Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why Poor People Look So Happy

I write to offer a sincere, if belated apology to my fellow taxpaying Americans for my part in a small scandal.

In the mid-1990s, the Library of Congress wasted some of your hard-earned money on a book containing the following words:

"From a Marxian perspective, this might appear to be a classic example of how ideology serves class interest through systematic distortion of the views of the oppressed, so that they are unable to see the reality of their own condition and thus remain dependent and powerless. First the ideology of power creates its own version of reality; then this new reality consolidates power by hiding its ideological scaffolding where it can least be suspected as such—in the minds and voices of the weak and poor." [1]

That’s nothing but pinko Socialist nonsense. I should know, because I wrote it.

What does it mean, though, you ask? In plain English, I was just trying to say that poor people aren’t really as happy as they look. And rich people aren’t all that miserable, either. They just complain a lot. They do this to fake the poor people into leaving them alone. Actually they’re loving it. Being rich is great.

That’s what I was getting at. But as I say, it was pure nonsense. I realize now that rich people truly are miserable. Of course they are, because they’re exhausted. They’re the ones who have to keep the Free Market System running. By night, they have to lie awake thinking up new kinds of convertible arbitrage to securitize their hedge funds [2], and by day they have to beat back the Federal Government, which is trying to tax them to death (and beyond.)

Meanwhile poor people have it made. All they have to do is go to Walmart and life is good. They’re thrilled.

Sometimes I feel bad for rich people, but when you think about it, somebody has to bear the burden of being in charge—why not them?

You might wonder where I got all that baloney about “ideological scaffolding hiding in the voices of the poor” in the first place. I heard it in 1979 from a Chilean dude who couldn’t find a job, so he was teaching social theory at Yale, which at the time was operating as a sheltered workshop/rehab program for political refugees escaping Right Wing Latin American dictatorships. Them, and few leftover Vietnam-era nutcases who didn’t qualify for Veterans mental health and addiction treatment, because they hadn’t actually fought in the Vietnam War, having spent the entire decade writing PhD dissertations and smoking weed, biding their time until it was over. But by then the country was in such a mess that it was incredibly stressful for them to deal with, and the only thing they were put together enough to do was teach sociology at an Ivy League university. A decent community college would never have put up with these people.

Notwithstanding my professors, getting a doctorate in sociology taught me a lot about the Free Market System. Here’s how it goes: I spent three years writing my dissertation, and another year revising it into a book manuscript. The royalties I earned came to approximately $980; that works out to 12 cents an hour for my labor. What this taught me is the Law of Supply and Demand and its relation to Price.

Just as a point of comparison, the surgeon who took out my spleen when I had a car crash got about $15,000--this for a few hours of work snipping an organ and putting in a few stitches. That doesn't sound too hard to me. But it’s how Supply and Demand works. So if you want to make some bucks, Jackson, stop writing books about Socialism and start taking out spleens. It’s as simple as that.

What about Quality, you ask. Doesn't that count for something? Isn’t it true that ‘you get what you pay for’? It turns out that Quality is a slippery Socialist concept. The important thing to remember about Quality is, ‘Quality According to Whom.’ My book was reviewed in several elite academic journals and the reviewers all said it was pretty good. These journals are each read by about six people. The problem is, they are the same six people who wrote the reviews, and they didn’t have to buy a copy of the book for themselves, because the publisher had sent them one for free in exchange for writing the review. That's how Socialism works.

When nobody bought my book, Oxford UP thought maybe it was because people didn’t understand the Quality of it, and so they did what any twit Socialist publisher would do: they doubled the price, from $55 to $110. “Let’s see if that does the trick, Nigel," they said to each other.

But then, as if by magic, the Free Market stepped in. Amazon.com started selling used copies of my book online for $12. These used copies from Amazon were not actually used at all. They were always in mint condition. I know this, because I’m the one who bought them. They were absolutely perfect, without a single blemish on the dust jacket. Nobody had cracked the cover.

I autographed these books with ponderous and witty inscriptions and gave them to my children and parents and friends, most of whom were kind enough to pretend that I hadn’t already given them a copy last year.

One year I ordered another round of copies of my book from Amazon—now they were selling for about $6 apiece!—and when one of the copies arrived, I opened it and noticed it was ink-stamped on the copyright page: “Property of the Library of Congress." This was a low blow. You know the Federal government is in trouble when the Library of Congress starts pawning their copy of a book nobody wants to buy. And then Amazon sells it back to the poor shmuck who wrote it—for six bucks.

I felt kind of bad, since it was really the taxpayer who had gotten the shaft on this deal, so I tried to give the book back to the Library of Congress as a charitable donation. It turns out they’re running out of room as well as money. I tried offering it to a number of different government officials, but the minute they found out the book was about Socialism, they hung up on me. I finally succeeded in giving it to the only elected public official I know personally, my buddy Guy McCook who is a County Commissioner down in Scotland County, NC. Guy was just corruptible enough to take the darn thing. (Now he owes me a favor, but again, that’s how the Free Market System works.) [3]

I'm not saying books are losers in general. It’s just books about certain things, by certain people. Consider the differences between my book and that new memoir by The Sarah, Going Rogue. She’s selling copies by the millions. And she had ghostwriters. Her book costs $14.50. That’s the Free Market System for you.

What’s The Sarah got that I don’t? Well, for one thing, The Sarah’s book is about Free Market Philosophy and my book is about Socialism. Another difference is that my book has no picture on the cover. Her book has a wonderful sexy picture of, well, The Sarah. And then, as I’ve already mentioned, my book was reviewed by a few colossal nerds. The Sarah’s book was reviewed by the Brain Trust of the Republican Party on national cable television. Rush Limbaugh pronounced it “truly one of the most substantive policy books I’ve read.”

Do you see the differences? But here’s the point I wanted to get to. If the Free Market System could do this for The Sarah, just think what it could do for health care in the United States of America.

Follow me here. When I had my car crash, I did not get to pick the surgeon I wanted. They didn't even show me a catalog. I'd never seen this guy before in my life. I'm still mad. It was my spleen, after all. I should have gotten to pick who took the darn thing out. This is the sort of thing I really hate about Socialism.

And take medical licensing, for example. Why should the Government decide if a doctor is qualified to perform a splenectomy? What do they know? If a doctor can’t do the job, how long would he stay in business? Let the Free Market take care of that.

In my situation with the car wreck, if we had had Free Market Health Care I could have shopped for a great deal on a decent splenectomy. I probably could have just gone out and bought a Home Splenectomy Kit and removed my own spleen, for heaven’s sake.

But you say there is no such thing as a Home Splenectomy Kit. Yeah, not yet. But in a Free Market, you would get innovation. And that’s good for everybody.

What if people can’t afford any splenectomy, you say. That, too, is a Free Market issue. If we got rid of all the Socialist regulations and Government red tape in the present system, you’d see prices drop fast. And at that point, if some people still could not afford to have a splenectomy, you’d have to wonder about their priorities. Some people can’t afford to drive a Porsche, either.

Just one more point. We really need to eliminate two sinkholes of Socialized Medicine in this country. One is Medicare and the other is the VA hospital system. Is this any way to honor our grandparents and our wounded soldiers? The least they deserve is Free Market Health Care, not some Socialist program run by the Government. Medicare and the VA need to go. Stick a fork in them.

Again, I’m sorry about that book.

* * *

[1] Swanson, J. (1995). Echoes of the Call. Oxford University Press, p. 146.

[2] If you don't know what this means, don't worry. Neither does anyone else on the planet, including Tim Geithner and Larry Summers. Which is another part of the reason rich people are so miserable.

[3] After writing this, I checked online and discovered that the Library of Congress does have a copy of my book in its collection after all. My guess is that Guy must have found a way to return it to the Library--he's pretty well connected. Anyway, if you're ever in DC, you might want to check the book out. If you find a big flourish of an inscription on the title page that says, "Remember the Bandana Club--A.A. '75--Cuidado el Pilsener Grande!", that's the one.