Friday, February 27, 2009

Socialism and Girl Scout Cookies

A young girl scout (who will remain unidentified but is close to our family) recently went out and sold over 250 boxes of girl scout cookies. She worked her butt off selling cookies (her mom did too!) in the hopes of fully paying for her activities for the rest of the year. She sold the most in her troupe while some other girls sold 10 boxes, 20 boxes, 30 boxes. In the end the leaders announced that all the proceeds that were raised would be distributed evenly among all the girls regardless of how many boxes they sold. The girl who sold 250 boxes would have to pay as much money to attend events as the girls who sold 10 boxes. A couple of observations:
  1. Socialism is demotivating - the top seller girl's response to the situation was, "in that case, next year I'll just sell 10 boxes." The idea of having those in authority over you taking that which you worked hard for and redistributing it to others who have not worked as hard breeds bitterness and laziness and it is extremely demotivating.
  2. Socialism is fundamentally different than and far inferior to generosity - I've always been intrigued with Acts 4:34-35 that says, "There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." At face value this looks like socialism. The one big difference is that this redistribution happened as a result of the generous hearts of motivated individuals - it wasn't legislated by the apostles. Think of how much better the girl scout scenario would have been if the girl would have been encouraged to share her earnings with the other girls, and then wrestled through the heart issue of generosity. Generosity is contagious once a person tastes it.
  3. Socialism has historically failed as an economic system - While it promises prosperity, equality, and security, it has historically led to poverty, misery, and tyranny.
So what's your favorite kind of girl scout cookie? wait... what?


Danielle said...

I like them in this order:
1. Samoas
2. Do-Si-Dos
3. Thin Mints

Also, this post rocks.

Matt & Kristin said...

Samoas (sp?) my box is 1/3 gone and I just purchased them today. I will hide my loot from the rest of my family. Horrible? Maybe. Thanks for posting about socialism too.

Danny Lucas said...

A few kind words from Despair, Inc.:

Dare To Slack

"When birds fly in the right formation, they need only exert half the effort. Even in nature, teamwork results in collective laziness."

And, there is something to be said for Underachievement:

"The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the lawnmower"

Go with Thin Mints, Derek, but don't believe the "Thin" part.

Kip Kline, PhD said...

It seems to me that your argument in favor of "generosity" and against "socialism" does not hang together very well. First of all, let me point out that I do not think that the Girl Scout situation is the same thing as socialism as an economic system. You don't have socialism unless the government controls the means of production. Second, if socialism as a system has "failed" what can we say of "generosity" as a system? By any measure it has not worked since we live in the richest country in the history of the world and still one in four children lives in poverty. Finally, the desired effect of "socialism" and "generosity" are the same -- the bestowing of the fruits of collective efforts on those in need. It seems to me that the attitude of the girl who decided she would rather not sell very many cookies if she'd have to share the proceeds with others doesn't seem to have the disposition of generosity as described in the passage from Acts anyway. This is also why I reject the premise that this Girl Scout protocol is demotivating. It may have been for this particular girl, but her original motivation was not a generous one. You stated that her goal was to cover her own event costs for the year. But, how many stories might we uncover of girls who were in fact motivated to sell more because they knew they would be helping to defray costs for their peers in need who perhaps didn't have the same ability to sell? Oh, and most important -- I like Thin Mints.

j*amy said...

this was a crazy story! i was not expecting the scout leaders to make that girl do that! it's awful!

um thin mints and the ones w/ peanut butter.

Susan said...

1. Tag A Longs
2. Do-Si-Dos
3. Thin Mints

Well said. As a history & government teacher, I'm sure you can guess what are my thoughts on socialism.

And.. as a Girl Scout (for 11 years), that really stinks!

jendakerr said...

Good word, Derek, so funny and sooo not funny at the same time..
and my fav. the classic Trefoil.

sojourn said...

Regardless of the economic validity of one "system" over another (i.e. capitalism vs. socialism) the basic disagreement comes down to one of principles and values. If you believe that one has the RIGHT to their own property (including the fruits of their labor)then you will be repulsed by the suggestion that someone else has the ability to take that against your free will. If you fundamentally believe that your property is not a right but a PRIVILEGE and therefore belongs to society at large (whatever "society" means) then you will be more inclined to hand over this authority to a political official for the redistribution of wealth. It is very clear that socialism as an economic "system" has failed miserably. Additionally, I also don't believe that pointing to poverty in this country holds water in many ways, but to list just two; First, The assumption underlying this is that there is such a thing as no poverty as a possibility, which in an imperfect world is not possible. Poverty is a relative and subjective measure (i.e. compare the "poor" in this country with the poor in Africa and this point becomes clear). Second, It also assumes that the current system in the United States resembles capitalism, whereas I would suggest that it is much more of a "mixed" system that resembles fascism (collusion of big business and big government to suppress competition) and masked socialism than it does the free market capitalism that we read about. Lastly I become disturbed by the rhetoric that current policies are "socialist" implying that the policy actions over the last 70 years have not been the same. As Hayek points out in his brilliant book "The Road to Serfdom" this transition does not happen over night, it is a gradual erosion of our individual liberties until the time is right for a dictator to move aggressively against individual freedom and toward the "common good". We should all take note that the history of the world is not one of freedom and prosperity, it is one of dictatorship and poverty. To believe that we are not exposed to a regression to what seems to be the equilibrium position of government and it's subjects is inexcusably naive. I only eat Thin Mints!

Danny Lucas said...

I am amazed at how much commentary can be made on socialism, in the post, and in some comments, only to be reduced to minutia by the final query of cookie preference.

More amazing to me is the absence of Jesus Christ as the criteria for the discussion at all.

For all intents and purposes, His bent was closer to socialism than capitalism. The meassage of Jesus Christ is Give, not Abraham Piper version of socialism versus capitalism, if you will.

Kip Kline, Phd does take a cue from the Book of Acts and it is refreshing to see a scriptural reasoning to the opinion.

Sojourn appears to be a double post as I read both.
The claim that poverty is subjective (comparing USA variety to African poverty does nothing to diminish poverty in any form it exists).

In terms of socialism redistributing wealth, THAT action has already been done about 8 years ago, with massive tax cuts to those who needed it least.
Money flowed from Middle Class to the uber wealthy and , in effect, wealth has been redistributed already, making wealthy folks even more wealthy at the expense of those who had less.
David was hammered by Nathan for taking one sheep belonging to Uriah, when David had all the sheep he could handle

But as tides ebb and flow, a redistribution in reverse is apparently underway. I seriously doubt we will return to the massively damaged Middle Class this country fostered for 50 years or so, but I hope we try.

The quote saying
"We should all take note that the history of the world is not one of freedom and prosperity, it is one of dictatorship and poverty" is irrelevant to believers in Jesus Christ.
This planet and economic system are not our final home.

In God's economy, these items are as superfluous as a Samoa or Thin Mint.

In terms of following Christ as a believer, there is ample opportunity for all to aid their fellow man with generosity, as ALL believers should do.....and not need a tax deduction for motivation, when the Lord voided Old Testament tithing of 10% and said Let your Heart be your calculator (Luke 6 and Widow's Mite Luke 21).

The Lord Jesus Christ made no distinction on His preference for Girl Scout Cookies as best I can find in any concordance or bible version. Perhaps his mind was on saving the soul of the scouts and their trip to heaven, MORE than on winning trips on Earth.

sojourn said...

Danny Lucas: "The quote saying
'We should all take note that the history of the world is not one of freedom and prosperity, it is one of dictatorship and poverty' is irrelevant to believers in Jesus Christ."

I could not disagree more (Isaiah 58). There is nothing more relevant to believers than the oppression of those made in His image.

Danny Lucas: "For all intents and purposes, His bent was closer to socialism than capitalism. The meassage of Jesus Christ is Give, not Take"

Socialism by definition is the taking from one against their free will. I would be very curious to see the scripture reference where Jesus lobbied the political powers that be of the time to take from one arbitrary group and give to another. Jesus was quite indifferent to the political system and was certainly not bent towards socialism, a political/economic system that was not created until many thousands of years later.

Danny Lucas: "In terms of socialism redistributing wealth, THAT action has already been done about 8 years ago, with massive tax cuts to those who needed it least. Money flowed from Middle Class to the uber wealthy and , in effect, wealth has been redistributed already, making wealthy folks even more wealthy at the expense of those who had less."

Tax cuts do not redistribute wealth. No money flowed from he middle class to the wealthy in this situation (i.e. when you take a deduction on your taxes this year, does the money you don't pay to the IRS flow from someone less wealthy than you? Tax cuts DO allow people to keep the fruits of their labor. Who deserves the tax breaks more is an entirely different discussion; my argument of course would be that no one should be forced to pay taxes on the fruit of their labor and we should repeal the 16th amendment. The argument should not be who pays more, middle class or wealthy, but rather should anyone be paying at all. Repealing the income tax completely would return the federal revenues to what they were around the year 2000. Do we really believe that the federal government was not big enough in 2000? If we decided it was, then who was taxed more or less would be a moot argument.

And finally, regardless of its implications on eternity, Thin Mints are the only way to go.

Anonymous said...

The comment about the geese, not laziness, it is working smarter. Many wings make light work.

The comment about the girl being selfish to raise money for herself instead of sharing the proceeds...was the girl trying to raise money to pay for outings her family otherwise would not have the means to pay for? Kind of gives it a different perspective.

Thin mints are the only way to go. The only time I have ever made a wager was over two boxes of thin mints and I won, baby!

I am posting as anonymous because I haven't figured out my identity...Angela

Anonymous said...

I don't really see socialism happening, though Tom Ashbrook's office would have you think otherwise.

I see people who are nervous about things changing too quickly and not having time to understand what it all means.

People take what they know and use it to understand what they do not know. So if something LOOKS like socialism, they call it socialism and stop there with a sigh of relief. They lay down the label machine and take a nap after a good self-pat on the back. This happened before, may I remind you.
The whole McCarthy era. Except people tyically won't be lynched or have their houses burned down for being socialists (yet)

Just remember. America is not a communist nation and never was going to be, but it freaked out allot about it, no? America shows no real or true signs of becoming a socialist country either, even though at the water cooler, people are looking over there shoulder at the White House.

This administration is not a bunch of undercover socialists. No. Quite the contrary. A quick and simple example: Read into the fact that the White House has made it CLEAR that we are not nationalizing the banks... it's written to a T into all the bailout agreements.

People are going to freak out still. People will be afraid we are going to become socialists... we aren't.

Any you wanna know what? So what if we became socialist? God still loves us, we can still have babies, and the sky will not fall. But we won't become socialist... i promise.