One Minute for Socialism

December 30, 2008

I figured I’d give it a shot. Tyler Cowen hands this kind of stuff off to Tyrone, so maybe I should see what my brother, Wilford, has to say on this matter. Here’s his one-minute argument for socialism:

In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan’s “Grand Inquisitor” poem is born from Ivan’s struggle to understand the problem of suffering in the world. It’s clear that the “gift” of free will allows some people to achieve a better, more meaningful existence, and that’s worth something. But what about the fact that millions of people will live in horrible circumstances, or even be damned for all eternity, as a direct result? That’s worth something too.

We live in a world where individual rights and happiness reign supreme. And sure, in some philosophical sense, this allows a few people to achieve their maximum potential as human beings. But there are also, say, two billion people in the world who are starving or dying of disease. If there is a genuine opportunity to help these people, I don’t see how we can refrain from doing so just because our methods might violate what are now considered “individual rights.”

Figuring out how to achieve the goal is hard, but that’s not a problem unique to socialism. We can argue about methods, and I’m as opposed to tyranny as the next guy, but we do need to think seriously about where our highest priorities should be. Let’s finally think about what it means for our happiness to be dependent on the suffering of billions of people, not because we cause their suffering directly, but because clinging to our individualistic values makes their suffering inevitable. It’s a distinction that we may think is important, but is probably less important to the people who are starving.

Poor Wilford. In addition to his woefully inadequate grasp of Hayek, he seems not to understand that modeling your philosophy on a person as depressed and depressing as Dostoevsky is no way to be happy.

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