I’m still fascinated by Michele Bachmann commandeering a communist slogan in her stump speech. The thing is, the slogan made sense when the communists used it, but it makes no sense coming out of Bachmann’s mouth. No surprise there.
The slogan, reduced to its simplest terms is “if you don’t work, starve.” Yes, I know, it’s understood that this refers to the able bodied, not the infirm, but that’s not my point. My point is that the slogan made sense for the communists, because they were actually offering the opportunity for the able bodied to work. What the communists were saying was this: “We (“society”) have the food, and if you want some, you have to do some work. There’s lots of work to be done, you just pitch in and do your share of the work, and you will be given food.”
Capitalism, which Bachmann endorses, does no such thing. A certain level of unemployment is built into capitalism. Capitalism needs unemployment, because if employment ever reached 100 percent, the cost of labor would be prohibitively high. Most economists agree that unemployment can never fall below 4 or 5 percent in a capitalist society. At that point, the cost of labor increases to the point that employers stop hiring.
So think about what it means when a capitalist says “if you don’t work, you don’t get to eat.” It’s like musical chairs, there are more people than chairs. Same thing in a capitalist society: there are more people than jobs. So when a capitalist, like Bachmann, says: “if you don’t work, you starve,” she really means “some of you are going to starve.”
Seen in this light, it’s infinitely better to live in a communist society than a capitalist one, because at least the communists will offer you the job.
Of course, all of this assumes that Michele Bachmann is really serious and also understands what she is saying. In reality, she’s just a clownish politician. Michele Bachmann understands economics about as well as my dog understands algebra. What’s scary is not the level of Bachmann’s ignorance, but that the slogan has appeal to some of the knuckle draggers who would vote for her. There are a lot of people who would let the unemployed starve, who believe that people are in a bad way because of their own laziness or some other fault for which they now deserve punishment. That is scary, and the fact that an ostensibly mainstream politician would pander to them is a sad commentary on the state that we are in.