Tag Archives: Socialism

The Tragedy of the Commons.

I don’t remember when it was that I came across the specific term, when I read about it.  But I resonated with it immediately.

In short, it’s the idea that a shared resource made available to the whole of the community will languish and suffer abuse in a manner that would not exist if that same resource were owned and used by a single individual.

The classic example is that of a pasture.  Multiple shepherds begin by grazing their sheep in the common pasture.  When the shepherds grow their herds, they begin to understand that the pasture will, in time, become over grazed.  However, because the pasture is communal there is no incentive to preserve the pasture; if Farmer Johnson doesn’t increase the aggregate herd size by one, surely his neighbors will.  In time, the incentive is perverse, the shepherd accelerates the growing of his herd to make sure that “he gets his.”

The tragedy of the commons.

Of course, there are two solutions to this problem:

  1. Privatize the pasture.  Assign an owner of it all or simply divide the pasture into plots.
  2. Form a government and regulate it.

I don’t wanna get into the 1’s and 2’s right now.  Rather, I’m interested in why the Tragedy occurs to begin with.  For example, if we begin the story with a single shepherd and a pasture that he alone owns, he will expand his herd to the size at which the pasture is able to sustain it.  At that point he either begins to cull the herd or expand the pasture.  Now, we can assume that this shepherd has a family, some old enough to be responsible for work and productivity.

Why doesn’t each member of the family act in the manner described above?  Why don’t individual family members engage in the destructive activities of the Tragedy?

Because they have stronger social bonds that hold them together.  A family has the ability to shape expectations, to punish members who fail to live up to those expectations.  A family can control behavior.

No one minds sharing. Hell, we TEACH our kids to share.  However, the unspoken, perhaps even unthought of corollary, is that the sharing is done among a group of people whose actions we can influence.

We are willing to share with those people who would react in the same manner should our circumstances be reversed.  That is, I am willing to share my good fortune with friends and family should they be equally willing to share in reverse.

Note, this does not mean they “owe” the sharer.  Only that, found in similar circumstances, they be willing to share back.  And should they fail, the “social” penalties would be significant.  Up to and including exclusion.

We find that socialism or communism works in the family or small groups of communities.  But when expanded to the point that social penalties lose bite, those constructs breakdown.  They breakdown to the point that people begin to act in rational ways to existing incentives.

So, I’ve been pretty clear in my feelings toward our Gentle Leader.  I’ve been very clear that I think Mr. Obama is what we now call a Socialist.  While not strictly accurate by definitions, the word seems to have changed in meaning over time.  I do not think that he wants the state to own the means of production, but he most certainly wants to redistribute wealth.  Further, he has no fear of forcing corporations to follow edicts of his government.

Which has led me to calling Obama a fascist.  While I understand that many many people incorrectly identify fascism with the violent racist militarism we have seen in recent history, the real meaning of fascism is more akin to state control of economic forces.

However, while all of that may or may not be true, I have never read the books Obama penned himself.  I assume that in these books the President represents himself fairly.  And, I think, without having read even page 1, that he goes back to times when he was a young man.

I wanna keep an ongoing thought experiment as I read these chapters.  I wanna see what Obama HIMSELF says about what he feels.

Perhaps we can lay to rest whether or not the man is a capitalist or a fascist.  Or a socialist.

Or a whatever-ist.

If you believe the likes of Barack Obama and his of his socialist, fascist friends, you will believe that the American system of economics benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

The rich get the breaks and the poor are exploited.

Don’t believe it:

Did you know that in Denmark, the poorest 30 percent pay 14.1 percent of all taxes and the richest pay 48.7 percent, while in the United States, the poorest 30 percent pay just 6.1 percent of all taxes and the richest 30 percent pay a whopping 65.3 percent? The surprising thing is not that the richest pay most of the taxes but that the U.S. has nearly the most progressive tax system in the world, while the Scandinavian countries have about the least progressive tax systems, contrary to commonly held belief.

Obama and his team are radical extreme thinkers when it comes to organizing our economy.  The only thing saving us is the fact that he and his team don’t have any experience in running an organization.  He simply couldn’t manage his way out of a wet paper sack.
Thank God!

Ask anyone on the street if they would be willing to see the needy get the medical care they need and the answer is a massive “Hell yeah!”.  But ask them HOW that is to happen and you get a whole bunch of, “Hell, I da’know.”.

And so’s the quandary of the average American.

And so it is, when faced with work, and love, and school and bills and and and…we are willing, almost demanding, that this burden be taken from us and handled by someone else.  The Genesis.   The lightning striking the mud.

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A very quick primer on what I think is Economics 101:

  • When two parties voluntarily enter into contract, each one, by definition, comes out ahead.
    • The milk I get from the grocer is worth more to me than the money I give to the grocer.
    • The money the grocer gets from me is worth more than the milk the grocer gives to me.
    • This is an example of a GROWING economy where people yearn to trade.
  • When one or more parties are forced into contract, one or the other -or both-, by definition, comes out behind.
    • When forced to sell milk at a price below market value, the grocer receives less money than the milk is worth.
    • When forced to buy labor at a price above market value, the employer pays more for the labor than the labor is worth.
    • This is an example of a shrinking economy.

As a point of fact.  I actively pursue things that create a situation where I come out ahead.  I avoid those where I come out behind.

I’m pretty free market.  I’m also of the mind that the best incentives are the ones that you remember your dad teaching you or that you teach your kids.  Hard work, eat your vegetables, save your money, do your homework….stuff like that.

I like to think that most America teaches these things to their kids.  And to the extent that some of us are better or worse, I guess that’s okay.  But the idea is the same.  This is a place where, if you work hard enough, you can have anything you want.  Which, I’ve always thought the inverse were then true as well.  This is a place where if you DON’T work hard enough, you can’t have anything you want.

So, I don’t like socialism.  Either as a way to teach our kids how to live or as an economic system where we organize our society.

But we are.

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Ya know, there’s been a lot of back and forth among folks on either side of the aisle concerning Voter ID laws making their way into state houses around the country.  With the massive Republican win in 2010, control of state government swung hard right.  And using those majorities and governorships, the GOP is passing laws that would restrict voting.  Now, the restrictions are common sense and are reasonable.  Basically, you have to be a citizen.  Crazy talk I know, but nothing will get a bunch of statists up in arms like a good government regulation!


But serious.  Think about voter id laws and the reaction to ’em.  It goes back to the days when polling places, cities, counties and even entire states tried to prevent black people from voting.  For no other reason than they were black.  We’re stuck there.  We can’t escape from there.  Talk about requiring some burden of proof and the immediate reaction is the usual “Tea Party is racist!” meme.


But here is something that will REALLY get the Left up in arms.  If we’re gonna restrict voting, restrict it on the basis of your Federal Tax burden.

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Just look and see:

1  France
2  Italy
3  San Marino
4  Andorra
5  Malta
6  Singapore
7  Spain
8  Oman
9  Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany
26 Saudi Arabia
27 United Arab Emirates
28 Israel
29 Morocco
30 Canada
31 Finland
32 Australia
33 Chile
34 Denmark
35 Dominica
36 Costa Rica
37 United States of America

It’s plain as day.

The United States sucks.

But I’d like to see even ONE of those other 36 nations do this:

Makayla Clary, of South Hill, Va., was a passenger on an ATV that suddenly tipped over.

“I initially found her at the accident and had to lift the ATV off of her,” her mother, Cheri Clay, said.

A helicopter carried Makayla to Duke hospital.

Catch that?  In order to provide treatment, a helicopter was employed.  And she was carried to Duke Hospital.  One of the world’s TOP facilities.

Okay, back to the news:

There, doctors said her legs were crushed and had severe cuts and swelling. It looked as if her right leg might need to be amputated, but her surgical team recommended waiting four more weeks, Duke plastic surgeon Dr. Detlev Erdman said.

During that time, Makayla underwent additional therapy, including hyperbaric oxygen treatments. In those, a person breathes pure oxygen in a sealed chamber with a pressure 1½ to three times greater than the normal atmosphere.

“With hyperbaric oxygen, we can actually decrease the swelling while simultaneously providing oxygen for those tissues which are not getting an adequate supply of oxygen,” said Dr. Bret Stolp, with Duke Hyperbaric Medicine.

Makayla spent two hours a day for two weeks in a hyperbaric chamber in pressure equivalent to diving 33 feet below sea level. A head tent fed her 100 percent oxygen.

The treatment accelerated Makayla’s treatment and helped save both her legs.

Recently, she was able to drop her crutches and take a few steps on her own.

“She took three steps towards me, and we just hugged and cried,” Clay said. “To go from an injury where half her leg is basically missing to having almost a complete limb now, it’s amazing.”

Makayla said her big motivation to get better is to return to the softball field, where she plays catcher on her school and recreation center teams.

From amputation to catcher on the softball team.

Not one other medical system on the list could have provided that treatment.  Expensive?  You betcha.  A feature or a bug?


‘Nuff said.

So, I had an interesting discussion with reflectionephemeral over at Poison Your Mind.  We were discussing the meaning of income disparity here in America and then around the world.

I acknowledge that such disparity is increasing; the gap between the rich and the poor seems to be getting wider and wider all the time.  And America is much less income level mobile.  That is, it is more difficult here in America to move from one income bracket to another than it is in say, Europe.

However, I make my point that while the gap may be larger, the rich may indeed be getting a larger slice of the pie, that the slice the poor DO get is much bigger than they otherwise would.

In my conversation, I envisioned two scenarios:

A. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poor and 10 being rich, the poorest averaged a 2 while the rich averaged a 3.

B. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poor and 10 being rich, the poorest averaged a 4 while the rich averaged a 9.

In world B, the poor earn MORE than the rich in world A. However, in world B, the rich are wealthier in relation to the poor in world A.

Which would you pick?

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Okay, okay.  For a second, close your eyes and follow along.


Doesn’t work in this medium.

Read this and THEN close your eyes and think through the scenarios.

Or whatever.

Consider dinner.  Fine dining at a fancy schmancy restaurant.

Over the course there will be 1000 people served.  They can come in tables of 2 or or 4.  1 or more even.  Doesn’t matter.  Now, consider these two scenarios:

  1. The price of dinner will be carried by the individual.  That is, when the meal is over, the waiter will bring the check.  One check for each individual.
  2. The price of dinner will be carried by the group.  That is, when the meal is over, the waiter will charge the account.  When all 1000 people have eaten, the total bill will be divided by 1000 and each person will recieve a bill in the mail.

These two methods of payment are going to cover the cost of the whole experience.  Appetizers, desserts, cocktails and even valet parking – heck, coat check too.

Now, here is the question:

Under which scenario would you expect the restaurant to sell more desserts in?

How about appetizers?

For extra credit, explain your answer.