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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A political allegory: The chairmaker.

Politics is a harsh mistress, and misunderstandings are responsible for much of the bad blood.
I hope to alleviate some of the ignorance with a story.

A man makes the best chairs in his community.
Everybody can make a place to sit, or sit on the floor, but the chairs this individual produces are better than any other.
Now, in order to make a chair he must secure and mature the wood, assemble the chair and either use it, or find somebody that will exchange something of value for it. (amongst many other tasks)
Operating on his own, only a small amount of his time is taken producing the thing he is best at. Much of his chair producing time is taken up by tasks he is perfectly capable of, but perhaps not the best at or which anybody could do.
And so, our intrepid chair maker asks another to chop down trees to produce the lumber he needs. He allows others to do the less skilled tasks involved in the production of the chair itself, he allows another to sell the final product.
He is now a job creator. An entrepreneur. He found a market for chairs and he fulfilled that need.
Perhaps he expands his business by training others in his methods so that he has skilled help. Perhaps he patents his ideas and allows others to use his ingenuity.

To me, this chairmaker represents the ideals most people want to support, whatever politics they choose. I do not think I would hear disagreement from conservative, libertarian, liberal or socialist on this matter.
The man is entitled to the fruits of his labour, and he got there through merit.
What I will suggest is that many believe they are supporting the chairmaker against the evils of those workers perhaps jealous of his success, or of the state body overseeing the lives of all, but they are not.
The man who owns the land the trees are grown on, the building the chairmaker works in , the home he lives in. That is the person supported by populist policies on the right, that is the kind of person most usually claiming the title of "job creator"
Not a person that makes, produces or envisions. Just a person that owns things.

A socialist, on the other hand, believes that work has value, ownership does not.
Should the chairmaker exploit those helping him produce his chairs, he makes an enemy of socialist ideology, but he is not inherently so.
I'd suggest that such a "business" as I have outlined is *entirely* in keeping with socialism. Each contributes, each is afforded a share of the fruits of their labours.
As much as the chair maker here is responsible for the livelihoods of many, without those helping him he would not have achieved so much. The point being is that large endeavours require cooperation and inter-reliance.
Any billionaire or multimillionaire that declares themselves "self made" is entirely delusional. (the caveat being that many are aware of the reality and are simply being poetic, which is awesome)
They were reliant on the system they made their fortune in and on the work of those they employed. No man is an island.

If you personally believe that capital (the wealth one possesses) is more important than the work one does, then you do not support the chair maker. You do not support those that create the wealth.
You support the parasites that add no value to the system.
I often hear admonishments that capital gains tax is essentially taxing a person twice, as they already earned the money.
I think this is laughable and makes no sense to a rational mind.
What these people are suggesting is that money which is earned by your money is worth more than money you earn through work.
In a very real sense they are suggesting that the ownership of wealth has more value than the production of wealth.

Now, does this mean investment is evil or worthless?
Of course not!
But due consideration much be made as to the value of investment over work.
Should buying the labour of others be worth more than the labour itself?
We live in a capitalist world, and capitalism has proven to be a very successful tool that works well in many situations.
Socialism aspires to build a better mousetrap, but social democracies prove that socialists have always been willing to embrace the ideas that work.
Bear that in mind when you hear from political ideologues how compromise is evil.
Who would you trust? A political philosophy willing to embrace what works, or one which demonises all opposition at all times?

Regardless of your preferred politics, support the chair maker. Don't blindly support rhetoric on claims of how much it will help those intrepid chair makers of tomorrow.