John Mauldin argues America already has 'socialism' today, wth the risks of capitalism socialised to the benefit of a few while a larger portion of the population struggles

John Mauldin argues America already has 'socialism' today, wth the risks of capitalism socialised to the benefit of a few while a larger portion of the population struggles
Bernie Sanders.

By John Mauldin*

As I write this, a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” is leading the race for one of our major parties’ presidential nomination. The fact that so many Americans (especially young Americans) support Bernie Sanders ought to tell us something. A Quinnipiac poll out this week showed Senator Sanders with 54% support among Democrats age 18–34. Meanwhile, 50% of adults under 38 told the Harris Poll last year that they would “prefer living in a socialist country.”

I don’t believe they really want socialism. Few even understand what it is. What they want is change. They see little hope for improvement in their situations, no matter how hard they work and sacrifice. They don’t see anyone in authority trying to help them. So, when someone offers what sound like easy answers, they jump aboard. As Harvard professor Ed Glaeser says (my paraphrase), people think of socialism as “hyperredistribution.” They are not looking to control the means of production per se, just redistributing the fruits of that production.

In one regard, Sanders is similar to Trump in 2016—an outsider whose message activates previously neglected voters. Trump went on to win. If Sanders gets the nomination, it’s easy to imagine scenarios where he wins, too.

That the US could plausibly swing from someone like Trump to someone like Sanders in the space of four years says, to me at least, that something bigger is happening. Until we fix it, desperate people will keep making desperate choices.

This week’s letter will be a little bit different in that I want to focus on why so many of our fellow citizens find socialist ideas attractive. And why, even in the face of that, I am a long-term optimist. For those paying attention, there has never been a time so potentially dangerous but still offering so many incredible opportunities.

Because of the frustrations of so many, both left and right, I think volatile swings between radically different political choices could become de rigeur for at least the next three election cycles, if not longer. The simple fact is that no political solution can deliver economic nirvana. But until something happens (like The Great Reset) to force unwelcome change, the cycle will continue. And that is a reality we as investors have to face.

What’s the appeal?

To my generation, “socialism” is the second “S” in USSR. We grew up being taught the Soviet Union was a mortal foe bent on world domination. We didn’t have to wonder if this adversary had nuclear weapons; we knew it could drop them on us any time. Remember “duck and cover” drills?

Thankfully, the threat of imminent nuclear war receded, and attitudes changed in those who didn’t grow up with it. A 1974 poll showed 75% of Americans aged 25 to 34 thought the US had “moved dangerously close to socialism.” Now 50% of young Americans want to embrace what they think of as socialism.

Its meaning isn’t entirely clear to older generations, either. This Mises Institute article does a good job outlining the ideologies we call “socialism.” Broadly speaking, they involve various degrees of collectivizing property and redistributing wealth. Those can sound pretty attractive if you have no property or wealth, and threatening if you do.

This raises a question: If the US economy is performing so well, and the rising tide is lifting all boats, why is socialism getting any traction at all? Public opinion data says this shouldn’t be happening. Polls from Gallup and others find solid majorities saying their financial condition improved in recent years, or at least got no worse.

I see two answers to that. One is in the question itself. Your financial condition can be better than it was but still not where you think it should be. If you are no longer drowning and are instead treading water with no lifeboat in sight, then yes, your condition has “improved.” But you’re still looking for answers.

The broad “better or worse” responses are heavily weighted by political affiliation. Republicans say both their own condition and the economy are better. Democrats say both are worse. They can’t all be right.

Polls that ask more specific questions find a considerably less rosy scenario.

For instance, a December 2019 Bankrate.com survey found half of US workers didn’t get any kind of pay raise in the last year. Gains in average hourly earnings may have been heavily weighted toward a smaller number of workers who got much larger raises.

Another survey by Salary Finance of 2,700 US adults working at companies with 500+ employees found 32% saying they ran out of money between paychecks. That’s consistent with the Federal Reserve’s annual “SHED” survey, which last year found almost 40% of US adults would need to borrow money to cover a $400 emergency expense. It also found an additional 18% of Americans considered themselves “just getting by” and 7% “finding it difficult to get by.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Fed reported this month that household debt balances hit $14 trillion, an all-time high. This was actually low as a percentage of disposable income, but disposable income is again highly weighted toward the top. Many at the bottom are in debt up to their eyeballs. And we’re not even in recession yet. Hence the dark humor like this.

From what I see, it may be true that most Americans are in “better” financial condition. But I think Ray Dalio is right when he divides the country into a bottom 60% and top 40%. More than half the country is in various degrees of trouble, and they are open to anything they think might help them, including what they think of as socialism.

Affordability crisis

Last week I quoted from an article by Annie Lowrey in The Atlantic, The Great Affordability Crisis Breaking America. We who watch macroeconomics tend to focus on aggregate numbers—unemployment rate, GDP growth, and so on. We can overlook the “micro” world hiding inside those numbers. Let me quote Ms. Lowrey at length because she says this well.

In the 2010s, the national unemployment rate dropped from a high of 9.9 percent to its current rate of just 3.5 percent. The economy expanded each and every year. Wages picked up for high-income workers as soon as the Great Recession ended, and picked up for lower-income workers in the second half of the decade. Americans’ confidence in the economy hit its highest point since 2000, right before the dot-com bubble burst. The headline economic numbers looked good, if not great.

But beyond the headline economic numbers, a multifarious and strangely invisible economic crisis metastasized: Let’s call it the Great Affordability Crisis. This crisis involved not just what families earned but the other half of the ledger, too—how they spent their earnings. In one of the best decades the American economy has ever recorded, families were bled dry by landlords, hospital administrators, university bursars, and child-care centers. For millions, a roaring economy felt precarious or downright terrible.

Viewing the economy through a cost-of-living paradigm helps explain why roughly two in five American adults would struggle to come up with $400 in an emergency so many years after the Great Recession ended. It helps explain why one in five adults is unable to pay the current month’s bills in full. It demonstrates why a surprise furnace-repair bill, parking ticket, court fee, or medical expense remains ruinous for so many American families, despite all the wealth this country has generated. Fully one in three households is classified as “financially fragile.”

Along with the rise of inequality, the slowdown in productivity growth, and the shrinking of the middle class, the spiraling cost of living has become a central facet of American economic life. It is a crisis amenable to policy solutions at the state, local, and federal levels—with all of the 2020 candidates, President Donald Trump included, teasing or pushing sweeping solutions for the problem. But absent those solutions, it looks certain to get worse for the foreseeable future—leaving households fragile, exacerbating the country’s inequality, slowing down growth, smothering productivity, and putting families’ dreams of security out of reach.

For many and maybe most Americans, life is a constant struggle to make ends meet. They see prices rising for the things they need to survive even as the president says there’s no inflation. The central bank that supposedly works for them actually wants more inflation, not less.

This hasn’t always been the case. Not so long ago, you could work your way through college with a part-time job, afford a small home or apartment in a city or suburb where jobs were available, see a doctor if you got sick, and send your kids to decent public schools. Those are now out of reach for millions. And while some certainly made poor choices, it is not entirely or even primarily their fault.

Many people perceive, with some justification, that the economy is rigged against them. Correct or not, that perception opened the door for Trump in 2016. We have seen significant improvement since then, but clearly not enough. The door is still open for anyone who can present a convincing argument their way is better. If “their way” is somewhere on the socialist spectrum, millions will be receptive to trying it.

There is a way to close that door, and it’s pretty simple: solve the problems that are making socialism seem attractive and capitalism seem evil. Unfortunately, I don’t see much interest from the people who would need to do it.

What I do see is a belief, not entirely wrong, that more economic growth will fix everything. The problem is it will take time and people are hurting now. And for reasons I have outlined in previous letters, our debt-burdened society has borrowed growth from the future. That Pied Piper of current growth is getting ready to be repaid.

Take healthcare. It is not the case that everything was fine before Obamacare. There were serious problems. For one, people under 65 with preexisting conditions were effectively uninsurable, unless they had employer coverage. Now health insurance is “available” to all but only at staggering cost.

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others keep talking about a “wealth tax” to fund national health care, student loan forgiveness, and other benefits. Others talk about much higher income taxes. Or a return to higher corporate taxes. These are terrible ideas but I get why people want them.

It is gallows humor to note that the impulse to pay for the redistribution of income and wealth with higher taxes seemingly comes from the desire to balance the budget. We can pick death by higher taxes or bigger deficits. There are no other choices.

Social contract

Humans may be social creatures but today’s societies didn’t come easy. It took millennia of precarious survival-of-the-fittest to arrive at the “social contract” that defines human relations. The norms of how we treat each other, and how the state treats people, are incredibly important. And they are breaking down.

That’s not a pleasant thought but it is growing harder to deny. The McKinsey Global Institute has a new report, The social contract in the 21st century: Outcomes so far for workers, consumers, and savers in advanced economies. It is bleak reading. McKinsey’s findings in summary (my emphasis in bold):

… [W]hile opportunities for work have expanded and employment rates have risen to record levels in many countries, work polarization and income stagnation are real and widespread. The cost of many discretionary goods and services has fallen sharply, but basic necessities such as housing, healthcare, and education are absorbing an ever-larger proportion of incomes. Coupled with wage stagnation effects, this is eroding the welfare of the bottom three quintiles of the population by income level (roughly 500 million people in 22 countries). Public pensions are being scaled back—and roughly the same three quintiles of the population do not or cannot save enough to make up the difference.

These shifts point to an evolution in the “social contract”: the arrangements and expectations, often implicit, that govern the exchanges between individuals and institutions. Broadly, individuals have had to assume greater responsibility for their economic outcomes. While many have benefited from this evolution, for a significant number of individuals the changes are spurring uncertainty, pessimism, and a general loss of trust in institutions.

This isn’t imaginary and it is not solely about individual responsibility. Society really has changed in important, structural ways. Achieving stability, much less success, is far more difficult for younger generations than it was for me and my Boomer peers.

We can and should discuss how to ease those challenges without causing even greater harm in the process. But pretending they don’t exist, or telling people to pull themselves up by bootstraps they don’t have, isn’t the answer.

Urging people who live paycheck to paycheck to save more is not realistic. They have no money left after those fast-growing expenses. Almost all saving occurs in the top 20% and certainly in the top 40%. The lowest quintiles have negative savings, i.e., are going into debt.

If you work for minimum wage, or even $20 an hour with a family to support, and someone comes along and promises you $1000 a month, or to cover your student debt or medical services or child care? That solves a problem you have right now. The fact that giving even 40 million people $1000 a month would be a $480 billion additional tax-and-spend which would significantly impact the economy is just not in your personal equation.

For many, it’s already an easy choice. After a recession? And deeper economic malaise?

Rigged system

The “financialization” of the American economy has led to increasing income and wealth disparity. As much as it pains me to say it, the “system” really is rigged. Whatever the good intentions of the Federal Reserve in particular and the US government in general have been, it has distorted the economic feedback loops that balance a true market-based economic system.

The fact is we already have “socialism” today. It’s not the socialism we feared in 1974. We have socialized the risks of capitalism, to the benefit of a small portion of the country, while a larger portion struggles.

That’s why Bernie Sanders may be on your ballot this November, and why he could win if the economy worsens. And there’s a chance it will. I long ago said Japan was a bug in search of a windshield. Maybe I should have said China. In either case, it’s beginning to look like virus COVID-19 could be the windshield against which the global economy meets its maker.

I am not being gloom-and-doom. I really believe the world is getting better and I see opportunity everywhere. However, if there is a recession, and thus more people in pain… if we haven’t given people better answers, they may choose socialism by default.

Coupled with socialism by central banking and bureaucracy?


*This is an article from Mauldin Economics' Thoughts from the Frontline, John Mauldin's free weekly investment and economic newsletter. This article first appeared here and is used by interest.co.nz with permission.

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62 Comments

Gret line - "it’s beginning to look like virus COVID-19 could be the windshield against which the global economy meets its maker".

Sometimes you're the bug, sometimes you're the windshield.

This bug is the size of a turkey

Its okay, we have one of Elons bulletproof windows ;)

.. and that turkey is frozen hard.

yeah great article. I quite liked this quote "The fact is we already have “socialism” today. It’s not the socialism we feared in 1974. We have socialized the risks of capitalism, to the benefit of a small portion of the country, while a larger portion struggles."

Yep there’s billions available on a daily basis to bail out greedy banks but not a penny left for the poor dude who’s dying on the street.

I'm more of a socialite, than a socialism, who doesn't love a good party! Obviously being poor and dying on the street is a sure sign of not being greedy, so who wouldn't want to party with that guy?

Since the GFC the West has channeled a seemingly infinite supply of money to socially shield vulnerable bankers from the stupidity of bankers.

Bang on!

Neo liberal economic theory is nothing more than a cancer on society, and got to a stage were the parasite is taking over the host. Most universities don't teach you to think for yourself, and brainwash young impressible minds into thinking the status quo is fine.

Its not until you are out in the real world, one works out that free market is an ass, and rarely exists for life's essentials. Low cost food, housing or energy and living wage job anyone.

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Universities appear to brainwash liberal arts students.

Capitalism and reciprocal trade yes please.

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand." - Milton Friedman

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I'd take anything Friedman suggests with a grain of....sand.

Actually, make that a mouthful.

This is a tough call because sand is a Significant Natural Landscape, but also deserts are not good for growing soy. There needs to be an oppression pyramid for nature so I can promptly make important decisions.

He did get one thing right... His ideal tax structure is sound. He was a proponent of Henry George.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS7Jb58hcsc

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Yet here we are in a country that has socialised health care that costs less than a third of the American privatised system.

Still we have children living in poverty, and homeless guys dying on streets.

Not to mention a whole swag of people grizzling that their treatment isn't available in NZ.

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Friedman got a lot of things wrong. Look at his ranting about car safety, he was so prejudiced by his own opinions that he couldn't see that he was wrong.

So when you talk about brainwashing of liberal arts students I assume you include social studies subjects like economics. A field where Milton Friedman loved brainwashing students.

bang on with that one, hard to believe liberal arts could have such an impact on the economy....

It's the Libs, man, the Libs.

One day people will finally take libs seriously and see that we were right all along and the impact we will have on the economy will be monumental!

It's amazing, that big conspiracy to brainwash and indoctrinate all university students. Impressive that such a massive conspiracy can operate so effectively and in such a well-coordinate fashion, especially in an environment with so many different viewpoints.

I'm sure that's what's happening though, talkback says so.

um, I'd say they can equally brainwash commerce or legal students.
My first degree was an arts degree, I never felt that I was brainwashed, quite the opposite. The courses I took welcomed and even expected critical thinking.

I wish I could believe Maudlins assertion that Americans want socialism

I have my doubts .

I would suggest that Americans want a fairer deal , and I guess everyone wants something for nothing , but Socialism a-la Europe in the 1970's ?

The US election will tell us what they really want

Agreed. Culturally, they simply aren't attuned to a social-democratic model.
Simple rationale: the mainland US has never been destroyed by authoritarianism / warfare.

He doesn't say they want socialism, he says they think they want it, but what they really want is change. Much of what he says for the US is also true in NZ. Although I am not so sure that he is right that the desired outcomes can only be achieved by having the 'great reset'. Especially in the US but also a little in NZ, the rich and powerful will fight a swing back to the centre, calling it communism, but clever politicians could do it. They'd have to be robust characters too, to stay the course. What Maudlin details here is the ravages of capitalism (Mark Hubbard take note) and why it must go.

I want a true centralist Government where the whole of society benefits, not a socialist, nor a capitalist. I do not want to see policies based on envy (capital gains tax or some kind of wealth redistribution), or people being encouraged not to seek work and earn a living (over abundant social welfare system). but both of those outcomes require a Government to step up and regulate properly and work to ensure that there are opportunities for everyone everywhere to earn a good living and have a decent lifestyle.

But where is the center? Does your center include free health care? If so you would be considered an extreme left wing nut job in the states...
I think as countries get richer it is reasonable to increase the minimum entitlement to all (i.e. become more socialist).

Entitlement being the keyword for Pro socialists - they want something for nothing

Most of us want something for nothing. Roads, healthcare, education, crime prevention, fire service, etc. Why are somethings considered socialist and others aren't?

The Pension. Over 50% of our social welfare benefit budget.

No, they offer a better fairer society for a cost. I already pay a lot of tax and would be willing to pay more to ensure no one goes hungry, no one lives under a bridge and no curable disease goes uncured. I don't mean throwing good money after bad but targeted assistance that benefits those in need e.g. free healthcare and education.

The countries with the best standard of living have the best social safety nets. See http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/standard-of-living-by-country/

What makes the USA stand out is not that its 13th ranking for quality of life. Its that it can only achieve this ranking while also been the 2nd ranking for wealth per capita. Singapore is another example of low living standards when compared with wealth per capita. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_financial_assets_per_...)

I see this disparity as an indicator of great wealth and living standard inequality which a democratic society with a conscience would want to lessen.

A fairer society for a cost. But who bares that cost? It's never the ones with excessive resources that pay, its always the middle class.

I might be able and willing the bear that cost along with everyone else , as long as it does not leave me bare

Look at Scandanavia, social democracy action. Year after year their citizens come through as the 'happiest' in the world.
I think happiness is pretty important...

I have been to Sweden , my paternal Grandmother was born in Gothenburg , and while they along with the Danes and Finns are "happy' they are also very wealthy , very comfortable and the cradle to grave nanny state does way more than ours does for us .

So we would need to pay a whole lot more tax to get the same outcomes , but its never going to happen when so many here rort or abuse the system

"Entitlement being the keyword for Pro socialists - they want something for nothing"

You clearly haven't read any socialist theory.

Theory and practice are two very different things when it comes to politics

Who doesn't want something for nothing? The right like the idea too, otherwise Simon Bridges wouldn't talk about tax cuts constantly, without mentioning where the corresponding spending cuts are.

Well considering you're excluded from all natural resources at birth including land, I think it's fair that there's some compensation for that. The truth is the natural resources, collective infrastructural and intellectual property belong to us all, and everybody should benefit from them.

One of the international standards for health care is accessibility. Does that mean free health care? The US health system is inaccessible for many Americans where as our is for all Kiwis, so yes I would state that is the ideal. "Extreme left wing nut job" - ask yourself why? That's because too many are getting obscenely rich from it. There have been plenty of articles here and in other sources that detail the ravages of the drug companies, and many health care specialists become very rich from their practices. So decrying a call to some balance will only come from the vested interests and their sycophantic press.

I agree wealth countries need to step up to provide for all their citizens, and again this is about balanced regulation that provides for all, but it starts by putting a leash on the capitalists, just as the communists need to be reined in.

First question in this day and age, define socialism? Second question define a socialist. And yes Murray your point, that it is only a thought, is the exact point in the USA. The great masses, the great soft underbelly of marshmallow of society particularly in the bible belt, would not have any in depth idea of the true meaning. Say that because we lived for a while in a honest blue collar area in the States where we met & mingled with outstandingly fine citizens. But at the end of the day so long as their own backyard was in order, nothing much else to worry about. Suggest most would just think socialism is simply taking money off me to give to someone else. So using such abundant vague notions the GOP successfully and efficiently labelled the Obama administration as being socialist and it stuck. They will do much more so with the like of Sanders and undoubtedly plenty will again be disciples to their message.

Here's one take on what American voters' choice will be if Sanders is the Democrat candidate.

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Every country that has a tax rate above 0% has some degree of socialism. In America things like the military, roads and primary education are heavily socialised while things like healthcare and tertiary education are largely user pays (and anyone who thinks this should change is obviously a commie bastard).

Yeah, all the branding of "socialist" is a bit over the top given they'll still be to the right of NZ.

Arguably the best political model for managing a country with a size over 100 million people is the Chinese model.

Best for who?

Arguably the best political model for managing a country with a size over 100 million people is anarcho-syndicalism.
See how unfounded assertions work?

Dear XMW. It is very good that as was suggested, you have now obviously read and understood Catch-22. And that you should have emerged from that experience as a disciple of Milo Minderbinder is quite some bonus no doubt.

US is currently also going down the road of having an Emperor without checks and balances, so perhaps they believe you.

I can argue that it is not, CCP Parody Bot:

1. The last 40 years in China have been a case of remediating the absolute social and economic disaster of the 31 years preceding that.
2. In alleviating the poverty for SOME of the population created from said disaster, dramatic increases in pollution have resulted in health issues across the board.
3. The fear of the lower CCP bureaucrats across the nation of the higher ranking bureaucrats has created the classic paranoiac failings that happen in every totalitarian state - the underlings fail to report problems to save their own ass. Case in point: Coronavirus outbreak.
4. Most Chinese who could move money out or simply move elsewhere, have done so (assuming you're a real person CCP Parody Bot, where do YOU live?)

China would have been better off if Chiang Kai-Shek and his lot had won the civil war. In that scenario China would almost certainly be the worlds largest economy today. Change my mind.

No. Say the wrong thing and the state will destroy you, be careful what you say all the time. Your access to information and the world is severely censored. PRC is endlessly corrupt Mafia-state with rich and high ranking party members above most laws, and bribery of officials a major cost of doing business. Incredibly overbearing and restrictive controls on how everyone lives. High ranking politburo members stealing billions for their families. And the tiny payback is; you get some roads and trains and develop far slower than democratic east asian countries (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea Japan). If it is so great then why do so many Chinese (like you) vote with their feet and leave China?

In my time in the USA I found it to be surprisingly socialist, couldn't seem to do anything without a government department being involved and people moan about our nanny state here....that was in GW Bush's reign back in the 00's and things were becoming dramatically more expensive so I can agree it must be hellish now.
Looking out ahead, as everyones retirement savings keep growing and looking for assets to own I eventually see a time where all us workers WILL literally own the means of production...via our shareportfolios from whence the profits will stream mostly back to us....or am I being foolish on that?

The USA will never have socialism at present, the average worker has never had a fair deal. Wall st and business leaders will stop at nothing to prevent Socialism.

Healthcare is a joke, non existent, only the very rich,people who pay high insurance premiums, if they are lucky their employers pay the health premiums if they are big enough,not too many of them,also I am sure their are limitations.

There is no federal legislation concerning annual leave, employers in the USA usually give ten days, they DONOT have to. Many Western countries give twenty days by law.

fair point, I suppose that I mean I found it surprisingly socialist given it is the neoliberal fortress that it is. I was very surprised at the collective muscle of the big teamster unions, I don't know if its still like that but I certainly didn't see any workers being shot for insubordination or any unionists being hung from trees the way the are here in NZ...

Yes the neoliberal fortress and that applies to their bureaucracy who can conduct themselves as if they had red sickles tattooed somewhere. Had just a very very minor encounter with the IRS but boy you could sense the first nice warm breath was backed by a furnace in the next room.

Nuaghty naughty...so much for the land of the free, did you have a shoot out when they raided you? Its entirely possible to end up in a private prison making low cost auto parts for GM for life if you screw up your relationship with the IRS! Sounds a lot like CHINA doesn't it....At a geo political level, and think about this... the trade talks that all countries hold where the leaders DECIDE how their respective Countries will trade and prosper is absolutely socialist. The term 'Free Trade' is a blatant abuse of my consumer rights and I want a class action, because I feel misled! What happened to simply sailing up to another country and taking them over by military or other means...shamefully and greedily....including colluding with Christian Missionaries...but thats another story...inter government trade deals? Thats not capitalist, its communist!

Aye the advice from our accountant, and he wasn’t a great one either, was don’t lie, don’t ever lie about anything even how many teeth your grandmother has left. Not saying there was entrapment but you could sense they wanted to pounce, on anything. Was always squeaky clean and once that was acknowledged things actually became quite friendly.

From reading the comments here, very few people seem to understand what socialism actually is.
Hint - no democratic, western nation is anything remotely close to socialist, including Scandanavia.

That's true in 2 senses:

Socialism does not automatically equal autocratic Communism.
Socialism also doesn't automatically equal mixed market social-democracy.

Socialism is a broad spectrum with some common themes that (largely) advocates for democratic control of the means of production (i.e social or collective ownership rather than private ownership being the principle element), but there are myriad variations.

sanders would come back to the center, in order to achieve anything anyway. would be interesting to see who is vice presidental candidate is, i would think it would be someone to the center , rather than to the left. Klobuchar or Buttigeig perhaps.

It's not really "socialism" that people want but a level of security of some sort. Personal security rather that social security. I guess "social" just means everyone in society. And this is not unreasonable. Everyone is looking to provide their own security. People seek job promotions to improve their lot in life. If you can become a CEO you can end up doing very little practical work yet receive a very high remuneration. Getting other people to do the work for you and make you rich, that is very secure, is seen as a worthy pursuit. This is often a reason people establish businesses. As is heaping up income producing wealth like interest earning deposits, dividend earning shares, rent earning property or the pursuit of capital gains. Money for nothing is everyone's dream.

Almost everyone wants to get passive income or money for nothing. Whether you engineered it yourself or it comes as a form of gift like a pension merely for reaching a certain age the outcome is much the same, money for doing very little. It is like a core value of our societies, getting money for nothing.

Companies, especially these days, try to get every ounce of productivity from their workers. It is even written into contracts that they expect you to work beyond what you are paid from time to time. Companies try to get as much as possible from doing as little as possible. Only competitive pressures and legislation keep them in check.

It is remarkable that so few common workers don't take the same approach, that is work as little as possible for as much as possible. If a company can call it a win for getting more from a worker than they pay him then a worker can consider it a win to get paid more than they actually really earned. A lot of high end workers would probably admit that they get paid a lot more than they really deserve.

It's all good fun but at the very basic level all people should be provided a basic level of security. It's not socialism but plain common sense. Some will handle it poorly or try and game the system which you have to admire a little. We just need to design it so that is far more rewarding by working and investing harder now to acheive more money for nothing later but we shouldn't begrudge those less skilled or less lucky some basic sense of security.

"Top 1% of taxpayers (N=1.4M) paid almost as much in income taxes in 2017 ($616B) as the entire bottom 95% (N=136M paid $654B)." Let's get them 1%'ers and run them otta town!
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ERosdJQWoAEieFq?format=png&name=small