Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Military Socialist? Of Course It Is

Jonah Goldberg is not sure if Jacob Siegel is kidding when he applauds that the "U.S. Military is a Socialist Paradise" -- and sniggers that conservatives ought to be all confused about the institution we support being a poster boy for the "other" way of doing things, from subsidized childcare to universal health care.

But really, how little liberals know about conservatives and what we think!

Yes, of course the military is a socialist paradise.  That's because the military is all about force.  It forces its members to toe the party line, and it is the government's weapon for defending the country by force against foreign enemies.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the military is a single-purpose organization. Its job is to make war. All the members of the military are supposed to be focused upon the single purpose of preparing to make war on behalf of the United States government.

Such a single-purpose organization cannot have people going off doing things on their own account.  That is why it has to provide everything for them.  Even then, the military suffers from its Sgt. Bilkos trading on military supplies on their own account.  That's why Sgt. Bilko was so funny in the 1950s.  Everyone had run into a guy like Bilko in their time in the service.

But the military is not a poster boy for socialism.  It shows why the socialist idea cannot work outside a single-purpose organization.  The military is an engine for war.  Very good: that is what it is suppose to be.  But the trouble is that every other government program ends up being the Moral Equivalent of War.

Back in the day John Wayne starred as a civilian contractor militarized into one of The Fighting Seabees during World War II.  The Seabees built all those Pacific island airfields.  A major subplot in the movie was the difficulty of getting tough hard-nosed John Wayne to do things "the Navy Way" according to the bureaucratic book.

That's the way government does everything.  It sets up one single way to do things, usually for the convenience of the bureaucrats, and certainly to try to control the Sgt. Bilkos.  But it is ruinously expensive and ruinously unjust.

What about education?  Well, the problem is that millions of parents have millions of different ideas about how to educate a child.  But when the government does it we are all forced to send our children to government schools and our children get educated the One Way.  Originally it was the One Horace Mann Way; now it is the One Liberal Way.  So government education is irradiated with liberal initiatives like anti-racism, diversity, and positive self-esteem.  Conservatives can go pound sand.

What about health care?  There are about 170 million women in the United States and therefore about 170 million ideas on health care needs.  But Obamacare is all about reducing those ideas down to a single program.  There will be certain procedures that will be free, and certain procedures that will not be available.  And a bureaucratic committee, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, will rule over all.

The point about capitalism is that modern society is so complicated that the ukase of the local political boss and the formation of society into a single socialist collective under his control just cannot work.  What we find is that the market system, in its prices, wages, buying and selling, working and consuming, has spontaneously developed to coordinate the interaction of millions of acts and decisions of millions of individuals in the economy.

That's because a society does not have a single purpose.  It has millions of individual purposes that are facilitated and coordinated by the voluntary cooperation of millions of individuals.  Each person has her particular wants and needs that she wants to get from society.  But each person has his individual skills and abilities that he can contribute to society.

How do we coordinate needs and abilities?

It is in the nexus between needs and abilities that society happens.  In his Critique of the Gotha Program Marx confidently proclaimed:
In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!
Well, yeah!  So true, Chuck old chap.  But every individual and every society is trying to do that, to convert abilities into the satisfaction of needs.  The question is what works.

The truth is that capitalism works out how to realize the Marxian slogan every day.  The whole point of Adam Smith's invisible hand is to helpfully direct each individual everyday in the best way to match ability and need.

In the military it is the commander-in-chief and under socialism it is the Forward Thinker in the educated ruling class that gets to decide what is a "need" and what is an "ability" and how the two are to be combined.

And the universal result has been death and destruction.  The military does that very well.

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