Sunday, February 20, 2005

Twelve Appalling Words, Then and Now

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need -- Karl Marx

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need"; have twelve more appalling words, words which by their very nature portend such wretched suffering, death, and annihilation, ever been uttered? Yet this is the creed of liberals throughout the United States.

This evening, driving to a friend’s house for a party, El Naar and I tuned into the Tammy Bruce Show ( on the car radio. Tammy, who El Naar and I agree is one of the greatest living feminists, was in the midst of a rueful and sardonic polemic against the socialistic "national health plan" that Hillary Clinton is threatening (yet again!) to shove down our throats. Like Tammy, we agree that nothing good can come by the revolutionary overthrow of what's left of the American enterprise system by the imposition of a Soviet-style guaranteed-to-fail health care system. The liberal/leftist/Democrats in this country virtually rend their garments and anoint their heads with ashes over the "appalling" lack of socialized medicine in the United States, using rank sentiment ("Think of the children!") and appeals to greed ("Why should health care cost so much?") to make their point. But what would the real cost be of "free" national health care?
As I listened to Tammy my thoughts turned to the famous story of the "20th Century Motor Company" in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. That story within the novel concerns the 20th Century Motor Company, a thriving automobile manufacturer built from nothing by the blood, sweat and tears of a Mr. Henry Starnes. When he dies, his heirs--his three adult children--inherit the company. The three dissipated, cruel, unfeeling, and hate-filled "do-gooder" children, each of whom is a representative of one aspect of the leftist/liberal ethos, soon drive the 20th Century Motor Company to utter ruin and bankruptcy, all in the name of collectivism--
"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need". While that in itself is a tragedy, the most horrendous result developed during these liberals' stewardship of the company is the havoc that it plays with the workers' lives. Without the incentive to work, without pride, without the self-respect that comes from the sense of ownership, the men and women of the company become as animals, as brutes, spiritually. And therein lies the true tragedy. With that in mind, I have reprinted sections of that chapter, below. Read them as a cautionary tale:

"there was something that happened at the plant where I worked for twenty years The Twentieth Century Motor Company.

It was when the old man died and his heirs took over. ... They let us vote on it too, and everybody -- almost everybody -- voted for it ....
The plan was that everybody in the factory would work according to his ability, but would be paid according to his need. ... they made it sound like that anyone who'd oppose the plan was a child-killer at heart and less than a human being.

... Do you know how it worked, that plan, and what it did to people? Try pouring water into a tank where there is a pipe at the bottom draining it out faster than you pour it in and each bucket you bring breaks the pipe an inch wider, and the harder you work the more is demanded of you, and you stand slinging buckets forty hours a week, then forty-eight, then fifty-six -- for your neighbor's supper -- for his wife's operation -- for his child's measles -- for his mother's wheelchair -- for his uncle's shirt -- for his nephew's schooling -- for the baby next door -- for the baby to be born -- for anyone anywhere around you -- it's theirs to receive, from diapers to dentures -- and yours to work, ... with nothing to show for it but your sweat, with nothing in sight for you but their pleasure, for the whole of your life, without rest, without hope, without end ...

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need ... It took just one meeting to discover that we had become beggars --rotten, whining, sniveling beggars, all of us, because no man could claim his pay as his rightful earning, he had no rights and no earnings, his work didn't belong to him, it belonged to "the family," and they owed him nothing in return, and the only claim he had on them was his "need" -- so he had to beg in public for relief from his needs, like any lousy moocher, listing all his troubles and miseries, down to his patched drawers and his wife's head colds, hoping that "the family" would throw him the alms. He had to claim miseries, because its miseries, not work, that had become the coin of the realm -- so it turned into a contest among six thousand panhandlers, each claiming that his need was worse than his brothers... what sort of men kept quiet, feeling shame, and what sort got away with the jackpot?

... What was it that they'd always told us about the vicious competition of the profit system, where men had to compete for who'd do a better job than his fellows? Vicious wasn't it? Well, they should have seen what it was like when we all had to compete with one another for who'd do the worst job possible. There is no surer way to destroy a man than to force him into a spot where he has to aim at not doing his best, where he has to struggle to do a bad job day after day.

... Amusement was the first thing they dropped. Aren't you always supposed to be ashamed to object when anybody asks you to give up anything, if it's something that gave you pleasure? ... There was a man who'd worked hard, all his life, because he'd always wanted to send his son through college. Well, the boy graduated from high school in the second year of the plan -- but "the family" wouldn't give the father any "allowance" for the college. They said his son couldn't go to college, until we had enough to send everybody's son to college -- and we first had to send everybody's children through high school, and we didn't even have enough for that. The father died the following year, in a knife fight with somebody in a saloon, a fight over nothing in particular -- such fights were beginning to happen among us all the time.

Then there was an old guy, a widower with no family, who had one hobby: phonograph records -- "personal luxury", they called it. But at that same meeting, Millie Bush, somebody's daughter, a mean ugly little eight-year-old, was voted a pair of gold braces for her buck teeth -- this was "medical need," because the staff psychologist had said that the poor girl would get an inferiority complex if her teeth weren't straightened out.
The old guy who loved music, turned to drink instead.

... But the shiftless and the irresponsible had a field day of it. They bred babies, they got girls into trouble, they dragged in every worthless relative they had from all over the country, every unmarried pregnant sister, for an extra disability allowance, they got more sickness than any doctor could disprove, they ruined their clothing, their furniture, their homes -- what the hell, "the family" was paying for it!

They found more ways of getting in "need" than the rest of us could ever imagine -- they developed a special skill for it, which was the only ability they showed.... Yet this was the moral law that the professors and leaders and thinkers had wanted to establish all over the earth.

If this is what it did to a single town, where we all knew on another, do you care to think what it would do on a world scale? ...To work -- with no chance of an extra ration, till the Cambodians have been fed and the Patagonians have been sent to college. To work -- on a blank check held by every creature born, by men whom you'll never see, whose needs you will never know, whose ability or laziness or sloppiness or fraud you have no way to learn and no right to question -- just to work and work and work -- and leave it up to the Ivys and the Geralds (
two of the wealthy socially-conscious liberals who own the company) of the world to decide whose stomach will consume the effort, the dreams and days of your life.

And this is the moral law to accept? This -- a moral ideal? ... Our agony took four years, from our first meeting to our last, and it ended the only way it could end: in bankruptcy.

Ivy Starnes made a short, nasty, snippy little speech in which she said that the plan failed because the rest of the country had not accepted it, that a single community could not succeed in the midst of a selfish, greedy world ..."


At 7:17 PM, Blogger devo said...

The Hillary plan has been laid out by Ayn Rand for all to surprises here!


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