It can neither be stated too often nor too emphatically that socialism in any form is by definition an ideology of force and violence. It can operate in no other way. By virtue of what it is, it can function by no other means. To achieve even a tiny fraction of its stated aims — no matter how well-intentioned those aims may (or may not) actually be — socialism must at minimum resort to massive acts of expropriation. One foolproof method for demonstrating the truth of this is by asking that all charity, all welfare, all social-security, all single-payer, all forms of coercive taxation and universal basic income money — all of it be contributed voluntarily, much like the Kibbutzim, which have been an unmitigated failure.
In America the Indian Reservations, which are the opposite of voluntary, also testify to the impossibility and the calamitous injustice of socialism. The Indian Reservations were explicitly modeled off of Fabian-socialist utopian ideals — specifically, a Fabain named John Collier, a Columbia-educated social worker, community organizer, and utopian dreamer who was in charge of the Native American Reservations during FDR’s entire administration and patterned as well off of Mussolini’s socialist ideals in Italy. The Reservations are into the present day places in America, right now, where food, housing, “universal basic income,” healthcare, education and much more are provided by a big benevolent government with money that pours freely in. Here the leading cause of death among young men is suicide. Their educational system is utterly broken, though not as broken as the Reservation’s healthcare systems, which are absolutely appalling. These utopias also have the highest rate of poverty among any racial group in the country — more than twice the national average — and are environmentally filthy, all of which is quite strange, considering their utopian nature and the sheer amounts of money they receive. They also have the highest unemployment rates in the country, and perhaps there is a clue there. But socialism is not only by definition an ideology of force. It is also a mathematical impossibility. It is mathematically doomed to failure, and all the central planners and pundits and majorities and media and social-media mobs in the world will not be able to overcome that. That is one reason I wrote and then rewrote this book.
All-around government regimentation is not the answer.
It is never the answer. I completely understand the reasons people think it is, but I promise you that it is not. Bureaucracy once entrenched cannot be undone. Freedom once gone is gone forever. Do not let it die.
The race was called the Human Race, and Kristy Reed stood on the sidelines.
He was dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt. The Human Race was a 5K, the entrance fee fifty dollars per person, and twenty percent of proceeds went to a charity called the Center for Intersectionality and Diversity Studies.
Over the past several decades, this race had grown significantly from its humble beginnings, so that now, every February, there were thousands and thousands of runners participating, many racial groups and genders represented annually among them. The Human Race started and finished at the same spot: a wide concrete commons at the center of the UNLV quad, near the Flora Dungan humanities building. The mood that morning was lighthearted and pleasant.
When the race was at last underway, Kristy Reed waited until every runner had disappeared around the first turn. Then Kristy came off the sidelines and entered alone the scientific shadows of the humanities building behind him.
Less than three minutes later, Kristy was up on that building’s top floor. From here he mounted a fire escape that went up higher still, and now he came back outside and onto the rooftop of the building, approximately one-hundred feet above the campus which was now spread out below him. Across from where he stood, along the lipped edge of the rooftop, sat two big black trashbags full of small slips of white paper, each one containing sentences in Kristy’s handwriting.
He walked over to these trashbags now.
Some thirty minutes later, when the Human Race was over and there were thousands and thousands of individual people gathered around the finish-line below him, Kristy without hesitation or apparent emotion emptied the contents of each trashbags onto the crowd. First he emptied one and then the other. He emptied them in rapid succession, turning the bags over completely and shaking them, like a trashcan into the back of a garbage-hauler, so that seemingly all at once there came raining from out of the hard blue desert sky a shower of confetti, like a ticker-tape parade, falling softly down toward the astonished upturned faces of the multitude.
Kristy did the same thing the following week, except this time it was from a different location and at night, and this time also the throng below witnessed a horrifying accident.
Stretched out before Kristy Reed that evening was a thousand acres of concrete and all around him a cityscape of needle-shaped, spear-shaped, splinter-shaped structures glinting with glass whose margins were filled with wobbly reflections of neon light and candy-colored water. To run alone across the tons of concrete, high up, in view of the distant hotel windows, terraces, and rooftop gardens and in view of the helicopters, metal beasts of the nighttime air, wingless birds threading the moonbeams and laserlights, wanderers in black spaces flashing in the night, was to proclaim culpability before the sleepless city. Seen from below, Kristy must have appeared minuscule as he ran on and on after emptying into the streets his trashbags full of petal-shaped leaflets. Seen from above, it might have been discerned how insular the wide world actually was, with its arena of crystal buildings in a bowl of creamy light — how bizarre and yet ingenious, and how unrelated it was to the cavern-pocked barren desert, the lavender mountains shimmering unseen in the darkness beyond, the thirsty lands and the empty lands stitched together by the receding tracks of the lobo, the bandit, the outlaw, the outlier.
Kristy was just coming down from the rooftop when a security guard, a young woman whose duty it was to patrol the upper floors and rooftops, caught sight of him. She called out:
“Hey,” she said. “Hey! Who’s that?”
Kristy did not stop or reply.
The security guard gave chase but almost immediately lost sight of Kristy when Kristy crossed through a blinding field of neon light.
The security guard stood for a long moment near the edge of the building rooftop. She scanned the surrounding area, turning a slow three-hundred-sixty degrees. She was just then going for her walkie-talkie to radio down for backup when a sudden gust of wind came up and blew off her hat. She reached up to catch it before it lofted from her head, but she was too late: her hat blew away and toppled off the side of the building. And yet it didn’t blow far. It got caught inside a deep-grooved slot, immediately off the side of the building, between the serried tubes of pink-neon light. It was safely within arm’s reach and at no real risk to retrieve. In the next instant, the security guard caught sight of Kristy again. He was on her left, across the way, scaling down the fire escape, which ran almost parallel the neon lights, and, believing that she and her co-workers now had him easily, the security guard made a decision: she quickly knelt upon one knee to retrieve her hat, which would only take her a few seconds.
The young security guard was not remotely prepared for what happened next:
As she reached for her hat, she inadvertently touched her metal watchband against the inside slot of the neon tube, and she was zapped with an enormous surge of electricity, which did not kill her but which did send her with a spasmodic jolt off the side of the building. Simultaneously, that whole sector of the building’s lights went out.
Kristy looked up when he heard the zap and her subsequent scream, and the throng in the street below also looked up as an ominous diagonal of darkness moved quickly across the sidewalk.
The guard’s foot had got caught under a taut metal cable, which ran along the perimeter of the rooftop, but almost immediately her foot came loose, though not before, by sheer instinct and in a blind panic, she grabbed onto one of the extinguished neon light-tubes, and in spite of having just been electrocuted, she held to it fast and did not let go. The tip of her shoe was still up against the lip of the rooftop edge and it partially held her. Then it too broke free. The young guard was seen from below clutching one-handed, desperately, to the light-tube. There were wraiths of smoke, violet-blue in the darkness, drifting off the electrical malfunction. Below her the dense throng gasped. They gathered more closely together and peered upward. The security guard tried to reach up with her other hand to grasp a better purchase, but because of the severity of the electric shock and her dizziness, she could not grab hold. The charge had badly injured her, and the poor young woman dangled by one desperate arm, like a moth from a spider’s thread. Her arm was bent awkwardly.
Anyone going to her aid would run a terrible risk, and it was immediately clear to the onlookers below that the young woman was tiring. There was agony upon her face. Even worse, her arm and the hand which held onto the dead tubular light lost strength by the second. Every attempt she made to reach up with her other hand ended in failure, and this in turn increased her weakness. She all at once fell dreadfully still and silent, for fear of wasting her remaining strength, and in those breathless moments, the young guard sincerely believed that she was mere moments from death. The spectators had by now called for help, yet every one of them felt that at any moment she might lose all strength and plummet, and many among the dense throng even looked away so as not to see her drop down and land thudding like an over-ripened fruit.
Abruptly, then, a thin dark shape, distinctly masculine and distinctly energetic, was seen moving swiftly across the rooftop toward the dangling security guard. This dark shape was bipedal yet had the agility of a wildcat. At the time nobody noticed the rapid ease and the coordination of his movements. It was only later that anybody recalled what it was like — how fluid and how fast.
In a twinkling, he was directly above the woman, and now the figure paused for one second to measure and assess the danger of the broken electricity. That one second seemed interminable to the throng below. Then the figure above got down on hands and knees and leaned over the building’s edge and at great risk to himself clutched with both hands the forearm and wrist of the hand by which the young woman barely held.
“I’ve got you,” the figure whispered. In fact he’d caught hold of her not a second too soon.
The throng below as a single unit drew in a long breath.
They saw the young woman’s grip slip, and they saw that the only thing saving her from death now was the strength and determined will of the figure, who clutched her with vice-grip fingers. Then the figure lowered down his left forearm, for her to grab hold. The crowd below could not hear the figure say to her softly:
“You must take hold of my arm with your other hand.”
Then the figure leaned over more precariously yet — closer to her so that she might more easily reach his arm. You would have thought it was a black widow lowering itself to seize a moth, except in this case the black widow was bringing life, not death. Five thousand eyes were trained on the looming pair above, five thousand eyes agoggle. Not a word was spoken. Nobody dared breathe — almost as though the least breath into the night wind might sway both of them and bring them each sailing down to their death.
The security guard flailed slightly but managed to catch hold of the figure’s arm, and now, still on all fours and leaning over off-balance and horribly top-heavy, the figure carefully and with great strength drew her upward, until at last he was seen pulling her to safety over the edge of the rooftop.
The crowd below broke out in wild applause, and some among them even hugged each other.
Some five minutes later, when the paramedics arrived upon the scene, they found only the electrocuted young security guard and no one else: she was lying safely, alive but alone, on her back upon the roof.
The next day, the Las Vegas Tribune published the following article:
“Late last night, a security guard, patrolling the rooftop of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, survived a bizarre accident. She was electrocuted while reaching down among the neon lights for her hat, which the wind had blown off. The young woman is in stable condition. She was pulled to safety by an anonymous person, who subsequently disappeared from the scene. It’s not known if her rescuer is in any way connected with the fall of confetti which had been dumped from the rooftop only minutes before. Police are asking anyone with information to please come forward.”
The article then went on to mention that the confetti contained a kind of cryptic writing, quoting as an example the following three passages:
What is the fundamental thing that distinguishes the free worker from slave labor? It is consensual, voluntary human action over state coercion and governmental compulsion. The free worker can leave any time. The slave cannot.
And then this:
The choice is not capitalism versus socialism — two terms which have become so corrupted by misuse and overuse that they’re now virtually meaningless. The choice, rather, is individuality versus groupthink. It is individualism versus collectivism.
And lastly this one:
If you want strangers to cooperate — all races, all sexes, all genders, all people — allow full freedom of exchange and the legally protected right to keep in full the fruits of that exchange.
The day after this article appeared in the Las Vegas Tribune, the University of Nevada Las Vegas and their award-winning newspaper, Scarlet & Gray, also ran a brief article, which mentioned the mysterious petal-shaped confetti as well. This article even showed four clear photographs of the leaflets and what they contained:
Individualism is the act of each person taking on the responsibility of thinking for herself. Individualism does not mean rebelliousness or non-cooperation. Individualism is not “rugged.” Individualism means voluntary, consensual human action, with which it is synonymous, as distinguished from coercion, compulsion, force. Individualism is not atomistic. It is not a hatred of societies or families, nor is it isolationistic. It’s not in opposition to societal cooperation, but the antonym of that. Individualism is nothing more or less than this: the full espousal of consensual, voluntary human action, as against state coercion. Individualism rests upon the principle of choice — specifically, the voluntary choices and actions of each individual person, versus action that is government coerced.
Laissez faire means: let individuals choose and do not force them to yield to an authority. Laissez faire does not provide but merely protects. Laissez faire does not guarantee anything except the freedom to try.
The third leaflet shown in the photograph had writing on the front and back, and both passages were quotations — the first of which from a novel called Forever Flowing, by a Russian writer named Vasily Grossman who’d lived through the Russian Revolution, who’d supported it at first, and then became an extreme critic and dissident:
I used to think freedom was freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of conscience. But freedom is the whole life of everyone. Here is what it amounts to: you have to have the right to sow what you wish to, to make shoes or coats, to bake into bread the flour ground from the grain you have sown, and to sell it or not sell it as you wish, and to keep the proceeds from that which you sell; for the lathe operator, the steelworker, and the artist it’s a matter of being able to live as you wish and work as you wish and not as they order you to. And in our country there is no freedom – not for those who write books nor for those who sow grain nor for those who make shoes.
The other side of this leaflet said the following:
It was toward the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to the realization that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy. Their bread, their work, their private lives began to depend on this or that decision in disputes on principles to which, until then, they had never paid any attention. In their eyes, the philosopher had always been a sort of dreamer whose divagations had no effect on reality. The average human being, even if he had once been exposed to it, wrote philosophy off as utterly impractical and useless. Therefore the great intellectual work of the Marxists could easily pass as just one more variation on a sterile pastime. Only a few individuals understood the causes and probable consequences of this general indifference (The Captive Mind, Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize).
The UNLV campus radio station picked up this story, and in quoting some of these same leaflets, the radio station received hundreds of phone calls from irate listeners. Virtually all callers were agreed that the confetti-dropper, whoever it was, clearly did not want to “relinquish the power structures built by his whiteness,” as one caller specifically put it, “nor seek to understand the true nature of fascism,” as another said.
And that was the extent of the reaction to Kristy’s leaflets — at first.
But it was almost as though the leaflets had touched off a buried fuse — something which initially appeared to burn itself out yet which in actuality had not burned itself out at all: it was smoldering.
Thus it was that the subject of the leaflets didn’t quite die. A few people in the media began quoting them, always derisively and always without explicit attribution, and this in turn led to more people quoting them, so that within eight weeks time, the leaflets had received enough attention to precipitate three separate feminist groups passing formal resolutions of protest. A number of environmental groups amassed petitions as well. Then a few student protests sprung up: protests demanding that such things containing such reckless speech not be allowed — anywhere — because they were a form of force and violence. It was repeatedly said also that “freedom of speech is overrated, especially in comparison with the health of the planet.” High-schools and community colleges around the city erected more and more protected-zones and safe-spaces.
A famous singer, born and raised in America and made wealthy in America, a young woman of mixed ethnicity, who referred to herself as “a non-white,” who now owned five different homes across the globe, including a palatial Las Vegas mansion, wrote an impassioned article about the nature of inequality, describing in detail how America had given her nothing but racism and hatred and patriarchy, saying also that “it is in the very nature of privilege to find even deeper places to hide.” This article was reprinted thousands of times and it created louder indignation, which drowned out the one lone eloquent rebuttal — an articulate letter also written by a female singer, who happened to be black, and who wrote, among other things: “It is in the nature of racism to employ Kafkatraps and other popular fallacies, which uncritical readers fall into unsuspectingly…. As singers, neither of us would have gotten anywhere were it not for the diversity of all people — all types, all sexes, races, genders, and nationalities — who have purchased our music voluntarily, and who became our fans because our songs — our work — brought to them a certain amount of enjoyment and pleasure.”
It was during this unrest, some three months after Kristy Reed had emptied his trashbags full of petal-shaped leaflets, that the same young and well-dressed graduate student who months before had approached Kristy’s coworker, Michael, early one afternoon now approached Pancho — in whom he seemed to have taken an almost secretive interest, watching Pancho surreptitiously from a distance. Pancho, a happy soul, well-mannered, witty, uncommonly handsome and muscular, was, like Kristy, a high-school dropout, and the waste management company for which they both worked had contracts with several businesses on and around the college campus, one very near this young man’s office. On this particular day, the young man strode directly up to Pancho, almost as though he’d been waiting for him. The young man was tall and thin, with longish brown hair. He spoke in a calm yet serious voice:
“You and your work are being exploited,” he said.
Pancho stared at him in silence for several seconds. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that the man in charge of you is stealing from you.”
“This company is owned by a woman,” Pancho said.
“Then she’s stealing from you. That’s what I mean by exploited. And please don’t tell me she ‘earns’ the money that she makes off of your labor.”
“Why not?” Pancho said. “I think she does earn it. There’s a great deal of overhead and responsibility, and she bootstrapped this business herself and started it up.”
“The best way for me to describe it to you,” the young man said, “is to take it back to Karl Marx and his analysis of capitalism. This way, we can more fully define what the term ‘earning’ means. Imagine that you’re a person seeking a job, and I’m the employer by whom you’re seeking to get hired — and so, let’s say, after we discuss things for a while, we both agree on my paying you a wage of fifteen dollars per hour.”
Pancho didn’t reply.
“At this point,” the young man continued, “Karl Marx enters the scene with a smile on his face and says, ‘I’m going to show you’ — meaning the readers of his books — ‘that when this deal is done, the fifteen dollars an hour reveals something sneaky that’s going on, which you probably already suspect yet don’t want to admit. When I hire you for fifteen dollars an hour, I know for every hour that you give me your work, I’m going to have more goods or services or items to sell at the end of the day because you were added to my workforce, and you helped me produce those goods or services. You’re going to help me produce more goods or more services or better quality goods or services or whatever the case may be, and the output has got to be more than fifteen dollars an hour.’ This is what Marx says to us. In other words, the only way I’m going to hire you for fifteen dollars an hour is if you produce more in the hour than I give you. So, my friend, when you feel, in a vague way, at the end of the day as you come home from work that you’re being ripped off, you’re absolutely right — or, in Marx’s language, ‘exploited.’ And yet even though you and I and everybody suspects this, the capitalists still say ‘I earned it!’ No, they didn’t. The capitalist just rips people off.”
“Tell him that he’s telling you only half of what happens in the process of exchange he just described,” Kristy Reed said, appearing suddenly from around the passenger side of the garbage-hauler. Kristy was speaking to Pancho but looking directly at the young man the entire time he spoke.
“Beg pardon?” the young man said.
“Tell him that he’s viewing the whole process only from his own biased perspective of the business-owner or entrepreneur,” Kristy said. “Or, as he says, the capitalist. Tell him that he’s neglecting to look at it from the perspective of you or me, the worker, who voluntarily, consensually agree to the proffered wage. Who is he to presume our happiness or our personal system-of-values? Who is he to presume whether we’d prefer to work each for our own bare subsistence or for a wage — whether we’d prefer to try and raise money and set up our own business, or simply work for someone else who’s already started a business and who agrees to pay us an amount that we in turn agree to as well?”
“What precisely do you mean?” the young man said.
“I mean that we get fifteen dollars in exchange for one hour’s worth of our work. And that fifteen dollars has got to be worth more to us than our effort, or we wouldn’t have agreed, as we would not have agreed to, for example, working for one penny a day or one penny an hour. The only way I’m going to work for you for fifteen an hour is if you pay me more than the value of the hour I give you. And so from this perspective, we can equally conclude that the worker is ripping off the employer — or, in Marx’s language and yours, we the workers are exploiting the capitalists.”
Pancho looked at Kristy.
“Tell him furthermore,” Kristy said, now looking back to Pancho, “that the employee and the employer value things differently, which means that value is subjective, and that Marx, following in the footsteps of Adam Smith, made a grave error in accepting the so-called Labor Theory of Value, which the marginal revolution exploded, and this error is the bedrock of all Marxian and Neo-Marxian thought, even into the present day. It is an error of such depth and devastating proportions that it alone, forget all the other things, defeats the entirety of Marx, who saw human life as an irreconcilable conflict of economic classes — a caste system, inherently antagonistic — with class struggle an inevitability that would only disappear in a future classless society of forced socialism. Tell him that the most incredible thing about his entire ideology and this entire worldview is that neither Marx nor anyone else has ever fully explained what a ‘class’ is or what they have in mind when speaking of classes and class antagonisms, and in their coordinating classes into castes. All the sophisticated definitions and the lexical hairsplitting center around never-defined terms and ambiguous language, all of which is built upon smoke and mirrors. But human action and interaction is not inherently antagonistic. Trade is mutually beneficial and voluntary.”
Pancho now smiled widely at Kristy, from whom he’d never heard such language, who was saying things quite new.
“I think that Pancho understands an obvious fact that you don’t,” Kristy said, turning back to the young man.
“What fact would that be?” the young man said.
“An employer values the work more than fifteen dollars,” Kristy said. “The employee values the fifteen more than the work. Both, then, exchange what they value less for what they each value more. Both parties from their own perspective — not yours and not Karl Marx’s but from their own individual perspective — benefit from the exchange, and each is made better off according to her or his own different values. The truth is that neither rips off or exploits the other. They exchange by mutual consent and to mutual advantage. The harmony principle is voluntary. It benefits both, and it is in direct contrast to the conflict doctrine that you and Marx uphold.”
“Hardly that,” the young man muttered under his breath.
“Hardly what?” Kristy said.
“Hardly voluntary and mutual — unless you call slave labor ‘voluntary and mutual.’”
“A slave can neither negotiate a wage nor reject a wage nor disagree nor quit nor leave a job,” Kristy said. “Pancho and I can. So can you.”
The young man didn’t reply.
“If the employer didn’t exist,” Kristy said, “what do you think humans would do?”
The young man remained silent.
“We’d each have to work for our own subsistence,” Kristy said, “which would obliterate the division of labor and all the specialization that goes along with it — the division of labor, I repeat, which is the fundamental social phenomena and upon which all civilization is built. Or we’d each and all have to start our own businesses, whether we wanted to or not, and which in a free society we are always free to do. Yet the opposite of that is not the case.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that under any system of all-around government regimentation or socialization, the powers-that-be disallow individuals starting up businesses freely — especially those businesses that pay people wages which other people willingly agree to be paid, or not. I ask again: who are you to presume what Pancho and I and everyone else values more? I ask you again: who are you to tell us what we should value more: subsistence farming or working for a wage that we’ve agreed to?”
The young man didn’t reply.
“Ultimately what produces the goods and services is not toil and trouble in themselves,” Kristy said, “but the fact that the toiling is guided by human reason. Equal labor does not produce equal products. It produces unequal products when unequal means are employed. That guiding and directing intelligence is what’s chronically forgotten or ignored. Yet it cannot be stressed enough: guiding and directing intelligence, not brute force or muscular exertion, is the essential characteristic of human labor. Human brainpower directs the tool, but it’s the brainpower — not the tool — that ultimately produces goods and services. The tool, whether pick-and-shovel, garbage-hauler, or dynamite, is the means. The reasoning mind is the creative force and directing source.”
Kristy turned to Pancho.
“His statement that the output has got to be more than fifteen dollars,” Kristy said, “is true only in the limited sense that the employer expects and hopes that her potential customers will value that output at more than fifteen dollars. Customers, I emphasize, because the business-person must always serve customers and provide customers with what they want or the business-person will go out of business. Customers may very well not value enough that fifteen dollars per hour — meaning: the potential customer may not be willing to pay that sort of money. The employer can’t be certain. The employer, not the worker, assumes this uncertainty and takes on this risk. Her customers may turn out to value the product or service at less than fifteen dollars an hour, and if so, the employer takes a loss. If a better and less expensive alternative comes to market before the employer can get her product finished and sold, customers may not value this good at all, and the loss will be total. The entrepreneur who hires workers in a free market does earn profit if and only if she judges correctly how to combine resources — labor, equipment, materials, buildings, electricity, shipping, design, advertising, and other inputs — to create new value for her customers. Her profit or loss is her reward or punishment for getting that judgment right or wrong. Tell him, Pancho, that exploiting workers has nothing to do with it.”
“Are you a student?” the tall young thin man said.
Read the rest.