At nearly five years old, my firstborn routinely disputes rules with his mother and me. Cookies shall be served for dinner, he declares. Though he must ultimately yield to our authority, we cannot claim to have actually changed his mind. As far as he is concerned, cookies remain the first and best option.
This tendency among youth to reject the thinking of their elders continues even into adulthood and leaves them vulnerable to manipulation by those who would use that trait to fulfill ulterior motives. “Do you always do what your parents say?” more than one tempter has asked.
It’s that age-old desire to break free of generations past which Rolling Stone contributor Jesse A. Myerson appeals to in his recent piece “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For.” A brief list of the political left’s most radical policy proposals, the piece launches from the suggestion of youth superiority. Myerson writes:
Here are a few things we might want to start fighting for, pronto, if we want to grow old in a just, fair society, rather than the economic hellhole our parents have handed us.
Silly elder, reform is for kids. The list includes guaranteed jobs, which you won’t necessarily need because there’s also a guaranteed income and public ownership of everything. It’s basically Gotham under the revolution of Bane.
It’s not what Myerson presents so much as what he takes for granted which deserves rebuttal. His proposals proceed from unspoken assumptions which have been promoted in the popular culture by an organized Left, manipulating the nation’s youth into sacrificing their future. Here are 6 lies millennials must reject to live free.
6) Capitalism Caused the Economic Downturn
Michael Moore scribed a New Years op-ed published in The New York Times which predictably blamed Obamacare’s failures not on the law or its authors and advocates, but on the insurance industry and the remnants of liberty. He writes:
I believe Obamacare’s rocky start — clueless planning, a lousy website, insurance companies raising rates, and the president’s telling people they could keep their coverage when, in fact, not all could — is a result of one fatal flaw: The Affordable Care Act is a pro-insurance-industry plan implemented by a president who knew in his heart that a single-payer, Medicare-for-all model was the true way to go.
Those unscrupulous insurance companies have raised rates completely independent of the mandates and regulations imposed under the president’s healthcare law. So Moore would have us believe. In a scenario not unlike drowning a woman to test if she’s a witch, Moore suggests that a company acting to retain profit (its equivalent of oxygen) proves it evil.
In his Rolling Stone piece, Myerson continues the screed against capitalism. His view seems rooted in private ownership, a concept he suggests millennials do away with. But in truth, private ownership is not an exclusive feature of capitalism. As Thomas Sowell observed in an examination of President Obama’s applied politics, private ownership remains in effect under fascism even while control resides with the state. Sowell writes:
What President Obama has been pushing for, and moving toward, is more insidious: government control of the economy, while leaving ownership in private hands. That way, politicians get to call the shots but, when their bright ideas lead to disaster, they can always blame those who own businesses in the private sector.
Politically, it is heads-I-win when things go right, and tails-you-lose when things go wrong.
Outrageous though it may seem to suggest, the American economy better resembles fascism than capitalism, with actors constrained by ever more intrusive controls. Like all words, capitalism does not mean whatever an author wants it to mean. It requires the condition of liberty, a condition unseen in American jurisprudence and made incrementally more elusive which each “progressive” reform. We cannot blame capitalism when no such thing exists in practice.
5) Opposing Capitalism Is Hip and Anti-Establishment
An irony emerges from Myerson’s appeal to youthful rebellion. During the cultural revolution of the 1960s, it was said that students ought not trust anyone over the age of 30. Myerson restates that in his call for millennials to reform “the economic hellhole our parents have handed us.” His prescriptions present capitalism as the cause of that economic hellhole. Yet, in truth, the dominant economic ideas which guide the American economy and have shaped policy in recent generations ascended to power in the 1960s. Today, the establishment proves anti-capitalist.
This proves true whether we examine Republicans or Democrats, self-styled conservatives or professing liberals. The mainstream of political and economic thought rejects liberty as an ideal, rejects unfettered capitalism as appropriate, and rejects equality under the law as the true nature of justice.
If the youth of today truly want to rebel, if they truly want to strike back against the establishment, they need to contend for liberty. If you want to be part of an exclusive, outnumbered, outgunned, profoundly oppressed minority, if you want to engage in a moral struggle against a tyrannical empire, join the real rebel alliance! Reject the agenda of control propagated by statist operatives like Myerson.
4) All Work Should Earn a Living
In calling for a guarantee of employment, Myerson writes:
Unemployment blows. The easiest and most direct solution is for the government to guarantee that everyone who wants to contribute productively to society is able to earn a decent living in the public sector. There are millions of people who want to work, and there’s tons of work that needs doing – it’s a no-brainer.
Question: how does a government guarantee of productive contribution actually work? What would government officials, actual people, have to physically do to make sure everyone who wants to “contribute” can earn a decent living?
Myerson’s notion of productivity, echoed endlessly among the Left, presents as simply expending energy. He teases millennials with a nirvana where work can be whatever you want it to be.
Imagine a world where people could contribute the skills that inspire them – teaching, tutoring, urban farming, cleaning up the environment, painting murals – rather than telemarketing or whatever other stupid tasks bosses need done to supplement their millions.
What makes a telemarketer more valuable than a mural painter? A requisite question emerges. Of value to whom? Value proves subjective. I may need someone to paint a mural more than I need someone to man a phone bank, in which case I would be willing to pay for one over the other. The value of either emerges as a product of choice. Absent choice, value cannot be expressed.
Since government acts with force, it eliminates choice. It eliminates the means by which value emerges. So what Myerson advocates in essence is the abolition of value. And since productivity is the pursuit and acquisition of value, productivity cannot occur under government guarantee.
We need not imagine the results. We have seen them before, people lined up for bread in the Soviet Union because the absence of choice muted the market signals which would have triggered its production. Meanwhile, tires lay piled and unused for lack of the market signals which would have halted their production. Government guarantees, which is to say force preventing choice, can never produce value.
3) Setting Prices and Wages Can Provide Prosperity to All
Let’s consider those market signals in more detail. We call them prices. In a free market, which is to say a condition of liberty where relationships are established and maintained by consent, a price manifests as the amount a buyer and seller are willing to trade. That amount changes along with supply and demand. Prices communicate to both producers and consumers, signaling when to produce more or less and when to consume more or less. In a free market, price signals respond quickly to changing circumstances, communicating economic realities with relative precision.
When a natural disaster occurs and profit-seeking suppliers jack up the price of food and water, it signals to consumers that they ought to ration their supplies. Laws preventing such “gouging” block that price signal from being received, which can easily lead to shortages on account of no rationing. It’s a bit like tampering with the synchronization of a traffic light. It never ends well.
Myerson and company would tamper with economic signals across the board. Whether guaranteeing a job for anyone who wants one or paying a “universal basic income” for doing absolutely nothing, the net effect distorts prices. Paying people for doing nothing has the same sort of effect as printing money based on nothing, more dollars chasing after the same amount of valued goods and services, a phenomenon known as inflation.
Devaluing the dollar and disrupting price signals hardly fosters prosperity for all. On the contrary, like spreading too little butter over too much bread, such policies leave us wanting more.
2) Profit Is Evil
Wrap your mind around this prescription, the last on Myerson’s list:
You know what else really blows? Wall Street. The whole point of a finance sector is supposed to be collecting the surplus that the whole economy has worked to produce, and channeling that surplus wealth toward its most socially valuable uses. It is difficult to overstate how completely awful our finance sector has been at accomplishing that basic goal. Let’s try to change that by allowing state governments into the banking game.
A twisted yet prevalent worldview informs this statement. Myerson views the finance sector as a social instrument for the redistribution of surplus wealth (whatever that is), rather than a market manifestation of individuals pursuing rationally conceived values. As a tool of society, state banks would allocate financial resources toward political uses. Recognize that no other purpose exists for a government to manage a bank.
The underlying objection labels private profit as evil. Why? Because it’s a manifestation of greed.
Question: how is it greedy to seek profit from your own productive work and not greedy to seek a universal basic income for doing nothing? If the acquisition of money proves inherently evil, why is the entire “progressive” movement obsessed with controlling it all? You can’t have it both ways. Instinctively, the Left knows this, which is why they try to justify their profit seeking with a faulty moral argument…
1) Only Physical Labor Qualifies As Work
Behold the clincher, the fundamental assertion upon which all leftist prescriptions are built, an attempt at moral rationalization for taking from those who own to disperse to those who do not. When Myerson claims that landlords “don’t really do anything to earn their money” and take advantage of “people who actually work for a living,” he expresses the Marxist labor theory of value, the utterly ridiculous notion that only manual labor qualifies as work.
The full landlord rant:
Ever noticed how much landlords blow? They don’t really do anything to earn their money. They just claim ownership of buildings and charge people who actually work for a living the majority of our incomes for the privilege of staying in boxes that these owners often didn’t build and rarely if ever improve. In a few years, my landlord will probably sell my building to another landlord and make off with the appreciated value of the land s/he also claims to own – which won’t even get taxed, as long as s/he ploughs it right back into more real estate.
Think about how stupid that is. The value of the land has nothing to do with my idle, remote landlord; it reflects the nearby parks and subways and shops, which I have access to thanks to the community and the public.
It takes a fair amount of cognitive contortion to regard landlords as idle parasites living off the labor of others while advocating for free housing. If the landlord has no claim to ownership on account of having not personally erected the building, upon what can a tenant base a claim?
The labor theory of value completely ignores the role of the mind in production. Bankers, managers, investors, landlords, all gain their wealth riding atop the backs of others, according to the Marxist view. Nevermind the intellectual effort which goes into evaluating a loan, conceiving a plan, valuing a company, or assessing a property. Nevermind the value of those dollars which are allocated toward investments with an expectation of profit. To hear Myerson tell it, you might think landlords stole their buildings from whoever erected them rather than securing them through trade.
Earlier in his piece, Myerson refers to Wall Street as a collection of “banker-gamblers,” as if the market were a zero-sum game, a poker table where the amount of chips on the table never exceeds what each player brought, where one player’s gain necessitates another’s loss and success results from cheating or chance. While investments certainly constitute a bet, investors take nothing from anyone and must contribute to production in order to succeed. If successul, they create something that was not there before, increasing the total amount of wealth in the economy without taking anything from anyone. They own their loss, and damn well ought to own their gain.
Like each generation before them, millennials will define their own destiny with the ideas they choose to embrace. The whole of human history reads as a tale of tyranny, of political will trumping individual rights. Whether a pharaoh, an emperor, or a democratic majority, the powers that be tend to crush individuals under a banner of grandeur – an appeal to greatness, national pride, or the common good.
The American experiment stands out as a remarkable deviation from that dark standard, an attempt to recognize individual lives as ends in and of themselves, rather than a means toward the ends of others. What Myerson advocates is not new when viewed in historical context. He prescribes the old. He rallies for the tried and failed. Following his advice will return us to serfdom.
The real revolution, the truly youthful cause, erupts in the pursuit of liberty. A celebration of life and our living of it, liberty unleashes you to be who you are and pursue what you want, demanding only no trespass upon others. That’s the reform millennials–and everyone else–should enthusiastically fight for.