Jobs From Forced Charity – The Socialist Way
By Tibor Machan - July 19, 2012

It appears, based on the economic philosophy he has been outlining in recent weeks, that President Obama believes that jobs based on economic transactions, exchanges, trade and so forth do not matter, have no significance. This has a very serious foundation, to which I will turn later in this short discussion.

Wealth creators produce jobs from engaging in such exchanges, mutually beneficial trade or commerce. If my neighbor hires my child to mow his lawn, he gets a mowed lawn and my child receives a few bucks in compensation. My child also may be said to be employed – in a small way. Thousands of such exchanges, from tiny to huge, constitute the free market. And they create wealth, various economic benefits and advantages for all those engaged in them and this is also where jobs are born! People aim to prosper by improving on their lives through the upkeep of their household, their businesses, their health and fitness, their recreation and so forth. All of these involve creating jobs. The wealth produced – incomes, return on investments, profits and the like – enable people to go shopping for goods and services. And so it goes, around and around, wealth creation leading to job creation.

But our president finds wealth creation to be a low-level economic objective, one may assume something selfish, whereas job creation is worthy, especially if it isn't linked to this depraved goal of becoming prosperous, wealthy.

What is left to create jobs? Government spending, that is what. Spending taxes taken from citizens on projects that do not make any private market agents rich, such as building up the infrastructure, giving away subsidies, paying out welfare and so forth. Now, these are worthy ways of creating jobs since they come from handing out resources with no expectation of any returns. The investment in such public works isn't marred by that dubious motive of private profit or income. No. It is handed out by the disinterested government and its public servants. It isn't their own resources, anyway, so they can be free of any selfish involvement, any concern about getting benefits in return.

So for President Obama job creation can only involve giving away the resources of taxpayers, with no thought of reaping any profits in return. And the president is upset when he is called a socialist! Yet socialism is the political economy that, among other things, rejects profit making and endorses sharing the resources of a community – as Marx had put it, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." This is by Marx's and his followers' light a noble way to manage resources, making them all public – collective – including, of course, human labor, the most important resource of them all.

All this follows from a serious viewpoint that challenges the American tradition of free-market capitalism with its substantially individualist social philosophy. By the position implicit and often quite explicit in Mr. Obama's economic policies and recommendations, the society is like a huge ant colony, with everyone just a kind of cell in the whole organism. Marx called it an organic whole (or body), and it is the wellbeing of this whole that is the objective of a government's economic plan.

Private wealth takes away from this and thus is to be frowned upon. This is also why in socialist societies being a dissident amounts to being a traitor, someone who is deserting the team by working for an inappropriate end or goal, namely, his or her own economic flourishing.

If you look closely, we have with the Obama team a pretty straightforward return to the stakes of the Cold War. It was all about collectivism versus individualism and now this war had been brought home. As it stands, Obama & Co. are convinced they are on the right track. They interpret the American political tradition with an emphasis on some of its unfortunately worded collectivist elements – "to promote the general welfare," for example. That tradition has never been hostile to communitarian goals, provided they are freely choose, with the full consent of those who pursue it. But Obama & Co. see it not as a part of the American tradition and not as voluntary but as mandatory – just read the works of Harvard University's Michael Sandel who makes clear that we are all born with obligations to society, ones the government must enforce.

It can only be hoped that this toying with the reactionary idea that people are born to be involuntary servants of their communities is rejected and the revolutionary idea that the life of a person belongs to that person and if something is to be gained from it by others, it must be contributed freely.