The Problem with Socialism
Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas
I grew up in a different land called Southwest Kansas in a small town at a time when kids played outside, even after dark. There was a neighborhood "gang" of us kids, age range 7 - 13 years that engaged in activities. The most illegal activity I can remember is taking over a half block of City Street and playing bicycle hockey. Many of our activities were entrepreneurial as we always were trying to figure out ways to acquire funds. As I look back, one activity on a crisp fall Saturday was an experiment, the results of which demonstrated to me problem with socialism.
The gang of 6 - 8 of us decided to hire ourselves out to rake leaves and clean up yards for people in the neighborhood. I was about eight years old so I didn't really negotiate with our first customer, leaving that to one of the older ones, maybe 12 or 13. After our leader and the customer agreed to a price, we all went to work cleaning. Everyone started out working hard, but eventually some got tired and slowed down. Some of the younger ones didn't do much at all. Eventually, the hardest workers finished the job and the leader took our payment from the customer. The proceeds were distributed evenly among all of us regardless of the fact that we had not all worked with the same vigor or quality. Most of us that worked harder than the others saw the inequity of a system for which everyone received the same pay even when all of us did not do the same amount of work.
Thus demonstrates the fundamental flaw in the concept. Socialism sounds good on the surface; everyone receives the same reward regardless of effort or ability. If I know I'm getting the same reward regardless of my effort, what incentive is there for me to innovate and figure out better ways to do the work? The theory goes that the government can best run the centralized economy and figure out the best solutions.
Today we are starting to hear from some youth and even political candidates in some states a call to implement socialism. While free ice cream for everyone sounds good, these people don't understand that there is no incentive when the ice cream is free. Besides that, someone has to pay for the ice cream. These people must have never observed directly the flaw in the socialist model as I did when I was eight years old.
The most successful economic systems acknowledge the innate ability and need of people to create solutions and innovate. Entrepreneurship and capitalism offer the best promise of economic prosperity for all people. This is not to say that our current system is perfect, far from it. The current system of capitalism in the United States and much of the industrialized world, for 150 years, has been built upon a system that emphasizes profit above all else. The emphasis should be on providing good products and services for customers while being good stewards of Earth's resources and receiving ample compensation to reward those doing the work and those that made the investments in the institutions providing the goods and services. Had this been the emphasis over the last 150 years, there would be much less graft and corruption in the large corporations and our government.
Throwing out the current system in exchange for one that does not encourage individual creativity and innovation but rather lends itself to greater graft and corruption, even tyranny is not the answer. Let's change the message to youth, introducing entrepreneurship as a way of providing useful solutions to free markets while being amply compensated for our creativity and innovation. This is our best hope of a better economic future.
Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at email@example.com or Twitter @jimcorrellks.