A TALE OF TWO BROTHERS:
Socialism Does Not Work
by Raynor James
This is a story of two brothers. It has two different outcomes. Each outcome is predictable. Why?
It’s a story based on the personalities and natures of people I know. I expect you’ll recognize people you know who share similarities with them. Let me tell you about them, and let’s see what you think.
David and Sammy are the brothers. David is the older by three years. They grew up in a loving home. Their mom did not work outside their home, but she did home canning, helped tend a two acre veggie garden, cooked, did laundry, helped the boys with their homework, and did all the other things stay-at-home moms do. Their dad worked long hours at his job, and also found time for gardening, teaching his sons to hunt, taking them fishing, teaching them how to throw a baseball, and encouraging them to do well in school.
David did very well in school. He also excelled at sports. He worked very hard at both. He was enthusiastically and energetically competitive. David was also expected to help with chores at home, and was cheerful about doing them. His parents didn’t have to remind him because he took his responsibilities seriously. There were a few bumps in the road, but for the most part, his growing up years were happy.
Sammy loved being in the woods. He loved the way the woods smelled. He loved the sounds. The birds and animals fascinated him. He became a really skilled hunter and brought home deer, squirrels, ducks, and turkeys for the family table. He also loved time spent on the water, the gleam of a fish striking his line, and the constant sound of gulls.
Sammy did not like school. So much time spent indoors was a waste. He was mostly a “D” and “C” student. For a while after one of his parents’ pep talks, he’d bring the “D’s” up to “C’s” and even earn an occasional “B,” but that never lasted long. He’d take it as long as he could, and then throw the homework over, and head to the woods or the creek.
Sammy also wasn’t as reliable as his brother about doing his chores at home. He really meant to, but he’d “forget.”
Like David, Sammy’s growing up years were happy. His parents pushed him, but not too hard. He was always able to spend enough time outdoors, and still pass his work at school, so he enjoyed life, and did not feel like a failure.
After high school, David enrolled in an excellent college. Sammy got a job with a local road building contractor. The pay was okay, and he got to spend his days outdoors, plus quitting time was 4 p.m., and he had long weekends to do as he liked.
During college, David did an internship with a stockbrokerage and financial planning firm. He found he liked the process of helping clients with goal setting, creating a strategy for meeting those goals, creating another strategy for managing risks, and all the rest of it. He even enjoyed the golfing and other social skills that went into “courting” clients. Boy. He could see how he could help good people become financially independent, and do the same thing for himself in this business. Yup. This was the line of work for him!
In a few years, each brother married.
Sammy’s wife was a “country girl.” She even liked to hunt and fish. They each had modest jobs. They spent a great deal of time outdoors. They bought land, installed a mobile home on it, then replaced the mobile home with a pleasant three bedroom house after their second child was born. Over the years, they bought various rifles, shot guns, rods and reels, filet knives, and a “previously owned” boat for fishing. Life was good. They weren’t wealthy, but they were comfortable, and best of all, they had the time to do the things that mattered to them.
David’s wife had finished law school, passed the bar, and was working for a local law firm when they met. She was interested in corporate and tax law, wanted to get her masters in taxation, and sincerely wanted to help people figure out how to legally keep more of their hard earned money. Like David, she was interested in doing well financially while helping clients do the same. As the years passed, David and his wife had two children just like Sammy and Sally. Also just like Sammy and Sally, David and Daina were happy and found life fulfilling. That’s where the similarity stopped. David and Daina had hectic schedules. Sometimes they even had to schedule time to be together, or it wouldn’t have happened. Still, it worked for them.
As the years passed, David and Daina acquired a large portfolio of stocks, some real estate holdings, a couple of residences, a respectable collection of paintings, a few good jewels, and about ten years before retirement, a sailboat.
Was it “fair” that David had a lot more “things” and a lot higher net worth than Sammy?
David enjoyed the challenge of his work. He earned every penny of it by doing things of value for other people that they were willing to pay for. Yes, he enjoyed the money and the things it would buy, but in a way, he enjoyed using it to “keep score” even more. David was by nature a cheerfully competitive person. The opportunity he found in the free market system made it easy for him to build a happy life.
And what of Sammy?
Sammy enjoyed the time freedom he gained by not throwing himself into a career. He earned a living, but a modest one. He found time freedom more important than financial independence. The free market system also gave Sammy the opportunity to live on his own terms and create his version of a happy life.
Yes, I believe it is fair for the David’s of this world to have more “things” than the Sammy’s. We need to each make our own choices about how to pursue happiness. In our story, each brother chose his own path to happiness. Is one right and the other wrong? No; each chose well for himself.
In my mind, the key to fairness is choice and opportunity. Everyone deserves both. But please don’t tell me, “So-and-so didn’t have a chance, the circumstances of his childhood were so awful.” We all know people who have risen above horrible beginnings. Some of us may start in a better place than others, but in a free market system, we all have choices and opportunities. That is good. That is fair.
At the beginning of this story, I mentioned two outcomes. We know how David and Sammy grew up. We know what they’re like. Let’s imagine that, at about the time they became young married people, the free market system was suddenly ended and replaced by a government managed, socialist system in which all people were required to work an equal amount and all were rewarded exactly equally. Would Sammy or David be happy?
Sammy, Sally, and the children are out on their boat fishing. Sammy gets a call on his government issued cell phone. He must report back to the factory immediately. Too many people are sick. Shifts have to run round the clock. He’ll have to come in to fill in for one of the ill workers. On the way back to their mobile home, Sally gets a similar call on her government issued cell. Grandparents aren’t available to look after the children. Sally will have to take the children to the Uniform Government Daycare Center on the way to work. She’ll have to get a ticket validated to show that she made the stop because it’ll make her late.
While on their shifts, Sammy and Sally are both depressed. Why did they have to get called back? Just when everyone was having such a good time. Somebody should have managed things better. After all, they’d worked their full regular shifts. And they were too long at that. Now this. It just wasn’t right. Someone was malingering, and the managers were letting them get away with it. What with these depressing and irritating thoughts, Sammy and Sally didn’t do their best work, and they knew it, but they didn’t care. It just wasn’t fair. They’d done their bit earlier. Someone else should be working this shift. What if not enough work got done? Tough, that’s what! Darned if they cared. The other fill-in shift workers felt much the same. Not much work got done on that shift.
Not much work got done on many similar shifts over time. Productivity fell off. There weren’t as many “things” to share as under free enterprise, but everyone did receive exactly the same amount. Well, everyone except the managers. And everyone except the government ruling “elites.” They lived much like David did in the prior outcome.
And what of David? Well, David no longer benefited from extra work, so why should he bother? He and his family were dragged down to the same level as everyone else. He tried working on the side for a while, but he got caught at it, and his earnings were confiscated, so he too fell into a deep depression.
Fairness is not an equal outcome. Fairness is opportunity and choice. A forced equal outcome makes everyone unhappy, angry, bitter. It is a horrible thing to try to do to people. Our founders understood the concept of unalienable rights. We need to dust the concept off and restore it to its full glory if we’re to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with a reasonable expectation that we can achieve it.