Daniel Greenfield, writing as Sultan Knish, penned an excellent and perceptive essay, “The Rationing Society.” My chief problem with the essay is in the choice of the terms “production society” and “rationing society,” which misdirect attention from the fundamental issues. Mr. Greenfield’s focus in the essay is the mechanics of wealth distribution in a “rationing society,” at least of such wealth would remain in an economy crippled by controls. I have selected a few of Greenfield’s statements to throw some light on their validity.
The best literary depiction of a dystopian or “rationing society” or polity is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Regardless of the value of Orwell’s perceptive insights into the means and ends of totalitarianism – and they are many and spot-on – his basic conception of a functioning totalitarian regime was flawed. A “production society” means free minds, minds free to innovate and sustain a technological or industrial civilization, free to act, and free to trade and to move about and assemble with others or not. A “rationing society” depends on the very attribute in men it wishes to leash or exterminate: free minds free to act.
Orwell’s other famous novel, the parable Animal Farm, was merely an attack by a “democratic socialist” on Stalin’s regime. Stalin and Soviet Russia lost many supporters in the West on the occasion of the Non-Aggression Pact signed by Stalin and Hitler in 1939. But when Nazi Germany invaded Soviet Russia, its Western supporters hurried back into the fold.
A rationing or authoritarian society seeks to freeze things in a state of stagnation, the better to control things and everyone, but even a technologically stagnant society still needs minds that can sustain it. This is an implicit confession that the state is neither omniscient nor omnipotent. A rationing society will put a premium on the competence to even repair a telescreen or a “Floating Fortress” or weaponry or manufacture razor blades. A free, independent mind is such a society’s primary enemy. The result of leashing or punishing it is the impoverishment of nearly everyone but the entrenched political class – and then collapse.
Until the collapse occurs, competent minds able to prop up dwindling products such as shoes and razor blades and food which must now be rationed, until the assembly lines halt, raw materials become scare, and the stockpiles are depleted. The minds that could have replaced them will have been snuffed out, or, as happens in Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, those minds will finally have gone on strike and disappeared. Rand noted in For The New Intellectual:
“Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.”
Greenfield wrote: "A socialist monopoly however is insurmountable because it carries with it the full weight of the authorities and the ideology that is inculcated into every man, woman and child in the country."
In a capitalist society, force is banned from human relationships, including trade. This is why monopolies in a capitalist society can be overcome. Innovators have a chance to rise and prosper. In a socialist, rationing, or authoritarian society, force is not banned and becomes the primary arbiter and determining factor, or the “economic tool” of first choice by statists. Innovators are discouraged by the threat of force or directly by force. The force can take the form of literal policing with clubs and guns and with the seizure of property and persons, or with punishing fines, taxes, draconian regulations, or a combination of all forms.
Among other inevitable consequences is the involuntary transfer of wealth to the state and its patronized special interest groups.
For example, New York has the highest taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products in the nation, compelling smokers to cross state lines to purchase them, order them online, or rely on cigarette smugglers (many of whom, today, are Muslim gangs). The taxes, imposed by the federal government, by states, and by municipalities, are intended to discourage smoking, but these same governments nonetheless depend on the tax revenue. Taxes are imposed on gasoline purchases to discourage an increase of carbon emissions, yet these same governments depend on that revenue, as well.
Another instance of an authoritarian grip on another commodity is education. At the moment, “Common Core,” an educational system calculated and guaranteed to dumb down any child forced to attend a "public school," is being mandated across the country, with private schools in many states compelled to adopt it, as well. With what penalty if a private school does not adopt it? A raid by a SWAT team? Financial penalties? Loss of accreditation? Jail for the school’s governing board and teachers? The sequestering of the school children? Big Brotherish monitors assigned to all classrooms? Your guess is as good as mine.
Why is Bill Gates’s Gates Foundation a “special interest”? It is because his “charity’s” educational goals mesh with the federal government’s, to turn American school children into “responsible” and proactive ciphers to advance what the state says is the “common good.”
Another instance of a rationing society is Obamacare. I don’t think I need elaborate on the federal government’s mandating Americans to purchase of health insurance.
Still another instance of a “rationing society” is the nullification of the right to move one’s property out of harm’s way – that is, out of reach of government taxation, regulations, and controls. See this story about our Authoritarian-in-Chief’s rules for moving corporate headquarters out of the U.S. to friendlier foreign shores, and then moving profits and earnings back into the U.S. The Washington Post quoted Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, who chortled:
But the rules would not block the practice, known as tax “inversion,” and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew again called on Congress to enact more far-reaching reforms.
“These first, targeted steps make substantial progress in constraining the creative techniques used to avoid U.S. taxes, both in terms of meaningfully reducing the economic benefits of inversions after the fact, and when possible, stopping them altogether,” Lew said in a written statement.
The Authoritarian-in-Chief himself waxed sanctimoniously, according to the New York Times:
“While there’s no substitute for congressional action, my administration will act wherever we can to protect the progress the American people have worked so hard to bring about,” Mr. Obama said in a statement after the regulations on so-called corporate inversions were announced.
Barack Obama and Jack Lew and all the other Progressives and leftists in and out of office want to imprison private property to better slice it down to a “fairer” size – and also to pay off a national debt that can never be paid, not even in six generations of slave labor.
Lenin saw the consequences of Soviet Russia’s full implementation of Communist rationing policies and devised his New Economic Policy (NEP) to stave off starvation and possibly a revolt of the “proletariat” against the “Revolution.” It allowed a modicum of freedom of trade. He “saved” the Revolution by adulterating Communism – for a while. It was rife with corruption that reached the highest levels of the multitude of bureaucracies. Instituted in 1921, it ended in 1929.
Stalin succeeded Lenin and atavistically reverted to full Communism, kicking off the starvation of millions, a vast expansion of the Gulag, and the infamous purge trials. However, Soviet Russia could not have survived for as long as it did except for what it could steal, cajole, or wheedle from the West. As long as there were semi-free nations willing to grant it bank credits and send it grain and build its factories, it could stumble along as a gasping dependent, counting on the very “economic” forces it wished to eradicate in Russia and around the world. As long as there were semi-free “production societies,” it survived, but just barely and by force. The same thing happened in Mao’s China, but after Mao’s passing the Communist regime there saved itself by opting out for “free market” fascism. However, it’s not really “free enterprise” when the ruling political class insists on having a hand and role in any enterprise.
Greenfield wrote: “Paradoxically, the rationing infrastructure increases in direct proportion to the falloff of production as lower production requires even greater rationing.”
It isn’t actually a paradox. Under authoritarianism, dwindling production is a function of the number and severity of controls imposed to ensure everyone’s “fair share” or ephemeral “social justice” or some other state-designated end. It’s an absolute corollary of basic economics, a matter of fundamental cause-and-effect.
Laissez-Faire capitalism is the ideal “production society.”