One hears this a lot: Universal health care: “But who is supposed to pay for it, and why should other people have to blah blah blah.” Welfare. Unemployment insurance. Public education. “But who is supposed to pay for it, and why should other people have to blah blah blah.”
Okay, I need to get the snide answer out of the way first: Anyone who asks that question is probably someone who should be paying for it.
There. I feel better. Now, let’s get serious.
The inspiration for this post was when Cory Doctorow tweeted a link to this. Please take a moment to look it over.
My problem, as always, isn’t with the original post–such filth is part of our lives and will be as long as private property defines human relationships. No, my problem is with the replies. One thing that is common to them all is an attitude that goes like, “I can justify having this nice thing, even though I’m on welfare, because of…” And, yeah, all of the justifications are perfectly reasonable, and some of them are tremendously moving.
But why the fuck does it need justifying? To justify having something nice, decent, useful, means you’ve accepted the fundamental argument: It is perfectly okay for some people to be rich while others are poor, and the rich must have somehow earned it, and the poor somehow deserve it, and that’s just how the world is. To accept that argument is to accept the morality handed to us by those who keep their privileged position by exploiting the rest of us. It makes exactly as much sense as the slave-holder explaining to the slave how wrong violence is.
Let us be clear: Wealth means an accumulation of commodities (generally in the form of money). Commodities are produced socially. No individual–particularly the speculating banker, but even the semi-mythical Man-With-A-Vision-Whose-Hard-Work-Turned-His-Vision-Into-A-Fortune-500-Company–ever created wealth. Wealth is a social phenomenon, and the creation of wealth happens by people working together. And this, by the way, ignores the whole question of infrastructure: Your “personal genius” is able to make money because his employees are able to get to work on roads built at public expense, and use basic skills learned at schools run at public expense, and avoid cholera because of water kept pure at public expense, &c &c &c. Skip all that. It isn’t the point.
The point is, we, human beings, society, got together and made everything. Those with vision enough to see how things can be better are important and deserve praise, because they make vital contributions to making things better. This does not mean they deserve the lion’s share of the wealth created by the rest of us.
One result of an economic system based on private property is that the system will take some number of individuals it can’t use and discard them. These people do not need to justify having nice things–we need to demand of those who have appropriated our wealth how they justify denying things to these people. The poor did not create the system that discarded them.
And, for fuck’s sake, when the Working Class gathers its strength and fights for and wins things like social security, unemployment insurance, better public education, public cultural institutions like libraries and museums, and, yes, welfare, do not try to act as if these are gifts of a magnanimous government that is too generous. The Working Class fought for those things, and paid in blood.
So, reactionaries like the OP above can take their “But Who is Supposed to Pay for it” morality and shove it up their individual asses. We have earned it all. We deserve it all. And someday–I believe sooner rather than later–we will have it all.