I recently watched a 1:30 clip on my Uncle’s Facebook account about Ben Shapiro debunking Socialism in 2 minutes. Ben Shapiro, a shock jock for the Conservatives in the US has recently done a 1 minute 30-second piece of YouTube about why Socialism is immoral and why Capitalism is moral and just. What I found so bizarre is how he could make such refutable statements, presenting them as facts.
Firstly, he argues that wealth and the contingency to make wealth is largely based on one’s own agency. This, of course, may seem an attractive proposition to many people such as Conservatives and Libertarians because it runs on the assumptions that all wealth is the fruits of one’s own labour. This is a complete distortion of how wealth is made. Most wealth is created in a collective activity due to the independence of different people within a market setting. To say that I own my wealth because I made it is wrong even among conservatives themselves. The famous I, Pencil essay by Leonard E. Read, popularised by the economist Milton Friedman, suggests that no one can make a simple pencil. This is because the processes that go into making a pencil, from the wood to the graphite to the transportation requires thousands if not millions of people. Modern products such as smartphones or computers rely on extremely complex supply chain where individuals and their fruits of labour are dwalved by the complexity of capitalism and are almost made irrelevant by the market. Wealth, therefore, cannot be simply the result of the action of individuals as this would be a sort of fallacy of composition, that the parts that make up the whole are the same as the whole.
Secondly, his assertion that most wealth in the USA is not inherited, can also be disputed. Research by FairEconomy into the Forbes 400 list highlights that 40% received some inheritance from their family members whilst 20% received enough inheritance to be put on the Forbes 400 list alone. Overall 60% of the people on the list grew up in privileged backgrounds. Not only does this highlight the false narrative of Conservatives globally, but also how many Americans believe that wealth can be self-created. 29% of Americans in one poll believed that they would become millionaires in their lifetime.
Thirdly, his assertion that capitalism is freedom is also false because there have been plenty of authoritarian regimes in the past which were capitalist regimes. General Franco’s Spain, Shah Mohammad Reza’s Iran, Augusto Pinochet’s Chile and the Argentinian Junta in the 1970s and 1980s were all examples of authoritarian regimes that were capitalistic. Furthermore, democracy worldwide is in decline as authoritarianism spreads across the world, despite globalisation . President Erdogan of Turkey, a man who has helped Turkey become Unfree on the Freedom House Press index, is largely seen indifferently by Wallstreet investors. Singapore is seen as second in the world for competitiveness according to the WEF’s Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, Singapore lacks a free press and is only considered “partially free” to Freedom House 2018.
Overall, the YouTube clip highlights the flaws of many popular Conservatives online, that they make assertions which are easily scrutinised and refuted. Yet the political Right on YouTube is exceedingly popular, with Prager University having 1.2 million subscribers, Steven Crowder having 1.3 million subscribers and Alt-Righters like Alex Jones having 2.2 million subscribers. It’s clear that easy assertions like these will not be going anytime soon.
Article by Daniel Clemence