…….. Well, what is it exactly? Sleaze or stupidity?
Whenever I see dangerous stupidity with an obvious political agenda from supposedly intelligent people, I become suspicious. What is more likely? That they are actually as stupid as their arguments make them appear to be or are they just cynical political opportunists?
I have to ask the question any time I read Robert Reich or hear him talk. This article of his is a perfect example. I could ask the above questions about every single statement and assertion in it.
The article is a neo-com con-job.
His goal is to advance the interest of the state at the expense of the free market and civil society.
He is doing this through conflating the notions of state and society. Calling the state society is the essence of the con. The two words have very different connotations. ‘State’ means power and an enforcement apparatus while ‘society’ means community and cooperation.
We are fundamentally social beings. Society is extremely important to us. Society is a complex web of voluntary exchanges, interactions and valuations. We define ourselves as individuals in relation to a social background. Civilization cannot exist without society, but society is fundamentally different from the state which is by definition a coercive organization.
Robert Reich is attacking voluntary interactions insinuating that they are immoral and suggests that we replace them with state controlled exchanges. EVERY single example in his article is demanding more money for the employees of the state financed by money taken away from those who are in his opinion less deserving. The key word is ‘HIS’ (opinion).
The notion of ‘socially necessary labour’ is central to Marx’s theories. Without it, the labour theory of value makes no sense as it cannot explain the differences between the productivity of different workers. There is no objective way to define what it means.
‘Worth to society’ is just a neo-com repackaging of the discredited Marxist idea. ‘Socially necessary labour’ and ‘worth to society’ are notions designed to be fuzzy, designed to require an interpreter, a representative of the vanguard elite: a communist. The assumption behind either notion is that these values can be determined objectively, that there is a knowable amount of time that should be required to produce something and that the ‘right’ compensation can be determined objectively, without taking the preferences of individuals into consideration.
I could ask, for example, what is the worth to society of what I am doing right now? How can it be determined and who can make the determination?
How does the ‘social value’ of this article compare to the ‘social value’ of the Robert Reich article? How does both compare to the value of an equal number of words in a Harry Potter book?
In a proper communist society the comrades would decide. In a free world, the market does. It seems that more people are interested in Harry Potter, more are willing to pay money to read that than they are to pay for reading either my work or Mr. Reich’s. The value to society of J. K. Rowlings’ work is reflected perfectly by her net worth. The same way as the value of Steven A. Cohen’s net worth reflects the social value of his. The situation of a fund manager is not that different from that of an author. His salary is not determined by a committee, it is arrived to through negotiation and the largest component of their income depends on how well they are doing. The people for whom he made money gave it to him gladly and willingly. If someone could triple my money in a year, ‘does anyone seriously believe’ that I would give a damn how much that person made for himself in the process?
(It’s funny how Reich is questioning the social value of Mr. Cohen, but not that of Mr. Soros who is doing at least twice as well as Mr. Cohen…….)
The article is not just questioning, but outright denying the ‘Social value’ of certain professions.
“….it seems doubtful that society is really that much better off because of what they do.”
But who are paying them? Aren’t those who do part of society? Are they not benefitting from their work? Is that not social value?
The implication here is that Reich wants to arrogate himself even the right of deciding who does or does not belong to society. This is what the Germans did with the Jews. The Bolsheviks to the ‘bourgeois class.’ Redefining society along the interest of state and dehumanizing the groups they wish to exclude (before physically eliminating them).
There is, in fact, no such thing as ‘worth to society.’ ‘Society’ does not pay for things, only individuals do. What makes the difference is whether those individuals make decisions for themselves using their own money or on behalf of others using money they took away from them
Reich is appealing to the lowest emotions of our nature: greed and envy. Let’s take from the rich and give it to the politically favoured.
In the twisted world of the neo-coms, there is no difference between state and society. In the realized form of their aspirations, communism, society no longer exists; all of its functions are taken over by the state. Health care, education, caring for the elderly are all subjects to decisions of the ruling elite. So is every other aspect of our lives: how much we earn, what we can spend it on, what we produce and how.
I came from a world like that. It was miserable.
“What’s the worth to society of social workers” – Reich asks.
Well, ZERO. It is only worth something to the person who is receiving the benefits or to those who would otherwise have to provide it.
The answer is zero in another sense as well. Before the neo-communists, the likes of Reich, took the function away from civil society, the profession ‘social worker’ did not even exist. Care for the needy was performed by volunteers, by charities financed through voluntary donations.
The value of social workers is not to society but to the state. The social workers Reich is speaking for are all unionized employees of the state. They are paid exactly us much as they are worth to the state.
“…..what would the rest of us do without these dedicated people?” he continues.
We would pay them exactly as much as their services are worth to each and every individual one of us. Some of us would by the deluxe service; some of us would pay for the bare minimum we can afford. We would not ever be without these ‘dedicated people’ as long as we would have the need for their services and the willingness to pay for it.
This is another statist sleight of hand. The moment the state hijacks a function of the free market or civil society, it starts presenting it as a service that couldn’t possibly exist without the benevolent state providing it to us.
The state uses intellectual tools such as Mr. Reich to perpetuate such myths.
Reich also laments the fate of the starving artists without ever asking:
What is the right number of artists? Who should decide how many should there be and how much should they be paid? Let’s suppose I think that there are way too many artists and way too few scientists in this world. Who should arbitrate my disagreement with Mr. Reich? Most artists do their best work while still starving. Can anyone decide which aspiring artist will create ‘Social value’ ten years from now? Are we going to call ANY effort socially valuable? If the decisions are not made by the actual society shown through their willingness to pay for it, then how should we decide what has social value? The moment you actually start thinking about the implications of the claim, it becomes obvious how stupid it is.
It makes sense only to those who want to be the arbitrators of social value and artistic merit.
Unlike for artists and social workers, Reich does not have much respect for hedge fund managers.
Why? Because “……they don’t even build the economy…” which is a curious position to take for someone like him.
Robert Reich has a net worth of about $4,000,000. The point here is not to demonstrate that he is just another one percenter hypocrite but to point out that some of that money must be invested somewhere. Some of that must be managed by some fund manager who through his work is providing some of the basic human needs of Mr. Reich. I do not have even close to what he has, but even I have some money invested and I am watching very carefully what is being done with my money. If investing our savings is not what builds the economy, then I do not know what does. Maybe it is government paid social workers attending to our basic human needs.
The essence of Reich’s ideas is: out with the voluntary, in with the coerced. Take the money away from those who earned it through voluntary exchanges and give it to prospective government employees in a scheme that will provide strong incentives for graduates to acquire ‘skills’ that will require the creation of even more government jobs.
In the end, I chose not to believe that Mr. Reich is as stupid as he pretends to be. I do not believe that he believes his own BS. I believe that he is just a cynical advocate of the state, part of the neo-communist movement trying to redress and refurbish Marxist ideas long discredited by history. He is inciting social discord, fermenting the ground for the reanimation of the monster of communism.