“The future can’t be modeled or predicted in economic terms.”

Okay, so that article is somewhat bombastic, even if it makes the excellent points that:

1. Any economic system that requires government coercion is bound to fail at the limits; and,

2. Socialism has long proven itself incapable of achieving the goals its advocates claim.

From Investor’s Business Daily: Bernie Sanders Would Rather Drain than Grow the Economy.

But what really made me giggle was this comment in reference to the article from user WinstonMarks (bold emphasis is mine):

Why should he be ridiculed? Populism and socialism aren’t dirty words. Sanders is speaking to the concerns of the working class who make all this economic growth possible. Stop speaking in meaningless jargon. Sanders is talking about people, not money. Is economic growth worth 51% of African American youth being unemployed (not because they want to be unemployed— don’t even start). Is economic growth worth living a [sic] world destroyed by global warming? Is economic growth worth more than people’s [sic] lives? You might say yes. I say the status quo needs to change, and you better prepare yourself. The future can’t be modeled or predicted in economic terms. Because people aren’t going to accommodate money being elevated above their quality of life anymore. You might want to reasses your priorities. You should be ashamed of yourself. You should try thinking critically, which doesn’t mean technically and economically. You should try thinking like an empathetic human being, but who knows. You’ve probably already sold your soul to the mighty dollar. Grow up, for the sake of all Americans, not the billionaire class.

The one thing I can say for certain is that, regardless of whether we think technically, economically, or empathetically, the future can be modeled in economic terms.  Unfortunately for WinstonMarks, economics may frequently use money as a denomination of value, but it doesn’t study money – it studies transactions, exchanges, and allocations.  Despite our good intentions, even socialism requires transactions and allocations.  And no matter how empathetic we ought to be toward each other, history shows that humans, in aggregate, will always act in their own self-interest.  Always.  To show this, here’s a link to an article from CBS News about a young man who was stabbed to death on a public train in front of witnesses who did nothing to help… nothing.  Here’s another one from the rag Slate… the author was harassed on a train while bystanders did nothing.

But more importantly, Capitalism has done more to alleviate poverty than any other economic or political system in the entire history of human kind.  Take this article from The Economist: Towards the End of Poverty.  In case you’re blocked by the pay wall, here are the relevant quotes (bold emphasis added):

  • “… the world has lately been making extraordinary progress in lifting people out of extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2010, their number fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21%—a reduction of almost 1 billion people.”
  • “The world’s achievement in the field of poverty reduction is, by almost any measure, impressive. Although many of the original MDGs [Millennium Development Goals]—such as cutting maternal mortality by three-quarters and child mortality by two-thirds—will not be met, the aim of halving global poverty between 1990 and 2015 was achieved five years early.”
  • “The MDGs may have helped marginally, by creating a yardstick for measuring progress, and by focusing minds on the evil of poverty. Most of the credit, however, must go to capitalism and free trade, for they enable economies to grow—and it was growth, principally, that has eased destitution.”
  • “China (which has never shown any interest in MDGs) is responsible for three-quarters of the achievement. Its economy has been growing so fast that, even though inequality is rising fast, extreme poverty is disappearing. China pulled 680m people out of misery in 1981-2010, and reduced its extreme-poverty rate from 84% in 1980 to 10% now.”
  • “Many Westerners have reacted to recession by seeking to constrain markets and roll globalisation back in their own countries, and they want to export these ideas to the developing world, too. It does not need such advice. It is doing quite nicely, largely thanks to the same economic principles that helped the developed world grow rich and could pull the poorest of the poor out of destitution.”

What we know for certain is that humans behave according to incentives; ask any psychologist, educator, economist, or politician (including the socialist ones), and they cannot help but agree.  So here is the fundamental challenge facing socialism: It is underpinned by an incentive system that does nothing to encourage individual contributions – in other words, it requires coercion to extract productivity.  When the majority of people are incentivized to minimize work, then what will provide all the free education, healthcare, and government services?  Capitalism fundamentally incents individuals to be productive on their own, and thus we are made better by transactions between people, each contributing their abilities.  What is so difficult about this concept?  Why are there so many misconceptions about human nature?  Why do ardent advocates of socialism refuse to acknowledge that humans are not altruistic?  As long as this persists, socialism will always seem like Moore’s Utopia; in truth, it is probably closer to Venezuela or Cuba – places with educated, healthy citizens with no jobs and no toilet paper.