An economics professor used exam grading to teach his class about the failures of socialism.
In March 2009, one of the e-mail forwards of the moment was the piece quoted below. It appeared variously titled “Excellent Lesson in Economics,” “Great Experiment,” “Experiment in Socialism,” “Texas Professor,” “A Simple Analogy,” “A Great Lesson on Socialism,” “Economics 101,” “Something for Nothing?,” “A Perfect Analogy,” “Simple Economics” and “Capitalism vs Socialism”:
An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single student before but had, once, failed an entire class. The class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said ok, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.
After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. But, as the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too; so they studied little …
The second Test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average was an F. The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for anyone else. All failed to their great surprise and the professor told them that socialism would ultimately fail because the harder to succeed the greater the reward but when a government takes all the reward away; no one will try or succeed.
Is this man truly a genius?
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an “A” …. (substituting grades for dollars — something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a “B”. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.
As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little. The second test average was a “D”! No one was happy.
When the 3rd test rolled around, the new average was an “F”.
As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.
Human nature will always cause socialism’s style of government to fail because the world has producers and non-producers (makers and takers).
It could not be any simpler than that.
There is indeed a real school named Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, but that school is merely one of many settings used for this fictional illustrative tale meant to explain the teller’s belief that socialism does not work. (Another example of an illustrative tale used to explain what might otherwise be a difficult concept to grasp is the “How Taxes Work” item that was widely circulated in 2002.)
We’ve encountered other pieces that expressed the same concept as this one in a similar setting, such as the following:
A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat, and was very much in favor of the redistribution of wealth. She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.
One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the addition of more government welfare programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.
Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn’t even have time for a boyfriend, and didn’t really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.
Her father listened and then asked, “How is your friend Audrey doing?” She replied, “Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She’s always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn’t even show up for classes because she’s too hung over.”
Her wise father asked his daughter, “Why don’t you go to the Dean’s office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.”
The daughter, visibly shocked by her father’s suggestion, angrily fired back, “That wouldn’t be fair! I have worked really hard for my grades! I’ve invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!”
The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, “Welcome to the Republican party.”
Regardless of its literal truthfulness, the example proffered here has some significant flaws as an object lesson in the supposed perils of socialism:
1) The concept it criticizes — distribution shared equally by everyone, regardless of their efforts — is far more an expression of communism than of socialism (the latter being a system that advocates social ownership of production and distribution, but does not eliminate either free-market capitalism or rewards for individual effort and innovation).
2) It attempts to compare a system for the equitable distribution of resources across an entire population with a system intended to measure individual achievement. This is as nonsensical as positing that under a socialized health care system, the heart rates, blood pressures, weights, and other vital statistics of patients would all be averaged together rather than being individually charted and treated.