What Every Parent Knows: the Fallacy of Socialism

If you are a parent, or if you remember what you did to your parents, you can understand basic economics, and sort out the fallacy of Socialism.   Apparently this “ism” is rearing its ugly head again, even in the halls of Congress.   Every generation wrangles this beast to the ground.   So, let’s go at it again–from a different perspective.

The reason Socialism has failed in every country it has ever been tried in, and has brought those countries to their knees economically, has to do with a fundamental truth that sometimes gets obscured in all the political rhetoric and ideology.

The truth is this:   What you reward, you get more of.   What you penalize you get less of.  That is a truth, and every parent and child knows it.  Parents, recall a time when your child pitched a fit in a restaurant or out in public.  One so intense and loud and enduring that you just “had to quiet them” to stem the embarrassment of disrupting others.   So, you gave them a candy, or stopped doing what you were doing and put all your attention on them.   You coddled and cooed them into being quiet.   And at that moment you rewarded a “down stat” or bad behavior.   And the moment you rewarded it with food, cuddles, kisses, or money, you set the stage and virtually guaranteed yourself that another temper tantrum would ensue the next time the child wanted something.   You rewarded a tantrum, so you get more tantrums.   Eventually you learned not to do that, and you endured an excruciating amount of shrill screams until the child eventually learned that you would not reward that behavior any more.

Likewise, if your child came home with money he had earned by selling “homemade widgets” in the neighborhood because he wanted to earn money to buy a bicycle, and you forced him to share his profit with his brother, who stayed home playing computer games, you just penalized his initiative and activity.  Now he has less interest in making things, selling things, earning things.  You get less of the behavior that would make him a functioning, contributing adult, and you get two kids lying on their beds playing computer games.   That is followed by years of you cajoling both of them, trying to get them to “show some ambition.”

It’s pretty simple.   If someone produces, you reward it some way, and you will get more production.   If someone fails to produce, you deny them somehow, and you will get less of the failure.   You “penalize” the bad behavior, and you get less of it.  (Now you know I am not talking about child abuse, and beatings.  You are smarter than that.)   That production can be job-related, as in someone producing more product, sales, or profit; it can be emotional stability; it can be getting great grades; it can be sanity; it can be health; it can be harmony; it can be truthfulness…. you can add in any that come to mind.   If it’s good, reward it.   If it’s bad, penalize it.

Now, for example, take news agencies whose anchors and reporters on an almost daily basis make huge and potentially catastrophic misstatements of facts.   Getting it wrong is not something that should be rewarded.   It should be penalized.   One would think you can make one or two honest mistakes, but when it seems to be your regular approach to journalism, you should be fired.   Instead, they are rewarded with higher pay, and celebrity status.   And you wonder why the next network, or newspaper, suddenly finds itself with false reporting.   What you reward you get more of.

Conversely, if a journalist tries to straighten out his colleagues and honestly report something he feels has been misrepresented, he is held up to public humiliation, demoted and/or fired.  Good behavior was penalized.   What does that teach everyone?

I remember once calling a business mentor of mine to discuss something I was very upset about.   When she came on the phone, I was crying, and speaking forcefully in heated emotion about the situation, and some people I wanted to complain about.   She calmly said, “Lee, call me back when you are in a better mood, and we will discuss it.”   And she hung up.

After getting over my pout session, I realized she was right.   My behavior was unprofessional, and guaranteed to produce more upset with her and others.   So, she did not reward it with sympathy, attention, or anything else.   She held me to a standard of professionalism.  I got my act together, called her back, and discussed the very real situation like the adult I was, and like the professional she was.   We worked out a solution, and went on our way.

And I never did that again.   She rewarded my good behavior as an executive with attention and insight.   She denied my bad behavior.   And, I became a wiser, better leader.

Now I challenge you to look at Socialism through that prism.   What does it reward?   If it penalizes production you will get less production–thus a declining economy and then the  declining wealth of every citizen ultimately.   By rewarding the non-producer with something he has not earned, you get more non-production.

Pretty simple, actually.   Now–call your Congressmen and women and educate them please.   And if they won’t listen to you, fire them.

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