Is Egalitarianism a Free Loader's Paradise?
by John Spritzler
July 15, 2018
Egalitarianism is a society in which the economy is based on the principle of "From each according to reasonable ability, to each according to need or reasonable desire with scarce things equitably rationed according to need." This is definitely not a free loader-friendly principle!
A free loader is somebody who is perfectly able to contribute something useful to the society and who would reasonably be expected to do so (i.e., they are not a child or an elderly person and they are not mentally or physically incapable of contributing and they are not denied the opportunity to contribute) but who flat out refuses to do so.
This article is about why it is wrong to advocate (as some people unfortunately do) that the people who do useful work are morally obliged to provide the fruits of their labor (products and services) to free loaders in sufficient quantity to enable the free loaders to live a decent healthy free loader life.* The wrongheaded phrases that are often used to advocate making society a free loader paradise include the following: "[fill in the blank] is the right of all" and "Free Access for All."
The Free Loaders Amongst Us
For the past several millennia human society has consisted of a free loader ruling elite class dominating the vast majority of people who do the useful work of society. In China this free loader elite class was portrayed in pictures you may have seen with foot long fingernails; such fingernails were a sign of membership in the upper ruling elite because they showed the person to be incapable of any useful labor. The refusal to do any useful labor has been central to the ideology of all ruling classes. The rulers didn't even walk for themselves--they were carried in elaborate "chairs" by the workers.
In Europe as late as the 19th century the aristocratic (noble) class (people with titles such as Lord and Lady, Baron and Baroness, Count and Countess, Marquis and Marquesa, Duke and Duchess, Earl and Countess, or Viscount and Viscountess, Don and Doña (in Spain), or Dom and Dona (in Portugal) or had names in France that began with "de", etc. ) consisted of people who considered useful work demeaning, beneath them. These people (as one can read about in the novels of Balzac and other authors of the time) were horrified if their daughter married a physician, never mind--God forbid!--a craftsman or farmer. That would be a scandal that one did anything possible to prevent.
The aristocratic class viewed its proper role in society as living a luxurious life in comfort (off the backs of the working class) and (for the women) giving orders to servants and (for the men) being top officers in the government or church or military where their mission was to maintain the class inequality of society and prevent the "riff raff" from taking over. Some male aristocrats prided themselves for their military skill and valor (useful for enriching themselves at the expense of ordinary people of course), but never for actual useful work.
Today the aristocratic mode of thinking is very much alive and well, even if (in the United States at least) the formal aristocratic titles have been abandoned. We have two kinds of people with the aristocratic mentality of viewing useful work as beneath them.
First, there are the very rich, the billionaire class, who are the aristocrats of the modern age. Alice Walton collects art "for a living" and enjoys her $40+ billion dollar fortune, made possible by the many workers who do the useful work in her family's famous Wal-Mart stores. Some of these billionaires may call it "useful work" when they spend time in 5-star hotel suites doing "executive CEO-type stuff" but it's just the modern equivalent of the aristocrats in the past holding top positions in the government or church or military to ensure that the working class kept working to keep the aristocratic class in luxury.
Second, there are people who may not have very much money but who nonetheless think that they are above having to do useful work. These are the people who figure out how to avoid doing useful work by making other people work for them. Some of these free loaders "game" the welfare system by pretending to be disabled so they can collect Social Security or other welfare disability checks. Some of these people "mooch" off of others to avoid doing any useful work even though they are perfectly capable of doing it. Some of these people are outright criminals, stealing or extorting money from the people who do the useful work. The number of such free loaders is small compared to the number of people who do--or wish to do--useful work, but it is not insignificant.
Because of the millennia of free loader ideology spread and defended by ruling elites, that ideology still influences a substantial number of people today. To pretend that there are virtually no free loaders amongst us today is simply naive.
I have had the unfortunate experience of knowing two self-declared free loaders personally, despite the fact that I try my best to stay clear of such people.
The first fellow was a man I encountered while serving time** with him in the Erie County Penitentiary. We were assigned to wash dishes together. He told me that on the outside he ran a band of women (controlling them with walkie-talkie radios) who robbed--at gunpoint--auto workers of their paycheck money right after they cashed their checks. After he told me this I had no further words with him.
The second fellow was a man who, a few years ago, saw one of the egalitarian posters I posted in public where I live and got in touch with me because he liked what he (mistakenly) thought egalitarianism was all about. We spent a day together, during which time he proudly explained to me how he had faked a mental breakdown in front of the Boston Public Library and thereby obtained a paper trail (when the police came) which he successfully used to obtain the status with Social Security of a disabled person unable to work, and how he now spends his time traveling the globe and enjoying the local recreational drugs, living off of his monthly disability checks, courtesy of the American tax-payers. He bragged to me about this, thinking that I, being an egalitarian who supported (he thought) the principle of "Free Access for All" and everything being the "right of all" would think he was a wonderful guy. Of course he disgusted me.
Why Do Some People Support Free Loader-Friendly Ideas Even Though they Oppose Free Loading?
There are two reasons (that I have run into, at least) why some people who oppose free loading nonetheless support free loader-friendly ideas.
The first reason, one shared by a large number of liberal/progressive people, is this. They support social policies that would provide important things to people who are presently wrongly denied them--people who are NOT free loaders but who do work for which they are not paid (many women are in this category) or are under-paid, people who are unable to work for some reason but would if they could, and people who are too young or old to work.
People who support such policies find that these policies are never presented to the public as policies based on the UNIFYING good principle of "From each according to reasonable ability, to each according to need or reasonable desire" (a principle supported by the vast majority of the public), but rather are presented to the public based on the deliberately DIVISIVE free loader-friendly principle of "[fill in the blank] is the right of all" (a principle that the ruling class knows is rejected by lots and lots of good people) on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Two examples of such policies are 1) Universal Basic Income (a monthly check from the government is sent to each person in the population, no strings attached), and 2) Single-Payer Health Care (a.k.a. Medicare for All).
Given that these policies would provide things to people who deserve them but don't have them today, good people quite understandably support these policies even if they don't think free loaders have a right to demand that people who do the useful work of society provide for the wants of free loaders. People support the free loader-friendly policy because their only alternative is to support the status quo, which is worse because it denies deserving people of what they do in fact have a right to receive. (The ruling class forces people to make this choice in order to enable its conservative media to portray liberals/progressives as pro-free loader and in this way put into effect its divide-and-rule strategy, as I discuss here.)
The second reason some people support free loader-friendly ideas even though they don't support free loading is this.
It starts with the fact that they have a wrong, and very elitist, view of ordinary people today as being opposed to making society egalitarian. Marxists, especially, have this wrong view of ordinary people. They view them as selfish ("thinking with their belly"), as bigoted (racist, homophobic, transphobic), as having the same terrible values as the capitalist class, as being "de-humanized by capitalism", as "lacking class consciousness," and so on. Marxists such as Che Guevara famously declared that a good society (what he called "socialism") could not exist until ordinary people had been changed from the bad kind of people they are now into what he called "Socialist Man" and "Socialism Woman." (I discuss this elitist, fundamentally anti-democratic nature of Marxism in detail here.)
How does this wrong view of people lead to supporting free loader-friendly ideas?
These people (typically Marxists) reason as follows.
"Most people today are hostile to the idea of abolishing class inequality and having an egalitarian society. Therefore it is not possible to have such a society until far in the future when virtually all people (new generations, presumably) have been changed to have good thinking instead of bad thinking.
"When that day in the far future has arrived, there will be no free loaders. Everybody will want to work according to reasonable ability doing something useful. The rare individual who may be inclined to be a free loader will be easily persuaded otherwise by social pressure from society.
"Therefore, in this future good society there will be no reason to do anything to deny free loaders anything or to keep free loaders from gaining power over others (as they did for many millennia of human history).
"Since there are no free loaders in this good society, the slogan for this good society should be "Everything one needs or desires is the right of all" or "Free Access for All" [as is displayed in the bottom image below].
People who think this way like the "[fill in the blank] is the right of all" and "Free Access For All" ideas. They think that advocating these ideas is "revolutionary."
But they are wrong!
Why the "Revolutionary" Fans of "Free Access for All" Are Wrong
The true revolutionary idea is that the vast majority of people today should--as soon as possible!--make an egalitarian revolution and then, when in power, prevent free loaders (of which there will indeed be a substantial number) from forcing people who do useful work to provide free loaders with the fruits of their labor by insisting that it is the RIGHT of free loaders to do that, like the aristocrats of old did.
The Marxists who think that ordinary people today are "dehumanized by capitalism" and are opposed to making an egalitarian society and are just selfish people "who think with their belly" are particularly insistent that this is how the people are who listen to conservative talk radio (about 30 million people in the U.S.) In this elitist view of people, those who listen to conservative talk radio have no good moral values, and they only care about their pocket-book.
This is why Marxists strenuously object when I advocate the following:
In order to make an egalitarian revolution, we need to have mutually respectful conversations with conservatives*** about what that means and why their pro-capitalist conservative leaders are wrong;
A condition for making such conversations happen is to first let conservatives know that we share important moral values, i.e., that despite how the conservative talk radio show hosts portray liberals/progressives as free loader-friendly, we too think free loading is morally wrong;
This is necessary in order to have a conversation in which we can be persuasive about factual points such as how many welfare cheats there really are (less than the exaggerated claims of the talk show hosts) and how the ruling elite uses that issue to maintain power in the hands of the biggest free loaders--the billionaire ruling plutocracy.
Marxists say it is foolish to even try to engage in a respectful conversation with conservatives because they only oppose free loading for selfish reasons--because they wrongly believe there are lots and lots of welfare cheats who are cutting into their pocket book, not because they have any moral objection to free loading. These Marxists say that to talk to conservatives about moral values is stupid, and it amounts to "getting into the gutter" with them.
According to these Marxists, the only thing to say to conservatives (if one deigns to talk to them at all) is to tell them they are being lied to about how many welfare cheats there are; tell them that there aren't really enough welfare cheats or free loaders of any kind to have any significant effect on their pocket book. By ignoring the moral wrongness of free loading and treating conservatives as if they were selfish immoral people who only "think with their belly," Marxists make it clear to conservatives that they have contempt for them. Hardly the way to begin a mutually respectful and thus persuasive conversation!
In this way, these Marxists do the bidding of the ruling class: they help the ruling class maintain the divide-and-rule hostility between good and decent people who listen to liberal NPR and good and decent people who listen to conservative talk radio.
* Note that just because a free loader has no right to demand that people provide him/her this or that, there may be perfectly reasonable reasons why people would choose to provide a free loader with this or that. People may decide that it is better for public health to provide some health care, or they may decide that it is not worth the extra expense required to check if a person is or is not a free loader and so prefer just to err on the side of assuming non-free loader; some people may wish to give a free loader something simply out of compassion (but keep in mind that a person who is mentally or physically unable to contribute is not a free loader) and some people may not want to live in a society in which anybody lacks for certain things. Fine. People are free to make such decisions. The point is that these are choices, not moral obligations that free loaders have a right to demand.
** In 1974 I was given three months for "trespassing." I had been expelled from the University of New York at Buffalo for the "crime" of politely disagreeing in class (only when called upon after raising my hand) with the professor (Professor Halstead) who taught that European imperialism in Africa was good for the Africans because it brought them civilization. The expulsion included an order that I not step foot on the campus. When I ignored that order and went to the campus student union to pass out leaflets against the racism being taught, I was arrested for trespassing.
*** When I went to a pro-Trump rally and asked 50 random people there if they thought it was a good idea or a bad idea to "Remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor," 86% said it was a good or a great idea, and all 43 of those people gladly took the button with that message that I offered to them and many of them pinned it on themselves right on the spot. When I went to Unity, N.H., a rural town where everybody (virtually all white) listens to Rush Limbaugh and not NPR, 80% of the people who read a statement I was collecting signatures for signed it, gladly, many asking, "Where do I sign?" The statement was "This I Believe." It is an egalitarian revolutionary declaration of belief. Read it online here (pdf).