There is a man I know who gets all his movies and music for free online. While some people will justify this kind of thing by paying for content that they like and arguing that the theft is a “free sample”, this man avoids paying altogether even for movies that he likes. Questioned about this, he says contemptuously, “Hollywood makes movies to make money and I don’t want to encourage Western materialistic thinking.” This attitude is one of the ugliest attitudes that a human being can have and is causing enormous problems around the world.
As far as I am concerned, I want to see people who make movies and music that I like do well. If they do well, then more of the movies and music that I like will be made and I will be the richer for it. Not only that, but people need to eat and want spacious homes, a good and safe automobile and carefree vacations. All of these things cost money and I don’t mind paying someone for a genuine service that they render me. In fact, I rejoice to see hard-working and decent people rewarded for their efforts and I think this is how it ought to be.
It seems like a growing number of people in the United States, however, think that anyone who has worked hard and had an enormous amount of success has somehow done something wrong and should not be rewarded in any way. To these people, anyone having a good deal more than the average Joe is somehow obscene. Now if they kept their ugly attitude of envy to themselves, this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, the increase in their numbers over the last few decades has emboldened them to think that their attitude is the correct attitude and they are attempting to elect politicians who will use state power to ensure an “equality of outcome” using taxation and other means of wealth redistribution. In this way, capitalism is dying and socialist ideas are thriving in the United States even though socialism has resulted in disasters wherever it has been tried.
Probably the most spectacular failure of socialist ideas is the most recent one. If one is aware of the news coming out of the Venezuela of Nicolas Maduro, one is aware that one of the wealthiest countries in the world with enormous reserves of oil is experiencing daily food riots and an explosion of crime. The response of the government has not been to relinquish control of the economy, but to tighten the grip even further. Price controls and martial law are the totalitarian response to the crisis and will guarantee an enormous amount of suffering.
Why is this? Because a high price for food and other basic commodities is a free market’s way of signaling an emergency. A high price says, “HELP! WE NEED HELP! PLEASE FIND ANY WAY YOU CAN OF BRINGING US FOOD AND YOU WILL BE RICHLY REWARDED!”. If food was going for a high price in Venezuela, everyone with the means to ship food to the distressed citizenry would have a go at making a little extra cash. Within no time, food and other basic necessities would be pouring into the country and the price would drop so that everyone could afford what they need. This is the free market in action and I, for one, would love to see the people who brought me and my family emergency relief as fast as they could richly rewarded.
Price controls, martial law and totalitarianism, on the other hand actively punish anyone who tries to help out. Don’t believe that a bureaucrat would use an arcane regulation to shutdown work done for a good cause? Consider a recent example that most people found humorous. Evidently, Jerry Seinfeld’s children attempted to set up a neighborhood lemonade stand in order to make money for charity. Because a neighbor had some kind of an issue with the lemonade stand, it was shut down by the police for being in violation of some arcane regulation. This is totalitarianism at work. Petty bureaucrats stifling innovation and impeding productive activities.
Now the Seinfeld example is a trivial example of a serious issue. In his book, Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate argues that almost anyone in the country could be convicted of multiple crimes for our daily activities. How many more crimes could a small business owner be convicted of as they attempt to start a business that serves the needs of a community? The numbers suggest that these effects are killing the U.S. economy.
In the economic collapse of Venezuela, we see equality of outcome in action. Instead of allowing people to respond to the crisis by creating businesses and addressing the needs of the country, the totalitarian and socialist regime is strangling the economy of the country and killing the people. Watching this tragedy unfold makes it clear why the sin of covetousness makes the Bible’s top 10. It is one of the ugliest attitudes that a human being can have and the consequences can be horrific.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17)