The Free-Market Case for Socialism

There is an old libertarian case for socialism that I’ll briefly outline before getting to my new one. It goes like this:

  1. Property and economic rights exist in and of themselves.
  2. Everything everyone presently has, has been stolen heaps of times, including the land you’re living on that cave men endlessly fought over tens of thousands of years ago.
  3. You might as well spread the wealth around a bit because by taking from the rich and giving to the poor you’re probably just giving stuff back to the rightful owners.

Okay, so now my own free market defense of socialism.  This is largely devil’s-advocate and not necessarily what I really think.

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Third World Attitude

What is your reaction, while visiting a certain type of unwalled, trench-style public lavatory, upon observing another man’s turd sail between your feet?

(a) Eww, that’s not right. I only want to see my own shit, and even that only for reasons of medical diligence.

(b) Indifference.

If you answered (a) above you have a First World Attitude. You do not want to look at ugly things or smell them and you get annoyed if there is a practical way around it that is not being utilized. You think that things should generally work. You also think that lights in an apartment should be wired such that they can all turn on (not 80% of them), that dangerous potholes should be filled, that breathing city air should not cause lung diseases and that when you turn the tap on, water should come out.

If you answered (b) then you have a Third World Attitude. You are probably not reading this blog. You are more likely to be using one of those revolting Socialist toilets with Chinese characteristics described, or wading through shit to get to the train station in India, or shooting rivals and bystanders in a favela, or screaming your head off in a Nigerian restaurant. If you have any contact with them, you wonder why those First World poofters get so upset about no water coming out of the tap and being so entitled that they expect to get such things fixed that very week. Like all your neighbours, you steal power from the grid. You don’t blink when the power goes off. You drive around potholes. You might even drop your dacks, squat and hang a shit just whenever and wherever it feels right, even if it be on a crowded street.

The Third World Attitude can be summed up as a dual lack of concern for doing one’s own job properly, and an indifference, reaching a point of simply not noticing, towards the poor job that others do. I choose the word ‘attitude’ carefully – it is not poverty itself. It is a way of seeing the world, or of failing to see what’s wrong with it and how it could be better. In extreme cases of Third World Attitude (India) people do not even seem to smell open sewers, rubbish dumps or leather works. They cheerfully stop in at tea stalls right next to them, and enjoy their chai without vomiting in spite of the filth that assaults their every, dulled sense from every direction.

An example. I live in one of the best apartments in this town. The rooms are spacious, the power is usually on, it has been painted, the toilets flush and there are rarely scorpions in the bath. The contractor who fitted it out and furnished it did as good a job as anyone would do in this country.

But then we get to the lack of attention to detail:

– Some windows have no curtains or fly screens

– Some lamps are without light bulbs

– Some lights do not work because of the wiring

– Some keys were not provided

– The washing machines do not work (wrong voltage)

– The replacement machine dispenses waste water straight on to the ground

And so on. None of these is serious enough to bother an experienced third world traveler like your intrepid narrator. What is annoying is that the contractor promised to return ‘tomorrow’ to fix these issues but now, months later, simply refuses to answer his phone. I could fix some of them myself, but why should I? The contract clearly states that it is his responsibility.  And if you give up and do things yourself, the third world attitude is reinforced and the people you have to deal with get even worse.

The latest issue is that we have run out of water. See, this town has no regular piped water. Who needs that bourgeois, first world poofterism? So we have to call the contractor to order a water delivery.

And he still won’t answer his phone.

Luckily we have a white blonde woman living in the house. Being who and what he is, the contractor cannot resist answering her call *just in case* and the message gets through. Maybe we’ll get water in a week or so. We had anticipated this situation and have prepared emergency supplies.

We are not allowed to have a key to the room with the tank so we can’t check the level. We just have to wait for the water to run out. Then we can’t order more ourselves because we don’t speak the vernacular and are not allowed to have the keys for the gate to let the water in anyway.  So here we are.

We use too much water. It can’t be helped because in this country with chronic water shortages, the owners of the building chose not to install any modern, water-efficient features like low-pressure showerheads or water-saving toilets. For that matter, despite frequent blackouts the solar backup is lame due to the lack of energy-efficient appliances and various other foreseeable fuck-ups.

With present technology the building could have been set up to be self-sufficient for long periods of time. A generator, solar battery, better water efficiency, etc. etc. Instead it is a lumbering dinosaur designed by people incapable of imagining a future that is better than the past. Even if the government is useless and the public infrastructure does not improve, this building could have been an island of frugal comfort amid the sea of dust and backwardness. They wouldn’t have had to invent these life-improving gadgets – just import them.

Finally, people here think foreigners are soft for throwing a hissy fit about having no water and so on (if you don’t throw a hissy fit, the water stays off until you do). Locals think that rich countries are rich simply through luck. Lucky white people, living in cities where the power is always on, except Adelaide. So lucky to have piped, potable water. So lucky that there’s WiFi and 4G. So lucky that the food doesn’t make you sick.

This is the keystone that connects the crumbling archway of the Third World Attitude – upon noticing that other countries do things properly, they put it down to luck, as though when the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove the convicts and redcoats were delighted to find it all set up with a modern sewerage treatment plant and daily flights to Hong Kong. The First World Attitude is to see that things could be better, and to make them so.

A salient demonstration of the difference between Third World Attitude and mere poverty is the case of post-war Japan. Most cities had been razed, railways destroyed, people were starving and crime was rampant. Having a First World Attitude, the Japanese rebuilt and created the country that we know today.

Having said all of that, Third World Attitude is a spectrum. You’ll find aspects of it in Melbourne when you see the lack of shame about the state of our airport and railways. You can see touches of it in Taiwan in the shabbiness of wiring, curbing, plumbing and so on in an otherwise capable nation. I can see aspects of First World Attitude in places like Cambodia, where some people imagine better shops, restaurants and hotels, and create them.

To build a better world you first need to imagine it. But don’t go imagining crazy things that won’t help like social engineering. Bricks and mortar, mate. Bricks and fucking mortar.

Defeating the Purpose

For a long time there was a sheltered work program in Australia for the mentally disabled.

It operated like this: people would be assessed according to how great their level of disability, how much they could contribute and how much support they would need. They would then be given simple tasks to complete. Employers would take them on because the wages would be lower, and just because they wanted to do some good.

This was an excellent way for the disabled to gain greater independence and feel part of society. They were a common sight traveling to work together on the bus from their share houses, just living normal lives like everyone else but at a lower level of complexity. Their nominal wages would be supplemented by welfare which I’m sure no one ever begrudged.

But then Read More

That’s why she looks like that

I once knew a woman called Kaylee who had a permanently rueful expression, kind of like a nun would look if she had just found out there is no God. Kaylee sometimes smiled or laughed but there was always great dissatisfaction visible in the skull behind. It was as though her life were already over and she was floating through the second half of it like a forgotten ghost.

Kaylee did her dissertation in the gender roles of infants. You see, very young boys tend to Read More

The Wages of Dim

It’s hard to find good help.

I have a housekeeper ‘cos I’m heaps rich and that (so long as I never return to Australia or any other civilized country).

I ran into a minor problem.

She didn’t cook me dinner tonight because she didn’t have enough money to buy ingredients.

You dickhead, my reader thinks despite his best efforts at generosity of spirit towards his frequently irritating narrator. Why didn’t you Read More

Seven Years a Vego

I’ve shared a lot. I’ve already shared too much. But for some reason I’ve never shared this.

I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for seven years. In that time I did not touch a single scrap of meat or fish. I wasn’t one of those, ‘Oh I’m vegetarian but sometimes I have, like, just a little bit of, like, chicken or whatever’ vegos (i.e. the female ones). I was dedicated and pious.

It came from Read More

Glad to be alive

From my teenage years I was deeply depressed (never diagnosed, this was before it was cool) and from maybe seventeen or so close to suicidal.

It is painful just to write that sentence because it brings back memories of a time I rarely think of any more.

One thing led to another, I cheered up in my early twenties and I’ve been chirpily maudlin ever since. I actually had counseling at one point and it was not the load of tree-hugging codswallop you probably think.

Since then I’ve done many things. I’ve gotten qualifications, lived in a highland Japanese village, learned a language or two, bedded a few Read More

The Day I Realized My Friends Were Retarded

In the 1990s there was an amusing TV comedy in Australia called Frontline. It was a satirical look at tabloid current affairs shows and most story lines were based on real events leaked by insiders: trumped-up hosts talking to gunmen in hostage situations thus blocking police calls, entirely faked stories, dodgy charity drives and the like. There was even an episode inspired by the character assassination of Charles Murray – astonishingly enough for the leftie D-Gen team that produced the show.

I recommended it to my mates at school and looked forward to their accolades the next day.

Didn’t happen.

One fellow complained that there was no laugh track. ‘How are you supposed to know Read More

Dirty Old Man

The first thing you notice about South East Asia is the dirty old men. Men aged 50-plus (and I mean plus), fat, balding, bespectacled men in tent-sized Hawaiian shirts, men who would not look out of place playing lawn bowls at a Gold Coast retirement home or mowing around the jacaranda in Mount Waverley. Enjoying the Wednesday parma and pint at the local RSL club with their nasal-voiced, leather-skinned and blue-rinsed wives. You know the kind of men I mean. The kind who say ‘How’s your strength?’ when you walk past because they need your help lifting something. The kind who still say ‘Jap’ and ‘wog’. The kind who, when in mixed company of their own age, converse exclusively about their operations and the recent operations of others.

These salt-of-the-earth men strut the streets of Phnom Penh and Phuket with girls in their early twenties, girls whose professional genius disguises even the most subtle indications of disgust. What I find most odd about these gents is their complete lack of Read More

Childcare Economics

I am an idiot. As such, there are many things I don’t understand. I am only just clever enough to notice this fact.

One of the things I don’t comprehend is child care. In many developed countries people are always screeching about child care. Feminists are screeching about it. Opposition parties are screeching about it. UN agencies, productivity commissions, business councils and mothers are all carrying on like pork chops.

“More child care!” they say. “Without it we shall return to the Dark Ages of beer soup for breakfast and the dunking of nags.” Plus some bad things, I imagine.

Let me explain what I don’t get. The Read More

Problems Need Solutions

In Generation Doom I talked about the darkest days of my upbringing when every adult I knew was miserable and hated their lives.

A commenter asked, was this in the FSU back when it first got its ‘F’? Because things were pretty bad then.

I had to reply no, this was in suburban Australia where recession meant lining up for the dole or losing the house, not starvation and horrific levels of crime.

Eventually I stumbled upon my first girlfriend. Imagine my surprise when I found that her family were fairly cheerful. Imagine my further shock when I found out that both her parents Read More