Consider the island nation of Cuba, a nation under communist rule for sixty years, and its progressive defenders/apologists. Cuba, we are told, is a wonderful place. It has a near-100% literacy rate, and it has allegedly superb medical care for its citizens. In fact, the medical excellence it generates is so purportedly wonderful that it has been exported to places like Brazil and Venezuela.

This is interesting and relevant in the context of the current blitzkrieg of woke-socialism being laid upon us by the progressive firebrands attempting to take over the Democratic Party. To them, the level of government largesse bestowed upon the “oppressed” classes and identity groups of America (at the expense of American taxpayers, present and future) is woefully inadequate, and they’ve made no secret of the fact that they envision a nation where the promised outcomes of socialism are finally realized. They’ve come clean with the fact that their “Green New Deal” is about transforming the American economy and society more than it is about saving the planet.

This “revelation” is available and obvious to anyone who’s paying attention. It’s all there in the Green New Deal’s policy points, and in the Democratic Socialism platform. It promises all sorts of largesse to the people, and justifies that largesse by declaring that those things are ‘basic human rights.’

Among those rights are:

  • Health Care
  • Housing
  • Food
  • Education
  • Income

There are more. There’s stuff about “access” to clean air, clean water, and nature, some more particular declarations regarding employment benefits (e.g. paid family and sick leave), some language about “clean” campaign finance (they want to take control of the political process itself, no surprise) and so forth.

Here I could delve into the “negative rights” vs “positive rights” explanation that’s the standard (and correct) response to this business of government providing or guaranteeing the aforementioned ‘basic human rights,’ but I’ve done that before, and if you know the terms, you don’t need them explained again. Instead, I’ll make it simpler, with a phrase/meme that’s been percolating in my social media feed the last few days:

Nothing that requires the labor of others is a basic human right.

Everything the Democratic Socialists insist is a basic human right involves the fruit of someone else’s labor. Medical care is provided by doctors, nurses, technicians, assistants, and all the people who create and maintain the infrastructure of a medical system, including construction workers, janitors, administrators, accountants, lawyers, et al. If health care is a “right,” then those people are obligated to work without compensation in fulfillment of that right. That’s known as slavery, and it is a blatant violation of their rights.

The dodge is, of course, that all those people are to be paid. Even Cuba pays her doctors. She pays them slave wages, unfortunately, to the tune of $67 a month at the high end. Many doctors have to work side jobs, either treating patients on the sly or doing tourism-related stuff that gets them access to foreign wealth. And, many end up making some extra coin by taking on foreign assignments, such as those in Brazil and Venezuela.

They don’t get paid by Brazil and Venezuela, though. The Cuban government gets paid, and gives a pittance of that external income to the doctors it farms out.

Herein lies the blueprint for understanding the outcome of the Democratic Socialists’ vision. It applies not just to health care, but to every other good and service that exists in a nation and an economy. In guaranteeing the labor of others as a “right” you are entitled to, they are declaring you to be a vassal of the State, to be paid what the State decides, and to work under the terms, conditions, and needs of the State. It’s the embodiment of Marx’s “From each, according to his ability…”

Dissemblers and socialistic scolds will pretend that this is not how their system would work, or the inevitable outcome it will produce. They tell us that all these “rights” can be paid for simply by drawing a bit more in taxes from people who can afford to pay more in taxes, as if that’s somehow not requiring the labor of others. By shifting the appropriation of another’s labor to “the rich,” to people that they simultaneously vilify as “taking” from the workers, they create a veneer of justification for their declaration of all these rights. That’s nonsense, of course, but people are willing to believe in nonsense if it’s twisty and wordy and “erudite” enough, as long as it gets them to their desired conclusions.

That’s where the next dodge comes into play, the head-scratching gobbledygook of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the face and voice of the current American socialist movement, offered an insight into her thought process when she was still a candidate:

People often say, like, how are you going to pay for it and I find the question so puzzling because ‘How do you pay for something that’s more affordable? How do you pay for cheaper rent?’ You just pay for it. We’re paying more now.

Here she shows some of the linguistic jiujitsu that’s gotten her so much fame and notoriety by selling past the close, by treating the unproven (and easily discounted by history) notions that government-provided housing and health care will be cheaper, but errs in concluding with something so naive and grade-school-ish as “you just pay for it.” Since then, she’s gotten better at the game, and doesn’t make that same mistake any more.

She and her crowd have armed themselves with a lot of word salad to use in defense of their promises. They’ve taken to pushing MMT, which basically says that, since government has a monopoly on the money supply and that its debt and taxes are denominated in the money it prints, it can print all it wants to, and use taxation of the wealthy as a way to lever against inflation.

As George Orwell observed, “some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”

Intellectuals, and motivated reasoners. Since MMT adds pseudo-intellectual heft to the Democratic Socialists’ promises that they can fulfill the satisfying of all these “rights,” people who want to believe the fantasy are given enough to dodge the cognitive dissonance that should keep them from going down that rabbit hole.

If MMT, or socialism itself, could work, it would have worked already, and those nations whose economies collapsed under socialism, whose societies suffered poverty, misery, and oppression under collectivist governments, and whose currencies suffered runaway inflation from non-stop printing presses would be examples of what to do, rather than cautions as to what not to do (and, no, the Scandinavian nations are not examples of MMT or the “Democratic Socialism” that Bernie and AOC are selling).

And, Cuba’s doctors would not be treated as indentured servants, working in foreign lands to enrich the oppressive government to which they are indentured.

A government cannot create wealth out of thin air, so it cannot give the things the socialists promise as “rights” without taking the fruit of other people’s labor. Just as requiring doctors, construction workers, cooks, farmers, teachers, and all the other workers of the nation to provide their labor in service to other people’s “rights” is wrong, taking money from people who’ve earned it to pay all those folks in service of those “rights” is wrong.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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