Apr 9, 2008

The Peasant and the Programmer

After a brief stroll past the old university campus, I saw several signs for things like "anti-capitalist presentation" or "communist club", etc. I couldn't help but wonder, where do these people get these ideas that what they're talking about is really better than what we have? Have they that much experience with a non-capitalist society that they can actually say it is better?

Admittedly, I was once a bit of a socialist. Back when I was in school I was all for the whole lower tuition thing, better public transit, better socialized medicine, yadda yadda yadda. As one of my economics professors once said to me, "I was a socialist when I was your age, but fortunately I got over that pretty quick. It's funny how your opinion changes once you become a tax-payer." Once you get out into the real world and have a decent salary (not that difficult to obtain) all these things like student loans don't really bother you nearly as much. In fact, the whining about "the burden of debt" tends to get more annoying than anything else. I remember a demonstration downtown Montreal about how "education is a right." Yeah sure, that's fine, but look at it this way. University graduates make a fair bit more than the average person. Suppose you get $20k of debt at about 7% interest rate. If you pay back around $500 a month, it'll probably only take you about 3 years to pay it all back. That's less time than it took you to accumulate that debt. So how is it a burden?

A lot of these protesters tend to attribute certain things to a capitalist society. Things like poverty, exploitation, mass media brainwashing, things like that. It seems like they haven't really studied their history very much. Poverty has been around since the ability to gain more than another person has been around. There have been beggars for thousands of years (they talk about beggars in the bible), long before capitalism was around. There has been exploitation for centuries (feudalism anyone?), mass media brainwashing (Roman Catholic Church, Soviet propaganda). These are not new things, why blame them on capitalism?

One word that is no longer heard nowadays is "peasant." Imagine yourself 500 years ago. What are the chances you'd be of nobility? Not very high. Chances are, you'd be a peasant. You'd probably be working on a family farm, or possibly apprenticed to a blacksmith or something like that. Where has capitalism gotten us? We have been able to break away from this class subordination and do what we want to do.

3 comments:

Guillaume Theoret said...

Amen to that.

I wasn't a socialist even in university though.. I've always been an advocate of simply indexing tuition to inflation. A tuition freeze makes no sense because it gets cheaper to go to school every year and becomes a bigger and bigger burden on society. But every time there's a proposal to raise tuition even a penny, people go batshit. It makes no sense.

Guillaume Theoret said...

Oh and one more thing.. all the people complaining that school is free in France don't seem to realize that while yeah, school is free, it's fucking hard to get into university there. I'm sure most of the complainers wouldn't even be admitted were they in France.

IllegalCharacter said...

Exactly.

You have to limit entrance to university somehow, or the value of the university degree will drop.

Ultimately, I think Milton Friedman (famous liberal economist) sums this up best when he says (paraphrased) that subsidizing university is like taking away from the lower-middle classes of today (upper classes can afford the taxes a lot more than the lower ones) and giving to the upper-middle class of tomorrow (where many university graduates end up). That's not really fair for the lower classes now is it?