Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Parable About Socialism

Today, I came across this interesting article. The story is probably not real; a parable would be a better way to describe it. (The writer of the blog mentions this in the comments section.)


The story reminds me of my experience in Army basic training back in 1999 at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. The general technique at the time was to enforce a group mentality. We succeeded as a platoon, or we failed as a platoon. As a result, when one person messed up, we all got punished, usually with more pushups or some other form of physical exersion. For the first two or three weeks, this was effective. Eventually it stopped being effective, to the point that my platoon often displayed even less teamwork at the end of training than we did at the beginning. I picked up on this pretty quickly, as I was in training during a summer break from college and I had been taking classes in the education curriculum. What we collectively realized was that the odds of everyone following all the instructions all the time were very low. So the more immature trainees began to figure out that no matter what they did, they'd have to pay for someone's mistake. Therefore, if there was any type of momentary enjoyment to be derived from failing to follow simple instructions, they'd do it. If you're going to pay for the sin, you might as well enjoy committing it, right? So even a day or two before we all graduated basic training, people were openly disregarding instructions from the drill sergeants, because they had learned that there was nothing to lose by not following directions.

It brings to mind a quote of Winston Churchill: "The inherent vice of capitalism is the uneqal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

We had the equal sharing of miseries, just like the students in the story linked above. When those who do the right thing receive nothing but the punishment for those who do poorly, then they will stop doing the right thing. It doesn't matter whether it's right or wrong, because it is a fact of human nature.

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