A 60-Second Refutation Of Socialism

Every so often you come across a post from a fellow blogger's archive that still strikes a chord many years later. In this case it was the 60 Second Refutation Of Socialism posted in Coyote Blog almost nine years ago that still has relevance today, particularly in regards to the present occupant of the Oval Office. Specifically the post refutes Obama's leftist knee-jerk statement “You didn't build that!”

One of the reasons I took up writing a blog is that I have never been as snappy or witty in real-time discussions as I would like to be, and I generally think of the perfect comeback or argument minutes or hours too late.  I have always done better with writing, where I have time to think.  However, on this day, I had inspiration from a half-remembered story I had heard before.  I am sure I stole the following argument from someone, but to this day I still can't remember from whom.

I picked up a handful of sand, and said "this is almost pure silicon, virtually identical to what powers a computer. Take as much labor as you want, and build me a computer with it -- the only limitation is you can only have true manual laborers - no engineers or managers or other capitalist lackeys".

She replied that my request was BS, that it took a lot of money to build an electronics plant, and her group of laborers didn't have any and bankers would never lend them any.

I told her - assume for our discussion that I have tons of money, and I will give you and your laborers as much as you need. The only restriction I put on it is that you may only buy raw materials - steel, land, silicon - in their crudest forms. It is up to you to assemble these raw materials, with your laborers, to build the factory and make me my computer.

She thought for a few seconds, and responded "[B]ut I can't - I don't know how. I need someone to tell me how to do it[!]"

And that is the heart of socialism's failure. For the true source of wealth is not brute labor, or even what you might call brute capital, but the mind. The mind creates new technologies, new products, new business models, new productivity enhancements, in short, everything that creates wealth. Labor or capital without a mind behind it is useless.

I find it interesting that Coyote demolished Obama's argument years before he even made it. I've heard the argument made in a number of places over the years that it was government that built the roads, the water and sewer systems, provided the power plants, power lines, and telephone systems, but it isn't true. With a few exceptions, government did none of that. Private capital funded it, private companies or individuals designed it, and private contractors built it. Almost every housing or commercial development built in the last 50 or 60 years or so saw the developer pay the cost for building the roads, installing water and sewer, and see to it that electrical, gas, and telephone utilities were installed. It wasn't the ever benevolent government that did any of that. That disproves Obama's claim that we “didn't build that.” We most certainly did. Obama just wants to take credit for it.