Monday, 13 April 2015

The Inevitable Drift to the Left

We're coming up to a General Election. In any society, most people earn less than average pay, so when we ask all those who would like a pay rise to put up their hands, most people are inclined to do so. They will vote for redistribution of wealth. Some, who earn less than average income and who are ambitious, may keep their hands down, and some who are happy to live off what they earn may do likewise. Some will not bother to put their hand up at all. But human nature will see more hands go up than stay down. And who can blame people for voting for a pay rise? The world is a tough place and it’s dog eat dog, survival of the fittest and all that, isn’t it? Most of those who have money probably got it dishonestly anyway, especially the bankers, didn’t they?

I’m not moralising. What I’m doing is simply pointing out the inevitable drift to the left, over a period of decades or generations, of a reasonably freely functioning democracy. We’d all like a little more, please, and the one-man one-vote system gives us a way of achieving that, over time, without the need for protests or violence. Even the rich in liberal Western democracies have concluded that one-person one-vote is preferable to off-with-their-heads! Enlightened self-interest!

We are not all born equal. We are born female or male, tall or short, blue- or brown-eyed. Some of you are good at music, I’m not. Some are good at maths, I struggle. Some have good manual skills, I don’t. You get the idea. Fortunately for me there are people who excel in skills and abilities at which I am hopeless, so for a modest outlay I can listen to wonderful music, buy an amazing computer and get someone to fix my central heating. That’s how society works. Each of us contributes our abilities, skills and experience to enable us to live more rewarding and comfortable lives. Some of those abilities and skills are in shorter supply and greater demand than others and the best way yet found to value those skills is the free market where a willing buyer and seller come together and agree on a price. Prices are decided by what individuals are prepared to pay or accept. It’s a bottom-up model of society, not a top-down one. It’s voluntary, not mandated by those in power. This is how I saw it in 2013.

Specialists Triolet ©

The hunter wants a spear and the smith wants meat,
If everyone’s a specialist, everybody thrives.
It’s work and trade and buy and sell and nobody must cheat,
The hunter wants a spear and the smith wants meat.
Rising productivity means all have more to eat,
And more to eat means happiness and more fulfilling lives.
The hunter gets a spear and the smith gets meat
When everyone’s a specialist, everybody thrives.

Evidently the ‘put-up-your-hand for a fairer distribution of income’ and a ‘willing-buyer-and-seller’ models of social organisation are in conflict. As Ayn Rand explained in ‘Atlas Shrugged’, you can only coerce those whose skills are in short supply to work to order up to a point. In effect the failed idea of Central Planning (practiced by many regimes, including the now defunct Soviet / Russian and other Communist regimes, Fascism and Syndicalism) stands testimony to the weakness of income redistribution, and Western free-trade and capitalism (recently aped by China) show how application of capital to raise the productivity of labour, and thereby allow rising living standards, stands testimony to the power of a society in which people cooperate voluntarily.

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