The Socialism Experiment?

Sep. 10, 2009
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So there's a spiffy little email making its way around the conservative circles, apparently "teaching" why Socialism doesn't work (although of course Socialism is a finicky little word, isn't it?). Apparently, it's a true story. It goes like this:
An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single
student, but had once failed an entire class.

The class (students) insisted that socialism worked since no one would be
poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said,
"OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism."

"All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so
no one will fail and no one will receive an A."

After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The
students who had studied hard were upset while the students who had
studied very little were happy.

But, as the second test rolled around, the students who had studied little
studied even less and the ones who had studied hard decided that since
they couldn't make an A, they also studied less. The second Test average
was a D.

No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average grade was an

The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling, all resulted
in hard feelings and no one would study for anyone else.

To their great surprise all failed. The professor told them that socialism
would ultimately fail because the harder people try to succeed the greater
their reward (capitalism) but when a government takes all the reward
away (socialism) no one will try or succeed.

First off, it's not a true story. It's a Fiction, plain and simple. Second, it less closely resembles Socialism than it does a dictatorship promoting Soviet-style Communism. Apparently, trying to guarantee health care to everyone means Obama wants to turn the U.S. into a Communist state.

The problem, of course, is that this is what's known as a Straw Man. The goal is to misrepresent an opposing opinion in order to more easily burn it down. So what happens is Obama says he wants to raise the highest tax rate by .5% and all of a sudden it's "HOLY GOD HE WANTS EVERYONE TO EARN THE SAME WAGE HE'S STALIN IN DISGUISE WHERE'S HIS HAMMER AND SICKLE?!"

Straw Man - in other words, the goal is to build it up so it can be burned down. Let's re-write this "true story" so it's at the very least a little bit more accurate:

The class (students) insisted that democratic socialism worked, and they pointed to the successes of our roads, our public parks, the Army, the police, the fire department, the emergency services available to everyone regardless of income, the advances in education, Social Security and of course Medicare (which was run extremely efficiently in states run by democrats).

The professor then said,
"OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism."

At this the class stood up as one and began cheering.

"Free higher education!" cried one.

"Free textbooks!" cried another, near tears.

"I bet he's going to let us opt into a single-payer health insurance system," said one student in the front row. "Yes, this will be a wonderful experiment. My private insurer recently dropped my coverage because I forgot to mention I was on Accutane ten years ago."

"No, no, no," said the professor. "What I mean is everyone will get the same grade at the end of the semester "

"Who's making the rules here?" asked the students. "You said we were engaging in a socialism experiment! But it appears you are the only person making the rules."

"Fascist!" they cried. "No taxation without representation!"

The professor took a step back from the raucous crowd. "I will fail everyone if I must "

"The dictator makes threats!" the students screamed. They were fast becoming bloodthirsty. Having tasted the promise of free access to higher education and access to healthcare like all other industrialized nations, there would be no going back.

"Now, just take it easy," said one student. She was an A+ student, well-versed in the use of Straw Man tactics by conservative economists who refused to accept fallacies in Free Market thought. "When we said Socialism could be a good thing, all we were suggesting was that there can be a role for government in the marketplace. There will always be a private marketplace, but in order for a private marketplace to exist, there must be a government to collect taxes and provide equal security to all."

The professor raised his finger. "True "

"And given the failures of privatized water systems in South America, if We the People want government to run our water system, then we elect representatives to make it happen. We have chosen this, just as we've chosen to let government run our fire departments so everyone has access to them regardless of income. We decide the role of our government, and if that means correcting mistakes made by the market, then that is our choice as a democratic republic."

 "Socialism," she continued, "is a part of our country, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. We collectively own the roads. We collectively own our lakes. And we collectively own our Army and police. And we've done all this without forcing everyone to earn the same wage."

The professor looked at her, then at the rest of the class. His face had grown red and a vein sitting atop his forehead began to throb. "You all fail for the semester!"


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