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Greece’s Socialist Candy Jar Runs Out

Posted on May 11 2010 9:00 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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It was Margaret Thatcher who observed that the problem with socialism was that eventually you run out of other people’s money.

Given my insatiable Sweet Tooth, I have a different spin on this economic principle: eventually there will be nothing left in the community candy jar.

We see it now in Greece, as Bill O’Reilly explained in his Talking Points Memo on Friday:

As for Greece, people are rioting because they don’t want their benefits cut. Those loons don’t care about their country, they want what they want! That’s what socialism is all about – give me stuff at other peoples’ expense. The USA will send Greece billions through the International Monetary Fund, which means our tax money is going to bail out those irresponsible people. Next on the list is Portugal, then it could be Italy – most of the great entitlement nations are on the rocks. Here in America, the federal government owes $13 trillion, but liberals want expanded health care and higher taxes, which will strangle the already shaky economy. President Obama is the leader of that crew, but Talking Points believes he will be a one-term president if he doesn’t wise up fast. No country can afford the entitlement culture any more. We must work for what we get or what happened in Greece will happen here.

As I’ve written before, my previous pay-the-bills job before transitioning to full-time writing was as a debt collector. To cope with the repetitious nature of the work I resorted to one of my addictions: candy. I am a passionate candy enthusiast and have been for years. So I stocked up and had a huge collection with a variety of different treats.

Not to be impolite I, of course, shared my stash with my co-workers and bosses. Eventually the candy jar became institutionalized. More and more collectors from around the call center came to partake of the candy I had. Some even contributed candy or offered to give me some change for what they took. So I set up a donation jar.

It was not uncommon for some of my co-workers who didn’t really pay much attention to the candy jar to have unrealistic assumptions about how much cash I was actually getting from people in exchange for candy. They actually thought that the candy jar could sustain itself from the donations a few people would give. They thought I was raking in the dough.

Nothing was further from the truth. The candy jar was always adequately stocked for one reason: I subsidized it with my own money. The candy jar could not survive solely on the donations it received.

Why not? It’s a basic principle of economics derived from an accurate understanding of human nature: create a system in which individuals can take out more value than they are required to put in and eventually the system will go bankrupt. Sure, there are “good people” willing to pay their fair share and then some. But most people would just take candy without donating or would throw in a nickel every now and then — in no way actually paying for what they took. That’s human nature for you.

Socialism is the candy jar on a mass scale. And it’s just as doomed to financial ruin as my candy jar was. (For more on this see my review of the pro-socialized medicine book The Healing of America.)

This lesson in human behavior is available to anyone with a day’s experience in “the real world.” Live with your eyes open for a year or two in a real job and you’ll learn comparable lessons. So why have whole countries missed it? Why is it that Obamacare can actually get passed?

Simple: The siren song of Social Justice is the sweetest, most seductive melody ever sung.

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