“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs…”
Some of you may already know where this famous quote comes from and who wrote it, but for those who aren’t familiar with it and its context, I want you to ponder its meaning. It sounds pretty straightforward: Those who can contribute more resources should and the resources should be given to those most in need of them. On its face it sounds like a great way of running a community, however have you thought deeper into the implications and perhaps unintended consequences of such a policy? How much should people be obligated to contribute to wider society? What types of resources should be given to the collective whole? Labor? Materials? Food supplies? Healthcare? Shelter? Do those who give get compensation for their output or not and if so, how much is fair? Who gets to receive this bounty of whatever is given by those who are able to give? What exactly makes one eligible to receive it? Perhaps more importantly yet more abstractly, is it fair that some can get with little effort what others must work hard for? Just because someone has a harder time acquiring some resource for themselves, does it mean they shouldn’t have to put in equal effort into getting it as someone who puts in great effort and is able to obtain more of it?
If it hasn’t been clear by now, the person who this quote is attributed to none other than Karl Marx. Yes, the one and only communist “revolutionary”. In Marx’s vision, society would collectively provide for the needs of everyone and there wouldn’t be social inequalities. However, communism in practice rather than theory in countries such as Russia, Venezuela, Cuba etc… has only led to turmoil, unrest and drastic shortages of the very resources this ideology claims to distribute equitably so that there would be no shortages! People flee in droves from countries with Marxist policies including the quote above. A great case study being how badly East Germans wanted to go escape to West Germany. One country, yet divided with two different social policies and everyone wanted to go to the non-communist side! Countries with communist and socialist policies overall are plagued by shortages of resources such as food/water, clothes and other goods, materials, decent shelter, healthcare and more!
So what does this have to do with the United States since technically we aren’t a communist country? We have a capitalist system, yet this is often highly criticized as being too cut throat and sink or swim in nature to serve everyone. We also do in fact, collectively give to certain resources such as taxpayer money funding infrastructure such as roads and the upkeep of public spaces, public schools, emergency services as well as resources such as social security, welfare, food stamps etc. However there are privatized industries here too, including healthcare, private schools, housing, higher education, supermarket chains, and businesses that cater to one’s every need or whim. Some of these privatized industries many argue, ought to be collectively funded and given for free to everyone like in other countries. For example, Canada and many European countries have free healthcare paid for by everyone’s tax contributions. Same for higher education in many other countries. Many countries have paid maternity leave for far longer than America. People cite inequalities and obstacles to getting these resources here, and say we ought to be like those nations and all our problems would be solved. The grass may not be greener on the other side though…
Have you ever heard the phase “too good to be true”? Something sounds really cool and the best part is, there are no strings attached and yet, it would be incredibly naïve to think that there wasn’t a catch! When we think of the word free, we tend to think this means there is literally no cost involved in acquiring something. Free samples are just handed out at no charge to you in the supermarket. Free items like those dinky office supplies are given out at a career fair. You can just take whatever you find in the free box at a yard sale. So why not then, wouldn’t that apply to “free” healthcare, higher education, food, shelter etc? Well, doesn’t it still require labor and resources to make these a reality? Imagine how many moving parts and people it takes to smoothly run a large hospital, or University. How many hours of labor and manpower does it take to grow food then distribute it nationwide? How much do materials cost to build houses as well as hours of labor to build them? Should those who are able to work hard to give us these incredible resources do it with no compensation for themselves? Would it be remotely fair to ask people to do it for free? To give the raw materials for free? Their expertise they had to get at a cost to them? Case and point is, these so called free resources aren’t truly free! So then the question becomes, who’s paying?
Most often, it’s YOU! You’re paying for these free resources out of your own tax dollars. You might pay into a collective system that isn’t even relevant to your own needs while another benefits but doesn’t pay a cent for it! You may not ever need welfare, but have put your blood, sweat and tears figuratively or even literally, into providing a decent home for your family yet have to also foot the bill for another family’s home who hadn’t even put in a fraction of the effort you have to get it. While some people have a genuine need for resources such as welfare, or food stamps, and work hard to get off both, the system as it stands is ripe for abuse and freeloading. Why put in effort to have what is easily given to you for free? The Left’s perfect excuse for giving out these resources like candy is that since shelter is a basic need, it therefore must be an indisputable human right, justifying others footing the bill! Since it’s a human right to have a decent place to live, people are entitled to live in a neighborhood or a house you worked all your life to be able to barely afford. The homeless put in fancy hotels in some cities are living in suites you saved years to spend a night or two with your family for a luxury vacation. They may need shelter, but do they need the king sized bed, panoramic view, and the jacuzzi that goes with the room? People need food and water, yet is it fair you have to pay a large grocery bill each week and your water bill and some don’t? Some may argue that you have the privilege to afford these things so you shouldn’t be so selfish to think others who aren’t able should struggle. However, who said it was easy to budget to put food on your own table? Do these detractors look at your pay stubs and your grocery bills? What about the fact you hold down a job you may not like to afford these and the other guy is getting food stamps off welfare? Just because you can afford something doesn’t mean that was easy for you! Are equal outcomes fair when unequal effort was put into getting it?
The other possibility of who picks up the tab for all this free stuff is even scarier: The government. Our tax dollars go to certain things in our countries and locally, however the government then uses these funds in any way they see fit. Take the free healthcare systems of Canada and Europe for examples. Everyone can get medical care without having an astronomical hospital bill, or get a life saving medicine free of the sometimes outrageous prices in this country! Sounds great, right? Something many would be happy to contribute to as we all will need healthcare at some point in our lives. The catch is, he who pays, makes the rules! You need an important treatment or surgery? Make sure you’re eligible to meet the government’s criteria for a priority case such as your age, SES, race (yes, even if they’ll never admit it!) sex etc… Note I never mentioned anything about an actual clinical need for prioritizing your case! Heaven forbid you’re medically complex and old enough to just be quietly “ignored” and left to die! Your end of life care might come sooner than you wanted! If you’re a white middle aged male who needs a life saving bypass surgery don’t be surprised if your surgery is pushed out to squeeze in the “marginalized” patient with a similar issue but less medically urgent need. Free access to a limited resource will still produce unequal access, only difference is the buyer can pick and choose who gets it and who doesn’t according to any social agenda they choose! Maybe that hospital bill doesn’t look so bad if it means being able to choose the healthcare right for your needs over whether or not your case is politically favorable…
Another case is something we currently have now: Public schools. The government controls public schools and look where that leaves us: Brainwashing our kids with only one “desirable” view of the country, pitting one race against another, denying clear science over sex and gender, rewriting history to suit their narrative and teaching them to see their own parents as backwards if they don’t subscribe to what the school teaches them. Compared to private schools, public schools have lower test scores and less academic rigor overall. There are better student/teacher ratios, smaller class sizes, more individualized instruction, more resources for learning, a greater variety of class subjects offered, greater networking opportunities, and more. Not that some private schools aren’t teaching radical Left leaning propaganda too as many are sadly, but overall you will find a better environment for your children than public can offer. Sadly many families can’t afford private, and I myself went to public k-12, but the point is, the option is out there and one can see the sad state government run schools are in. If the point is equal access to a great education, why not put more effort into creating a better public system?
A final point to bring up aside from the strings that are indeed attached to the so called “free” resources is not only the financial cost of their upkeep, but also the ethical and moral costs. What is equitable is not always fair. As asked earlier, is it fair for someone to get easily what someone else worked several times harder to get? Is it fair another person can live in the same neighborhood on welfare you saved decades to be able to afford to live in due to some zoning law about subsidized housing requirements? Is it fair you work hard at a job you wish to leave but can’t to put cheaper groceries on your family’s table while someone on food stamps can cheat the system and buy luxury brands, or afford their booze and cigarettes but claim they can’t feed their children so they get on food stamps while an injured veteran and his family are pushed to the back of the line? Poverty may equalize, but not all circumstances that get one there are equal…
Also, much of it is subjective, there is no objective standard to differentiate true needs from wants. For example, take coverage of certain medications. Insulin, a lifesaving drug for those with diabetes is astronomically priced and for many, a matter of life and death to be able to afford and access. Rightfully, many are pushing back against the corrupt pharmaceutical industry that grossly inflates prices of many essential medicines. However, Narcan, used to stop opioid overdoses is given out for free at most pharmacies! While it can be considered lifesaving due to its function, is it in the same ethical category as access to insulin? Sure, addicts deserve a second chance to get clean, but those with diabetes never chose to put something in their bodies that would directly create the problem! Addiction may alter one’s brain chemistry, but it started with the choice to use drugs. So why then is a drug like insulin not free yet Narcan is handed out to anyone who asks?! Another example is many women now demand free birth control. While some use it for other conditions than contraception, if all you need it for is to not get pregnant then you’re using it for a lifestyle choice, not a medical need. If you want to have an active sex life that’s your business and no one else’s, but don’t expect me to subsidize your lifestyle by paying for an elective drug. Same goes for anything that there is no clinical need for, but one chooses to do for their own reasons. (The benefit of private healthcare is you CAN make those choices 😉 ) What about those with deeply held moral objections paying for things they find repugnant? Those who deeply oppose abortion and view it as the moral equivalent to infanticide don’t want to pay for what they see as funding murder. If people who deeply opposed war in the past called for being conscientious objectors to being drafted then is there a way to opt out of paying for something one finds morally objectionable?
Lastly, there are unintended consequences of some of these decisions to provide collective free things. Take the free COVID vaccine. The government paid for it and distributes it- to whoever they deem politically desirable! This meant it was given first in “marginalized” communities as a priority, yet it turned out many didn’t want it and didn’t show up to get one. The vaccines can only be out for so long before going bad so it meant thousands were wasted and unusable! If they were given to areas with higher demand for the vaccine they could have used those doses rather than wasted that resource. However, it was seen as more politically correct to give it to the inner city rather than suburbia yet demand might have been higher in the latter area. The result: Thousands of doses WASTED!!!
There’s another saying: Freedom isn’t free… Well neither is “free” stuff!