Why Money Is Bad, And Complete Socialism Is The Answer
By David Metcalfe
January 7, 2020
Money is an interesting concept to a child. It’s rare that children connect money with survival, like adults do. To children, when they get money, they think about the fun things they can buy, like candy or a toy. Children have all of their expenses covered- housing, food, transportation, activities, clothing, etc. Children do work- in their studies at school- but the profit motive is irrelevant. For adults, doing any work without getting paid seems absurd or illegal.
If work doesn’t make children money, then why do they do it?
Well, for one, there is authority saying they have to. If they don’t do any work, they can get punished. Secondly, it’s just the thing that everyone does. All of their friends go to school and do the work, so it’s easy to just go along with the norm. Thirdly, there are expectations on children; from teachers, parents, and peers. If they do poorly on a test, their teachers and parents will be disappointed in them, and their friends might think they are unintelligent. Fourthly, children often feel an internal motivation to succeed at what they are doing; whether it’s sports, studies, games, or other activities. They feel a sense of reward when they do well.
But despite the fact that children work well and effectively without the profit motive, when they are 18 we decide they have to exist in the “real world” where everything in your life becomes commodified. Now the school work you once did for free costs $10,000/year. The housing you once had for free costs another $10,000/year. The food you once had for free costs $5,000/year. So on and so forth, if you want literally anything, you have to pay money for it.
For children, there is approximate equality. Sure, some come from richer homes than others, and some schools are better than others. But within a certain school, all the children, no matter who they are, receive the same education. They all have the same opportunities to play on the playground or gymnasium. They all receive the same punishments and rewards for the same bad or good behaviour. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, but it doesn’t significantly determine their life situation.
But when 18 hits, money means everything. It determines where you live, what car you drive, what vacations you take, how people treat you, what friends you have, etc. Money is what makes a person; it’s what decides a significant portion of their identity. And that comes with great stress: envy, pressure to perform, failure costing you severely, bills and expenses, etc.
For children, money comes in small bits and pieces, as supplementary to their life. For adults, money is everything, and is necessary for all aspects of existence and identity. For children, they work despite no profit motive, and they all have approximate equality. For adults, they only work if there is a profit motive, and there is severe inequality.
What if, instead of commodifying your existence at age 18, we just kept it the same?
Would that really be so awful? What if, just like how a child’s parents cover their basic expenses, the government covered it all for you? You never have to pay for your housing, for your food, for your car, for your education; you just get whatever you need. What if, in the same way that teachers encourage young people to work, employers simply organized who is best at what job and gave each one work accordingly?
This is how things worked in the early Christian church, described in the Bible, in Acts:
“All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44-45).
“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:34-37).
This is also described in the Book of Mormon, in Alma 1:
“They were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.
And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.
And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions.
And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth.
And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.
And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church.” (Alma 1:26-31).
How great would it be if everyone used their talents to pitch in, not because they were going to get paid for it, but because of the good that it would do for their fellow man? How great would it be if homelessness and poverty didn’t exist, because anyone who had more than they needed would simply give it to someone who did need it?
It sounds great, so why don’t we just do it?
For one, people are greedy. Millions of Americans have tons of excess wealth, while millions of other Americans live in poverty, and yet, the rich do not give much charity to help them. Some people have way more than they need, others have not enough, but people do not want to balance the scales. They want their fancy cars, their big houses, their nice vacations, and they don’t care if there are millions of people starving.
Secondly, people are selfish; they are not altruistic enough to work for the good of others. People will not volunteer to clean bathrooms or spend years in medical school if there is not a paycheque in it for them at the end of the day.
Thirdly, people are lazy; they will avoid work whenever they can. People will leave early, do a mediocre job, or not do anything at all, unless they are compelled to by an exterior force.
Fourthly, people are corrupt; as soon as they get power, they abuse it. People in power often want to exploit people in subjection to that power. We can’t trust government or business leaders to act in the best interests of the people, and have to hold them accountable.
There are probably many other reasons, but I’ll leave it at those few.
Is socialism realistic?
No. Not the way humans currently are. We are too selfish and too motivated by our own desires. I would love a world in which Bill Gates invents computers simply because he loves studying computers and wants to get them out to everyone so their lives can benefit from it. I would love a world where doctors spend years studying and working lots of hours simply because they love medicine and want to use it to help others. On and on, I would love to see loving work and loving others be sufficient motivation for people; but it’s not.
I would love to see a world where leaders are pure and not corrupt; where leaders are wise and truly want to benefit people. I would love to see leaders consult with academics and make well educated decisions on big issues. I would love to see leaders live to serve rather than be served. On and on, I would love to see loving and serving others be sufficient motivation for leaders; but it’s not.
I would love to see a world where, when people get extra money, their first question is not, “what should we spend it on?” but rather, “who should we give it to?”. I would love to see a world where talented and skilled people, rather than ask, “how can I benefit from my abilities?” ask, “how can I benefit others with my abilities?”. On and on, I would love to see altruism define how we spend our money, time, and talents; but it doesn’t, and it won’t.
Children live simpler lives, and have general equality, and are able to work without the profit motive. Adults, however, have huge inequality, live their lives synonymous with their money (and obsess with getting as much of it as they can), and face many pressures and stresses.
Capitalism assumes that people act in their own best interest, while socialism assumes that people will act in the best interests of the community as a whole. Unfortunately, capitalism gets it right, for the most part. People are generally very selfish. Many socialist regimes have had to motivate people with authoritarian government force to get them to work in the absence of the profit motive.
But wouldn’t it be great if humans were so altruistic that they would simply work to help others? If leaders would not use their power to rule over people but to serve under them? If we didn’t even need taxes because people willingly gave their excess money away whenever it was needed?
Modern first world governments have found that a mixed economy works best: the profit motive to get people to work, and taxation to fund collective social programs.
But if Christians are right about Jesus coming back to earth and ruling everyone, it answers all of my ideals. If people are pure and live like Jesus, they will want to use their abilities to serve others (Jesus never got paid for healing people or dying on the cross, far as I know). If Jesus rules over people, he will be the kind of ruler who came “not to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). If people have the same empathy for others and rejection of excess that Jesus had, they will easily give to whoever needs it (1 John 3:17).
The flawed nature of mankind makes capitalism necessary, and aspects of socialism have to be compulsory. The free market welfare state is the best we can do, and we are forced to find a balance between giving people the freedom to pursue their own interests and forcing them to give to help others through taxes.
To get truly altruistic socialism, we will have to wait for Jesus.