Socialism's Second-Guessers

In a recent marketing move, GM donated a car to Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga after his perfect game was ruined by an umpire’s mistake.  In the subhead to a feature article on the subject, the New York Times second-guessed GM, asking: “Was a prize to a pitcher for a near-perfect game, ‘some of the best dollars invested in publicity,’ or a squandering of taxpayers’ equity?”

Note that the car in question was a $53,000 Corvette; GM’s global revenues are on the order of $100 billion. It’s like asking whether a $10 million company should have purchased a $5 box of pens. Pace the NY Times, there’s nothing special about this particular decision; every business or enterprise makes similar ones daily.

And that’s the point. Previously we could take for granted that private individuals or enterprises would be allowed to make such decisions for themselves. But no longer. At the behest of our political and cultural leaders, we’re socializing property at an accelerating rate. The type of meddlesome question the New York Times poses is but one of its consequences.

For when property is socialized, as it was in the GM bailout, it’s “owned” by all of us, and therefore we must all be consulted for every question of use, however trivial. What qualifies us to decide? Simply being a member of society. True, we’ve had no hand in creating the property, we don’t necessarily know anything about it, and the impact of its use is at best very tenuously related to us.

In GM’s case, for instance, the majority of us haven’t contributed to making the company what it is. We don’t know anything about its competitive landscape in general -- or about cost-effective methods of securing publicity in particular. And the consequences of deciding one way or another don’t really impact us. But that’s all irrelevant.  The New York Times want us, as part “owners,” to debate and answer a question -- “how should GM have spent its marketing budget?” -- and then chasten GM accordingly.

Of course, given the setup, no rational answer to this or any similar question can emerge. All that can come of it is a hodge-podge of disintegrated opinions and complaints. Indeed, one root cause for why socialism always fails economically is that it attempts to substitute the inchoate, uninformed, and indifferent judgment of the collective for that of self-interested and accountable individual owners. (As an analogy, imagine the result of asking a composer to write a symphony by polling the public for each individual note!)

Socialism’s failings are well known. Yet the New York Times regularly advocates policies which lead to it, most recently with its unabashed support for socialized medicine. As a result, we’ll all soon be playing backseat drivers to doctors -- debating whether their professional decisions are appropriate or, in the Times’ words, “a squandering of taxpayer’s” funds. It’s a disaster in the making.