capitalism from Itself.”[i] The issue that this series of blogs addresses is: Did Mr. Roth’s article explain why welfare and redistribution saves capitalism from itself? (See PART I, PART II, PART III, PART IV, PART V, PART VI, PART VII, and PART VIII.) In this final post on Mr. Roth’s article, let’s sort out the broader reason why I spent so much time deconstructing it.
First, let’s briefly review what has been covered in PARTS I – VIII.
PART I. Roth’s claim, “No country has ever joined the modern, high-productivity, rich-country club without massive doses of redistribution. . . .” is patently false. Countries in that club started massive redistribution only after they became rich enough to do so.
PART II. Roth declares massively redistributive states to be successful without specifying a standard for success, but declares all other countries to be unsuccessful because they have not “emerged as thriving, prosperous utopias of liberty.” He supports his claim with half-truths.[ii]
PART III. Roth’s claim that “Market capitalism . . . inevitably concentrates wealth and income into fewer and fewer hands. It’s just the nature of the beast” is easily falsified. For example, there were 3.6 million millionaires in 1996, and 10.8 million in 2016.
PART IV. Roth’s acknowledgement that market capitalism creates “immense, world-changing, manifest benefits” is commendable, but, having made the false argument that massive redistribution improves the economy, policies based on the claims in the article would suppress the otherwise immense benefits of capitalism.
PART V. Roth’s idea that we need to be saved from capitalism is nonsense. On the contrary, we need to be saved from negative human reactions to income inequality and to continue to enjoy the innovation and productivity that can only be obtained with income inequality.[iii]
PART VI. Roth’s claim that “. . . . the richest countries all devote fifteen to thirty percent of GDP to social spending. As Bruce Bartlett pointed out recently, Germany — a darned ‘conservative’ country that is thriving today, and which rode out our recent economic Great Whatever better than almost any other country. . . .” is anecdotal and proves nothing about whether, how, or why massive redistribution saves capitalism from itself.[iv]
PART VII. Roth took a fact (that poor people are more apt to spend cash on hand than rich people are) and minced it into nonsense. I discussed the many important insights and conclusions that can be drawn from that fact, all of which contradict Roth’s misapplication of it.
PART VIII. Roth’s last ditch effort to support his claim that massive redistribution saves capitalism from itself is based on a populist, biased, and highly controverted interpretation of the history of the Great Depression. At a minimum, Roth’s claim is only supported, if at all, by myths about FDR and the Great Depression.
In this final post on Roth’s article, let’s sort out why I spent so much time on it. The reason is that Roth’s article is so typical of the “economics” promulgated by leftists these days, and such articles and analyses are siren songs that bewitch too many Americans to sail the country toward its doom. For the most part, the people lured by the siren song are well-intended, intelligent, and otherwise “good people.” This includes people who write articles like Roth’s (I do not know whether Roth is nefarious or sincere, but I would hope he is the latter). They know a great deal about a great many things (and much of what they know is actually true); however, they do not know of the destruction to which the siren songs lead. Even the people who create or knowingly support agendas that would be rejected if they were openly and completely disclosed are not necessarily evil. They believe that their prescriptions for mankind will make the world a better place. They know, however, that they must deceive people in order to achieve the utopias they envision. More important, they are, in my opinion, gravely mistaken. A primary object of this blog is to sort out why I have that opinion about the far leftists.
In the messaging to achieve their far leftist goals, truth, validity, and comprehensiveness (the opposite of which are “half-truths”) are dispensable. Their intermediate goal is to get ever larger swaths of “the People” more reliant, if not fully dependent, on government for their sustenance. Whether Mr. Roth or other like-minded authors know it or not (and which is not particularly important with respect to its effects on society), articles like his are doing great damage to humans today and will greatly affect their progeny because they cause well-meaning, duped people to support suppression of the “immense, world-changing, manifest benefits” that more robust capitalism would otherwise bring to the world. As I discussed in “Wealth Creation – It’s For The Children, and their children, and their children. . . .,” wealth creation delayed is wealth creation denied. Leftist “economics” are as dangerous as they are popular.
There are multiple far leftist visions of the proper role of government and many proposed justifications for and paths to that role. The goals of extreme leftists vary considerably. Among these are leftists who believe: 1) that “. . . humans are threatening their own existence and that of other species by using up the world’s resources. . . .the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction is to limit human population growth;”[v] 2) in the Marxian maxim that the idea that all persons are inherently free and equal is idealist or utopian nonsense (a problem for which only communism is the solution);[vi] 3) that humans are loathsome “Speciesists” who should “work toward the goal of a kinder world for all, regardless of species”; and 4) that government should play an ever larger role in the workings of society ( which is the destructive common denominator of all of the above). Some go so far as to believe that the only way to keep humans from nuclear or other annihilation of life on Earth is to have one world government with plenary power over all peoples and their use of power. As Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, and others who favor overwhelming control of society by government have shown, people who support ever more government are deadly serious (in the 20th century alone, well over 100 million lives were snuffed out by such people).[vii]
Anti-capitalist and/or anti-industrialist[viii] leftists (“far leftists”) have correctly determined that publically announcing plans for great leaps away from the ideas of equal protection, E Pluribus Unum, due process, limited government, and the rule of law would be rejected by the American people. So, as Jonah Goldberg so entertainingly explored in “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change,” the far left has used calming bromides to get Americans to accept medicines that are antithetical to the concepts that enabled America to quickly transform from a backwater collection of 13 insignificant colonies to the most significant country the world has ever known. Rather than a frontal assault on American ideals, they speak of multiculturalism, open borders, one world government, reducing the powers of superpowers, environmentalism, banning gun ownership, and global redistribution of wealth. They couple these bromides with apocalyptic visions of the future if Americans continue to dance with the ideals that brung ‘em to the current party and constant sorties bombing the legitimacy and foundations of the Constitution.[ix]
The number of far leftists, however, has been growing. More alarmingly, the number of Americans who are responding to their siren songs is also growing. Most run-of-the-mill Democrats, for example, do not share the destructive goals of the far leftists and do not believe that their support of leftist policies will lead to the tyranny that will surely accompany the far leftists’ objectives. Growing numbers of people (who are ineptly[x] referred to by the far leftists as “Useful Idiots”), however, help the far leftists achieve their objectives. Because of the support of people who are not fully aware of the destructive goals of the far left and who are susceptible to their propaganda,[xi] far leftists have made great, but hopefully not irreversible, gains in winning the hearts and minds of many Americans.[xii]
A good society requires some government involvement in or control of aspects of society and the economy. Too much involvement and control is extremely counterproductive and dangerous. Ideally, a society would (1) find the optimal amount and kind of government involvement and control of society and the economy, and (2) keep government from going beyond that amount. Creating a perfect society is far beyond human capabilities. Consequently, the optimal society will have many problems for which uniformed people will clamor for solutions from government. In such cases, perfection is the enemy of the good because too much government will always lead to massive corruption, tyranny, and poverty. Complicating the issue is the fact that politicians are experts at causing uninformed people to believe that there is no downside to extending more powers to government than is optimal. Hopefully, this nine part deconstruction of typical leftist screeds that are filled with bromides, non sequiturs, self-congratulations, and just plain ol’ errors will cause people to read leftists screeds with more critical thinking and credulity.
[iv] It is also telling that Roth did not acknowledge that it was Germany’s major curtailing of its liberal labor policies (reducing the amount of its redistribution) that ushered in Germany’s rise from being the economic “sick man of Europe” to performing as well as it did through the Great Recession. See “Wunderreform,” The Economist’s description of what happened.
[vii] Non-combatant killings of citizens by Mao (Mao envisioned 50 million would be killed with the initial land reforms, but actually killed fewer at that time, but later killed at least 45 million in The Great Leap Forward), Stalin (15 – 61 million), and Hitler (12 – 14 million).
[viii] An example of their beliefs: “We are not interested in the utility of a particular species or free-flowing river, or ecosystem, to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value — to me — than another human body, or a billion of them.”
[x] “Useful Idiots” is inept because many of the people who are duped by the far leftists’ siren songs are intelligent or very intelligent, but are unaware or unwary of the inevitable unintended consequences of the policies they support.
[xi] An example of the thinking behind their propaganda: “. . . To do this, we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”