Nailing the heart of Benghazi

I wrote a lovely post, right here, last night.  Cheerfully hit the “publish” button and went to bed — only to wake up this morning to discover that the post not only didn’t get published, it vanished entirely.  I’m not sure I can replicate it, but I’ll try.

The point I was trying to make was about the morality that can or should undermine political systems.  I’d had a talk with a very mature, thoughtful teen, whose parents raised her to revile capitalism as an evil system that needs to be tempered by big government.  I said that it needed to be tempered by morality.  I pointed out that Adam Smith came up with his “invisible hand” theory at a highly religiously moral time, when it was inconceivable that any government would exist in a moral vacuum.  He knew, of course, that there were hard, cruel people who had no truck with morality, but it was also probably inconceivable to him that there could a paradigm without an overarching moral sense.

Texas booms, I suggested, not just because it’s capitalist, but because it’s in the Bible Belt.  China has slave labor, practically slave labor, and tainted goods (melanin in foods, antibiotics in bees, etc.) because it’s capitalism without a moral paradigm.  The State has no room for morality and when the state is the only thing Left, morality leaves society.

The next day, I read Darren Jonescu’s scathing indictment of the particular brand of evil that Hillary and Obama exemplify.  I’m quoting a lot, but there is a lot more to read, and I urge you to read it all:

In the first months after the Benghazi attack, the most urgent question, and one only rarely asked, was “What were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton doing during the seven and a half hours between the initial emergency communications from Benghazi and the final American deaths?” A negative answer was provided in February by Leon Panetta: they were not engaging with their subordinates; they were not contacting anyone to discuss options; they were giving no orders for action; they remained entirely uninvolved.

We are left to speculate about the positive answer to that question. Were they sleeping? Curled up by the fire with a good manifesto? Playing poker with Huma and the gang? Practicing jokes for a fundraising speech? Your guess is as good as mine.

And none of these guesses really matter in the end, compared to the looming horror that attends any of thepossibilities, namely this: the president and secretary of state of the most powerful nation on Earth are impervious to shame. They can do — they have done — what you hope you could never do, what you pray your children will never be able to do, what psychologists fill academic journals attempting to explain. They were informed that their countrymen — their appointees — were being attacked, were issuing repeated cries for help, and, if nothing were done to intercede, were likely to be killed. Knowing this, and knowing, further, that they had at their disposal the most powerful military in the world, no risk of personal harm, and many subordinates prepared to leap into action at their word, they blithely walked away from the desperate men pleading for their help, and carried on with whatever they happened to be doing that night. They let other men suffer unto death without lifting a finger to help, or even indicating a moment’s regret for their inaction after the fact.

They demonstrated a cold lack of interest in the suffering of others — not the abstract, theoretical suffering of collective interest groups, such as “the poor” or “gays” or “women,” but the real physical pain and mortal terror-style suffering of individual human beings in mortal crisis.

Walking home one evening, you hear men across the street shouting for help, as they are in the process of being overwhelmed by a gang of thugs. You walk away, unconcerned with their cries or the sounds of bats smacking down on their flesh. You do not call the police or volunteer any assistance. You go to bed and sleep well. The next day, and each subsequent day, you carry on with your life of fun, friends, and self-indulgence, never giving a second thought to the men who died because you did not care to help. If a neighborhood reporter asks you about the crime, you put on your gravest voice and say, “Gosh, that’s so sad; I hope they find the creeps who did it.”

Right.  What he said.  Both Hillary and Obama claim to have been raised religiously.  Hillary showed up for church in her days as First Lady, but doesn’t seem to bother to do so now.  Obama gave up the pretense of religion the moment was elected.  For both, there are only two Gods:  the state and their particular political needs at the moment.  Neither has a sense of right or wrong independent of their particular pragmatic concerns at any given time.

I’ve mentioned before a year 2000 movie called The Contender, about an upstanding Democrat woman whom the evil Republicans falsely accuse of group sex to derail her appointment to fill a vacant Vice Presidency.  The most interest part of the movie comes when the woman, played by Joan Allen, makes her statement to Congress, a bastion of wholesome Democrats and foul Republicans:

And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism.

[The Founders could not have made it more clear that Freedom of Religion, which is contained in the First Amendment, protects religion from government, not vice versa.  The Amendment's language is unequivocal:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." There's nothing in there mandating that no religious person can serve in Congress or have a say in America's government.]

Now, I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves [that would be the Republican sect of the church], that gave women the right to vote, that gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very Chapel of Democracy that we sit in together, and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church.  [And there you have it -- President Obama's creed writ large:  "I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes.  I need my heart, my brain, and this (Progressive) church.]

Found it on Facebook — Socialism versus Capitalism

In an earlier post, I ranted about the nasty vapidity that characterizes the “posters” my liberal friends put up on Facebook whenever an election draws near.  I also mentioned that my conservative friends consistently post more substantive articles and images.  This one, from my brother-in-law, manages to be both pithy and substantive.  It packs a world of ideas into a picture and two sentences:

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything before that so clearly distinguishes the fundamental differences in the premises from which socialists and capitalists operate when they make their political arguments.  This poster provides a perfect visual to Winston Churchill’s own epigrammatic statement that “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

Obama’s supporters do too believe in free enterprise *UPDATED*

Obama has been going after traditional American capitalism with a vengeance.  He’s graduated far beyond his Joe the Plumber kerfuffle, and his vague murmurings about the fact that it’s possible for people to earn too much (excluding, of course, Obama himself and all his rich friends).  With his attacks on Bain, he’s saying straight out that the American way of doing business is evil and should replaced by something more friendly, such as a completely government controlled economy.

I therefore found it tremendously amusing to learn that one of his main bundlers was herself something of an entrepreneur in the old days:

A major Obama campaign fundraiser wrote, directed, and produced a 2004 film titled “I Want To Strip For My Man But I Don’t Know How … Unleashing the Naughty Girl In You!” that instructs “everyday women” how to strip.

Stacii Jae Johnson, who currently serves as special events director in the office of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) and has bundled between $50,000 and $100,000 for the Obama reelection campaign, is a former Hollywood actress with extensive connections to the film and television industries.

I wonder if sex will still be allowed to sell in the new Obama economy or if everyone will just have to give it away for free, per some government code akin to the health care mandate….

UPDATE:  For more serious thoughts about Obama’s attack on capitalism, Jay Cost has (as always) smart things to say.

Edward Conard makes sense — no wonder the Left hates him

The New York Times has a long article about Edward Conard, a former Bains partner, who makes the case — a compelling one, I believe — that in America, the wealthy aren’t parasites, they’re economically useful.  In a stagnant, agrarian class society, the wealthy simply live at the top, feeding off the poor.  In a dynamic marketplace, however, the wealthy don’t simply hoard their money in bags of gold and jewelry.  They spend as much as they are able (and, no matter how extravagant they are, it isn’t that much relative to their wealth), and they invest the rest.  In addition, because it’s their money, not other people’s money that they are investing, they invest it with an eye to market efficiency and profitability, rather than wasting it on political correctness and drowning it in bureaucracy.  It’s that last point that explains why the wealthy better than the government when it comes to creating wealth, not just for themselves, but for others.

Conard spells this out in his new book, Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong.  This may be a good vacation read for me.

Wendell Romney

Does history repeat itself? I fervently hope not.

Ok, I have grudgingly thrown my support behind Mitt Romney. It’s not that I am excited about Romney as a candidate, but I am genuinely excited about the need to get Obama out of office before he does irreversible damage to this country. But, here is where I see a problem:

In one corner, we have a radical Marxist/Progressive, with little to no understanding of human nature and economics, who is on a tear to totally transform society to fit a bankrupt utopian ideology. In the process, he destroys jobs, strips companies of investment capital, destroys human capital, demonizes success, romanticizes failure, takes command of and promptly ruins entire segments of the economy, undermines the Constitution, blatantly disregards the law and does his very best to bankrupt the country while redefining entire segments of the population as dependent wards of the state.

In the other corner, we have a square-jawed, well-coiffed, highly intelligent, erudite and successful businessman who made his mark in an industry demonized and under constant assault by the President. Formerly a Liberal, he now claims to be a Conservative, although large swaths of the Republican party refuse to accept his supposed conversion to conservatism as sincere. He is a nice, rational man who believes in using soft-spoken discourse to sway people and find common ground. Rather than go on a blistering attack in support of the capitalist, free-enterprise economy, he ends up trying to placate the population with his moderation and management credentials, while fending off internal strife within the Republican Party between those that promote strong advocacy of conservative principles and those seeking an accommodationist “middle way”. In many ways, he remains tone deaf to how others perceive him to be and how they react to his awkward choices of words.

This man of whom I speak was Wendell Willkie. He ran against FDR in 1940 and got creamed by 5 million votes. Now, I realize there are many differences between then and now, but take a look at these photos below and please tell me they don’t suggest a spooky echo of the past.

Wendell Willkie

Mitt Romney

The #antisemitism of #OWS

Antisemitism in connection with OWS was a no-brainer.  The Left is antisemitic.  It has been since Marx.  Hitler institutionalized it to deadly effect.  Stalin was less methodical than Hitler, but he made Judaism illegal and instituted various pogroms within his own party to drive out, imprison or kill Jews.

No matter how many Jews are on the Left (and Jews are, unforgivably, still drawn there), the Left understands that Judaism in the abstract stands for individualism and justice, two notions antithetical to collectivism.  The Left has also historically conflated Jews with capitalism.  Jews, of course, aren’t the only capitalists (statistically, they’re only a small percentage of capitalists); they’re just visible capitalists if you’re a Jew hater.

In the coming days and weeks, you’re going to see an increasing number of articles and videos in the conservative media about the increasing antisemitism connected with the Occupy this city and that city.  Today, we’ll start with just two:  a photo essay from L.A. and a video, which you can see below:

My questions for you:  How long do you think it will be before the MSM pays attention?  Or, an even better question, do you think the MSM will ever pay attention?  Same question[s] regarding leading Democrat politicians, such as Obama, Pelosi and Reid….

Greed is so good that it might just save America — if Veruca Salt doesn’t kill us first

Maybe it’s Americans’ innate capitalist instinct — the need to commercialize everything — that is our true bulwark against a Russian or French style revolution. Sadly, though, it’s that same acquisitive quality, the one that sees most American young people grow up as Veruca Salt, that encourages the temporary ravages and inconveniences of publicly staged adolescent temper tantrums. The only bulwark against those tantrums is a culture that actually requires young people to grow up.

Wrongly conflating socialism with generosity

I read someone today who said that Jesus must have been a socialist, because he didn’t seek profit, which is the hallmark of capitalism.  Instead, gave away his time, energy and skills to those who could not pay.  Since he didn’t have a profit motive, he must have been a capitalist.  QED.  It was a classic case of conflating socialism with generosity.

Socialism is, in fact, the opposite of generosity because it removes human morality and decency from the equation.  There’s a reason study after study shows that liberals donate less to charity than conservatives do.  The liberals have placed themselves entirely in government’s hands:  the problem of the poor has become someone else’s problem.  The fact that we all pay taxes, which the government uses to fund the poor, isn’t charity, it’s central planning predicated on wealth redistribution.

The Victorians, who were wellsprings of one sentence wisdom, used to say “charity begins at home.”  The giving impulse of charity must start within us, as it did within Jesus.  In a totalitarian, or even semi-totalitarian (i.e., socialist) state, nothing is allowed to come from within.  All goes to and flows from the government.

In a capitalist society, people have the wherewithal to give.  And in a healthy capitalist society, they have the moral impulse to give.  Jesus wasn’t a socialist.  When he said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s,” he fully understood the separation between our spiritual and moral impulses on the one hand, and the dictates of a state on the other hand.  Ideally, the people’s adherence to both Caesar and God is a mutually beneficially system, with a humane state allowing humans to go about their business, and a social and moral structure that encourages those with the most to reach out, without state coercion, to help those with the least.

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

Finding meaning in the dustpan — or how Little Women, housekeeping, socialism and capitalism are all related

Believe it or not, in an act of near heroic intellectual prestidigitation, I’m going to explain to you how Little Women, housekeeping, socialism and capitalism are all related.  Or at least I’m going to try.  Here goes:

One of my all time least favorite movies is the 1994 version of Little Women.  It is a beautiful movie, and lovingly done, but it totally fails to “get” the message in Louisa May Alcott’s classic book.  In fact, it gets the message topsy-turvey, and that kind of thing irks me.

The wrong moment in the movie, the one that spoiled it for me, is a moment about 2/3 of the way into the movie, when Jo tries to explain to Professor Baehr her father’s philosophy.  I can’t find the quotation, and I haven’t seen the movie since it came out, but what Jo said was essentially a fancy version of “follow your bliss.”

Putting aside the fact that “follow your bliss” is not the message behind transcendentalism (although Bronson Alcott did, in fact, use his philosophy as a justification for repeatedly trying to follow his bliss), anyone who has actually read Little Women know that “follow your bliss” is most decidedly not the message in the book.  The book’s message is that you must find meaning and purpose in life by serving others.

No, I’m not making this up.  In chapter after chapter, with increasing force as the book nears its end, Jo is taught to think beyond her own needs and to sacrifice her hopes and desires to others.  Only in that way can she find happiness.  Whether Jo struggles with her baser self after Amy destroys her writing (only to learn that Amy is more important than her nascent career), or allows herself to be rude to Aunt March (only to lose the chance for a trip to Europe), the lesson is always the same:  Don’t think of yourself.  Thank of others.

Only when Jo is forced by her intense love for her dead sister Beth to try to take the latter’s place as the family’s domestic Goddess does Jo find her “happily ever after” — and she does so in the arms of Professor Baehr, who pedantically uses every opportunity to lecture Jo about the beauties and joys of self-abnegation. For Jo, therefore, life’s quality is to be found in appreciating the service of broom and dustpan.  By looking to others’ needs, she profits herself.

Right about now, I can hear the good statist asking asking me “How can you be a capitalist if you believe in self-sacrifice?  Capitalism is all about greed.  It’s only liberals who are willing to give to the general good.”  That question is as wrong as the movie was.

Capitalism works only if you find a need and fill it.  You have to look outside of yourself to determine what product others will want or what service they will need.  You then have to work, and work hard, to provide that  product or service for others.  If you have correctly read others’ needs, you will be rewarded.  In a capitalist system, that reward is money.  And in a free nation, you are allowed to keep that money (which, presumably, you will plow back into the capitalist marketplace by buying products or services that some other outward looking person has labored to put in the market).

Capitalism, then, precisely reflects Louisa May Alcott’s philosophy:  look to others, serve their needs, and reap the reward.  That she was speaking of emotional, not financial, rewards, doesn’t change the underlying paradigm.

Socialism, on the other hand, by allowing people to pass on to the government the responsibility for serving others, is essentially navel gazing.  You never have to do anything beyond sitting back and letting the government siphon your pay check, all the while telling yourself “Woo-hoo!  This feels really good, because in a completely passive, unthinking, effortless way, I’m serving others.”   In reality, you’re doing nothing at all.  Your moral contribution is no greater than the cow who automatically produces that milk.  It is the farmer who, through his labor and initiative, brings the milk to market, so as to feed the child.

And that, my friends, is why Little Women is, or at least should be, one of the doorways to free market capitalism and individualism.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Communist cat is out of the climate change bag

Since the beginning, climate change skeptics have said that the hysteria of the man-made global warming movement, aside from being based on manifestly shoddy and often dishonest science, was in fact a Leftist political gambit.  The Communists, having failed to win the world over with a Cold War had regrouped and were seeking to win it over with a warm war.  By targeting Western (that is, capitalist) nations as the evildoers in the world’s imminent boiling destruction, and then playing on the fear, guilt and ignorance of those same Western nations, the Communists . . . er, global warming saviors . . . announced a solution:  the West should give up its wealth by transferring it en masse to poor nations.  The West should also give up its lifestyle, by abandoning electricity, gas and even toilet paper.  The West, in other words, should give true meaning to global warming by engaging in self-immolation.

The last month, though, has seen this Communist-inspired house of cards collapse as quickly as the Soviet bloc did back in 1989.  First came ClimateGate, which revealed to the whole world the fact that the most ardent climate “scientists” were, in fact, ideologues who cared little about science, and a great deal about achieving a political goal.  They lied about their data, destroyed their facts, and systematically set out to muzzle and destroy anyone who disagreed with them.

Second came word from Russia that the same “scientists” (and please understand that these “scientists” are responsible for almost all of the conclusions on which the hysteria was based) cherry-picked climate data from Russia.  This is no small thing.  Russia covers 12% of the earth, and it’s been the Siberian tree rings that have been at the centerpiece of the warmies’ claims.

And today comes news that definitively rips the mask off of this whole thing.  When Hugo Chavez, a man who seeks to turn his beleaguered nation into a Communist worker’s paradise, with himself as leader for life, announces in Copenhagen that capitalism is the real culprit, and is met, not with silence or boos, but with deafening cheers, everything becomes clear:

President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.

When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

But then he wound up to his grand conclusion – 20 minutes after his 5 minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ – “our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell….let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.” He won a standing ovation.

Let me translate Chavez’s speech:  “The capitalist pigs in the United States are the enemies of the people and need to be destroyed.”  Chavez’s speech, in other words, is pitch-perfect Communist Cold War rhetoric.  During the Cold War, non-Communist bloc nations would have been politely silent, even if they agreed with his sentiments.  Thanks to the brainwashing of global warming, however, people no longer feel compelled to hide their hatred for America and their desire for its destruction.

If Barack Obama had anything approaching human decency, he would use this Chavez speech — and, more importantly, the reaction to this Chavez speech — as the justification for refusing to go to Copenhagen.  He won’t though.  Obama has made it clear, time and time again, that he agrees with the Chavez speech.  He too believes that America is the cause of the world’s woes.  He too believes that America should be de-energized and debased, both because it would make the world a better place and because America deserves that kind of humiliation.  Chavez’s speech, rather than being the straw that should break the Obami back on climate change, is simply the spoken expression of of their innate beliefs.

Incidentally, I realize that I erred somewhat when I compared what’s happening now to 1989.  The difference between now and then is the media.  Although the media always hewed left, and was steadily dragging Americans into the relativist world of “Communism is just another way of life,” it was still able to recognize the shattering drama of the Solidarity movement and the physical destruction of the Berlin Wall.  These were visible symbols of a decades-long conflict, and their occurrence made for good TV.

Things are entirely different here and now.  The media, with almost no exceptions, had bought wholesale into the religion of Climate Change.  Media members don’t want to see their God fail.  Additionally, there’s no good TV here.  Instead of hundreds, and then thousands, of Polish dockworkers facing down Soviet guns, or brave people climbing a wall, again to the backdrop of loaded guns, here are have somewhat complex scientific discussions, a few disgraced academics, and Hugo Chavez (a man media people find charismatic).  They don’t want the American people to see or know anything about all of this and, because it lacks good visuals, it’s easy to hide.  There’s a revolution taking place, and the media is doing its damndest to bury it.

So folks, it’s up to us here, the ones in the blogosphere, to get word of the revolution out.  Bloggers need to write, readers need to email blog posts and news articles to their less news obsessive friends.  All of us need to put intriguing notes on facebook, linking to articles that will enlighten a population kept in the dark.  We need to write letters to our local editors chastising them (politely, of course), for missing out on the biggest story, so far, of the 21st Century — bigger even than the election of a vaguely black, completely red, man into the White House.  The one thing I suggest is that you don’t use the “I told you so” approach.  People tend not to respond well to that kind of thing.  It’s much better, in terms of piquing people’s interest, to strike a tone of incredulous amazement, or excited sense of discovery, or even vague sadness.

There’s a revolution happening here.  We have the weapons to destroy the Communist movement’s second attempt to destroy the Western world.  Don’t sit on the sidelines.  Do something!

The Archbishop of Canterbury is an idiot

In his latest opining about world events, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has certainly managed to assure that every one of his illustrious predecessors is rolling in his grave.  Please recall that Williams is the same Church prelate who advanced Sharia law.

He’s now calling for the end of economic growth the save the planet.  In his singularly incoherent style, he argues that economic growth, even though a good thing that’s brought enormous benefits to the world is really a bad thing because of global warming — and yes, this would be the global warming that doesn’t exist.  Little things such as facts and logic have never stopped Williams before, though, and they’re not going to stop him now:

The Archbishop of Canterbury called for an end to economic growth to save the planet.

Dr Rowan Williams said that economic growth based on consumer power had led to towards ‘the death of what is most distinctively human’.

But he acknowledged that poverty should not be romanticised and said that economic growth could be one cause of ‘human liberation’.

‘We cannot grow indefinitely in economic terms without moving towards the death of what is most distinctively human, the death of the habits that make sense in a shared world where life has to be sustained by co-operation not only between humans but between humans and their material world,’ he said.

‘We have to ask whether our duty of care for life is compatible with assuming without question that the desirable future for every economy, even the most currently successful and expansionist, is unchecked growth.’

However, Dr Williams added: ‘It is right to work for a world in which there is security of work and food and medical care for all, and to try and create local economies that make local societies prosper through trade and innovation.

You can read more of his singularly befuddled utterances here.

I don’t even know how to parse the abject ignorance and utter lack of logic that wanders through those inchoate thoughts.  This man is so inane, he defies fisking.   While I’m sure there’s the germ of an idea hiding somewhere in the back of that small brain, I doubt he or anyone else is capable of teasing it out.

There are all sorts of stupid people in the world.  The tragedy is that the Church of England has elevated this boneheaded academic to a bully pulpit from which he can harangue, confuse and destroy the people of England.

Obama Energy Secretary cheers the decline of capitalism

Okay, Steven Chu wasn’t as explicit as my post caption suggests.  Nevertheless, buried within his peculiar remarks about companies deserting the U.S. Chamber of Congress is a profound disdain for the American way of doing business:

Our energy secretary applauds and encourages companies to leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its position on climate change. Should any Cabinet secretary, with the powers of government behind him, be threatening U.S. companies?

Part of the climate-change mantra is that the debate is over and the science is settled. Just to make sure, environmental groups have sought to pressure businesses to go green or at least keep silent. Now it would appear the whole weight of the federal government is being thrown behind this campaign to coerce and silence real and potential opposition.

On Thursday, Steven Chu, President Obama’s energy secretary, told attendees at a solar power event on the National Mall that it’s “wonderful” to see companies like Exelon, Apple and Pacific Gas & Electric leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber is a pro-capitalism, pro-free-enterprise association of businesses that has fought against climate treaties like Kyoto and legislation such as Waxman-Markey as futile efforts not founded in science that are economically damaging and recipes for global poverty.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Chu told reporters at the event. He said that companies that left the 3-million-member chamber objected to “foot-dragging” and “denials” and realize that efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases are “part of our economic future in the United States.”

They say that people get the government they deserve, but did we really sin enough as a nation to deserve this?

Hat tip:  Sadie

Other people’s money

As you may recall, I said at the beginning of the summer that I was going to introduce capitalism into the house by giving my children big chores with meaningful rewards.  This plan worked fairly well.  It wasn’t quite the juggernaut I’d hoped for, with the kids taking care of all the backlog in the house, but we still got a lot done.

Part of the plan’s failure was simply the dislocation of summer:  my son went to sleep-away camp, then we went away for vacation, then the kids started long day camps, then my niece came to visit, etc., etc.  I simply could not maintain a work schedule. Even with the disruptions, though, the kids made a lot of money:  My son has amassed $175 and my daughter $165.

At the beginning of the summer, when the kids and I first agreed on this economic experiment, I promised them that they could spend the money as they wanted, subject to my veto.  My daughter wanted to spend it at Abercrombie & Fitch.  That put me in something of a bind.  Let me give you a bit of background to explain my dilemma.

One of the things I struggled with as a parent all last school year was the fact that the idea of popularity plays such a large role in 5th grade.  Because we share a school district with an extremely affluent community, the popular girls in 5th grade were the ones with money at their backs:  they live in very large homes, their parents drive very expensive cars and, most importantly from my daughter’s point of view, they wear clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch.

You may recall that A&F used to be a very staid provider of outdoors clothes.  You’re also probably aware that nowadays Abercrombie sells totally ordinary clothes, but that it makes them seem special to teens and tweens by using exceptionally salacious advertisements.

Since I disapprove deeply of A&F’s marketing plan, I refuse to spend any money there.  By the time summer began and my daughter made her request about buying clothes at A&F with any money she might earn, neither she nor I had ever set foot in Abercrombie (either the real store or the cyber store).

My first instinct was to say “no” to her request to spend her earned money at A&F.  However, I knew she would need every incentive possible to buckle down to household tasks, and this was clearly an incentive.  I also figured that we’d shop online, which would keep her out of a store festooned with what amount to soft porn pictures.  I have a little more control over what she sees if we shop online.

I needn’t have worried about any of this, though.  Now that summer’s over and she has the money in her hands, she’s decided that she doesn’t want to shop at A&F at all.  She wants to shop at Target.  Why?  Because it’s her own money.  All during the school year, when she was begging to go to A&F, she was contemplating spending my hard earned money, not her hard-earned money.  Now, however, having herself worked hard for the money, she doesn’t want to waste it.  She’s figured out that she’ll get perfectly lovely clothes at a much better price (meaning more clothes) if she shops at Target.

In other words, this summer’s experiment proved to have a double capitalism whammy.  Not only did the promise of earning real money give my children an incentive to work hard at tasks that they would otherwise not have done, the experience changed my daughter’s spending habits.  Rather than being profligate with my money, she is being wise with her own.

Her sudden wisdom about money, of course, is precisely the same argument tax foes make when they say that the government, rather than taking as much money as possible from people (the Obama model), should leave as much money as possible with people (the conservative and sort-of the McCain model).  Because the government doesn’t work for the money, it has no incentive to spend it wisely.  From the government viewpoint, every penny in the budget is “other people’s money.”  Additionally, the government knows that, with its coercive power, there’s always more where that came from.  It’s the people who work hard to make money who should be given the right to control its spending, and that’s true whether they want to spend it on a few items of high quality (or cachet) or on many items of middle quality.

I understand that there are some things that people simply can’t buy:  local and national infrastructure and national defense.  However, people should be able to decide about health care, and schools, and all sorts of things either that the government now controls in whole or in part, or that the Obamamanics want to sweep into government control.  Government, for the most part, spends money profligately; people, for the most part, spend that same money wisely.  (And even if they don’t spend it wisely, either they’re still happy with their profligacy, because it’s their choice, or they learn their lesson and don’t make that mistake again, a lesson the government never masters.)

Switching from a communist to a capitalist economy

I never thought about it, but I was running my house like a commune.  The kids had chores to do, of course, but the incentive was the greater good, my approbation, and an allowance that, in their minds, had no relationship to the tasks demanded.  The kids did not find these incentives inspiring, and the days and works tended to be a blur of my pushing, and pushing, and their pushing back.  I was frustrated, they were resentful, and the house chaotic.

Aside from the practical stalemate of a sort of general household chaos, the “incentives” of “the greater good” and punishment did not work very well at controlling behavioral problems either.  The kids fought like cats and dogs, whined more than one would have thought possible, and thought that interrupting me was an Olympic sport.

Believe it or not, they are nice kids, but life has been a day to day struggle to achieve things that, in the perfectly run “communist” household of my youth, worked well.  As to my youth, my sister reminded me that it probably worked well because my mother, who is a lovely woman, nevertheless carried a a very big stick.  Also, my sister and I were exceptionally biddable children (probably because of that same stick).

I decided this summer to switch to capitalism, aided by the fact that the kids have very strong commercial desires — he wants a Rip Stick and she (I blush to admit this) Abercrombie clothes.  Here’s the method I devised:

I have a lot of big tasks in the house that have been bedeviling me, mostly in the form of closets that badly need organizing.  There are also the usual things of dirty kitchens, clean (but full) dishwashers, and stacks of clean, unfolded laundry.  I told the kids that, on a daily basis, I will assign them a task with a good salary.  Not a piddling 50 cents or $1 per task, but $5 to $20 per child, depending on the task’s magnitude.

There are conditions, however.  First, they must listen well as I explain the task.  Second, while doing the task, they cannot fight with each other or come whining to me.  If they don’t understand something, they may interrupt me only if it brings the task to a dead halt.  Otherwise, they have to set aside things that confuse them and wait until they’ve reached a functional wall.  If they commit any of the bad employee sins — not listening, fighting, whining, or excessive interrupting — I dock their pay, to the point where they may find themselves doing the task for no money at all.

My husband, to my surprise, thought this was a wonderful idea.  He offered a further incentive.  If the kids could get through the whole summer without having their pay docked, he’ll double whatever they earn from me.

We put the system in effect yesterday and it was the first day ever that the kids cleaned their rooms, tidied the house, and organized a closet without fighting, whining or interrupting me every second.  The whole thing flowed.  They leaped from project to project with enthusiasm and good will.  At the end of the day, they eagerly counted their earnings, projected ahead to the time at which they’d be able to make their purchases, and expressed surprise at (a) how fun it had been to work well and (b) how nice it was not to fight.

I couldn’t resist, of course, and gave them a little lesson in the differences between communism and capitalism.  They completely understood how, with money as the hub, we were all able to achieve our goals:  they moved further towards their Rip Stick and Abercrombie clothes, and I got a tidy house, an organized closet, and two well-behaved kids.

I’ll try to keep you posted on this capitalist experiment.