Capitalism is Having to…

A popular meme amongst socialists is “Capitalism is having to,” followed by something that one needs to do to survive. For example, capitalism is having to enslave yourself to a corporation just so you can eat. This meme would be a lot more effective if the alternative was actually better but as Robert Higgs points out, the alternative sucks:

All honest people recognize that when push comes to shove, state functionaries will kill people who steadfastly refuse to pay the tribute (“taxes”) that the rulers demand. Yet people whose very survival hinges on their paying what amounts to rent on their own lives persist in calling themselves free.

Under a capitalist system you have to sell your labor to an employer, become an entrepreneur, appeal to a patron, or find some other means of obtaining the means of survival. Under a socialist system the State is supposed to provide your means of survival but it needs the resources to do so since nobody has figured out how to conjure food, water, shelter, and clothing from ether. It acquires those resources through a system of taxation. The difference between the capitalist and socialist systems is that the capitalist system puts your survival in your own hands whereas the socialist system requires you to first pay rent on your very life and only then can you hope that the State will deem you worthy of receiving the resources you need to survive.