Granted, I haven't read every opinion article written in 2014, so the headline is hyperbole, but this article by Jesse Myerson really is pretty damned stupid.
Millennials have been especially hard-hit by the downturn, which is probably why so many people in this generation (like myself) regard capitalism with a level of suspicion that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. But that egalitarian impulse isn't often accompanied by concrete proposals about how to get out of this catastrophe. Here are a few things we might want to start fighting for, pronto, if we want to grow old in a just, fair society, rather than the economic hellhole our parents have handed us.
1. Guaranteed Work for Everybody
2. Social Security for All
3. Take Back The Land
4. Make Everything Owned by Everybody
5. A Public Bank in Every State
I realize millenials think history started when they were born, but those of us of a certain age remember a country that tried most of these 5 things. It was called the Soviet Union:
All real property was considered state or socialist property. Health, housing, education, and nutrition were guaranteed through the provision of full employment and economic welfare structures implemented in the workplace. ...
And that worked really well:
However, these guarantees were not always met in practice. For instance, over five million people lacked adequate nutrition and starved to death during the Soviet famine of 1932–1933, one of several Soviet famines. The 1932-33 famine was caused primarily by Soviet-mandated collectivization.
Start with land "reform". Myerson deeply resents paying rent:
Ever noticed how much landlords blow? They don't really do anything to earn their money. They just claim ownership of buildings and charge people who actually work for a living the majority of our incomes for the privilege of staying in boxes that these owners often didn't build and rarely if ever improve. In a few years, my landlord will probably sell my building to another landlord and make off with the appreciated value of the land s/he also claims to own – which won't even get taxed, as long as s/he ploughs it right back into more real estate.
Think about how stupid that is. The value of the land has nothing to do with my idle, remote landlord; it reflects the nearby parks and subways and shops, which I have access to thanks to the community and the public. So why don't the community and the public derive the value and put it toward uses that benefit everyone? Because capitalism, is why.
The Soviets tried land reform. They called it "dekulakization":
During 1929-1933, the grain quotas were placed artificially high. It became a cat and mouse game between the peasants and government officials, as peasants would attempt to hide grain and bury it. According to historian Robert Conquest, every brigade had someone with a long iron bar to probe the ground for grain caches, and peasants who did not show signs of hunger, (whose bodies were not swollen) were especially suspected of hiding food. Conquest states:
When the snow melted true starvation began. People had swollen faces and legs and stomachs. They could not contain their urine...And now they ate anything at all. They caught mice, rats, sparrows, ants, earthworms. They ground up bones into flour, and did the same with leather and shoe soles...
were all people who know one another well, and knew their victims, but in carrying out this task they became dazed, stupefied. . . They would threaten people with guns, as if they were under a spell, calling small children ‘kulak bastards,’ screaming ‘bloodsuckers!’. . .They had sold themselves on the idea that that so-called ‘kulaks’ were pariahs, untouchables, vermin. They would not sit down at a ‘parasite’s’ table; the ‘kulak’ child was loathsome, the young ‘kulak’ girl was lower than a louse...
The overwhelming majority of kulaks executed and imprisoned were male, but precise numbers have been difficult to obtain. Stalin ordered for kulaks "to be liquidated as a class" and this liquidation was considered by many historians to have resulted in the Soviet famine of 1932–1933. This has complicated attempts to distinguish the executions of kulaks. A wide range of death tolls has been suggested, from as many as 6 million suggested by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to as few as 700,000 by Soviet news sources. A collection of estimates is maintained by Matthew White.
According to data from Soviet archives, which were published only in 1990, 1,803,392 people were sent to labor colonies and camps in 1930 and 1931. Books based on these sources have said that 1,317,022 reached the destinations. The fate of the remaining 486,370 cannot be verified. Deportations on a smaller scale continued after 1931. The reported number of kulaks and their relatives who died in labor colonies from 1932-1940 was 389,521. Former "kulaks" and their families made up the majority of victims of the Great Purge of the late 1930s, with 669,929 arrested and 376,202 executed.
Turn to guaranteed work. It didn't work out any better:
Robert Service, author of the History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-first Century, claims that with mounting economic problems worker discipline decreased,which the Government could not counter effectively because of the full employment policy. According to Service, this policy led to government industries, such as factories, mines and offices, being staffed by undisciplined and unproductive personnel ultimately leading to a "work-shy workforce" among Soviet workers and administrators.
One could go on and on. But the bottom line is that Myerson is recycling (without attribution to their originators) tired old ideas that have been advanced by socialist utopians since the middle of the 19th Century. Look around. Where are these socialist utopias?
Millennials who want a better economy ought to ditch narcissistic whiners like Myserson and try reading works by grown ups. Start with Michael Novak, for example:
Both on the international and on the national level, problems of poverty will not disappear under capitalism. But they will certainly be more extensively diminished than under the two existing alternatives, socialism and the traditional Third World society. The combination of democracy and capitalism will not bring about heaven on earth. But it will do more to free the poor from poverty and tyranny, and to release their creativity, than any known alternative. To put it another way, the combination of democracy and capitalism is a poor system. But all the others are worse. This is hardly a ringing endorsement. But the real world is no utopia, and utopias have had a very bloody history in this century.
Indeed. On that last point, they might also want to try Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who documented that "some 60 million persons, according to the available figures, had to endure ignominious and painful death at forced labor in the [Soviet Union's work] camps. Think of it! Some 60 millions! More than all the victims of this century’s two most terrible wars."
Nick Gillespie on the new, incredibly stupid article in Rolling Stone by Jesse A. Myerson. http://t.co/8Ts1xipPyK— Stephen Bainbridge (@ProfBainbridge) January 4, 2014