This is a Critical Analytical Response to Literature that I wrote in September in Mrs. Clark’s English class: 

Declan Laurence

October 17th

English 10-1


Harrison Bergeron: The Champion of Capitalism


You know what is awesome? When literature slams the stupidity of socialism and capitulates the captivating charismatic coolness of capitalism. Harrison Bergeron (a short story by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.), is a perfect example of how capitalism trumps socialism in every way, shape, and form. Allow me to explain.

First, what is capitalism, and how in the world would it relate to a short story about following one’s personal desires? The Oxford English dictionary defines capitalism as:An economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.” Or, as once defined by a most beautiful and brilliant grade 10 English teacher, capitalism is: “A system that advocates free trade, competition and choice as a means of achieving prosperity.” That definition is even better than the English Oxford dictionary’s.

The idea is, brilliant, smart, talented people (like the aforementioned English teacher) are given no impediments in achieving personal prosperity, which in turn leads to the country’s prosperity. People create businesses which compete with other businesses. This means that people are continually striving to create better products. They are continually contributing to the advancement of society. Touch screens, ease of access, electronic cars; the list goes on.

Socialism, on the other hand, is defined by the Oxford dictionary as: “A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” What a nice sentiment. What does it actually mean, though? Basically, it means, that if our government were to become completely socialist, the rich would be taxed extra and their money would be given to the poor, so that everyone would have an equal amount of money. This eliminates the beauty of hard work, because no matter how hard you work to make money, it will just be taken from you and given to the people who don’t want to work as hard. This, first of all, condones lazy and unproductive behavior. Let’s be honest, would you work hard at your job if you were only going to be paid as much as the person who has zero ambitions? Would you strive for success if at the end of the day, you, as the CEO of a hugely successful business, made only as much as your less intelligent brother who works at Dairy Queen? No. You would not. In this way, socialism condones, or rather, enforces mediocrity. It is impossible to make everyone wealthy. It is completely possible to make everyone poor.

Now what in the world does this have to do with Harrison Bergeron? As I was saying, it is impossible to make everyone wealthy, but it is completely possible to make everyone poor. In the story, the government makes everyone equal. They do this by making the strong wear weights, the intelligent wear headpieces that make noise whenever they start to think and people who are gifted at something are also brought down in some similar way. For example, the especially gifted dancers in the story had to wear weights, to make them less graceful and ultimately equal to the other mediocre dancers.

This begs the question, why are they making everyone equally mediocre? Why not make everyone equally fantastic? The simple answer is: You can’t force everyone to be fantastic. Not everyone can be a Michael Jordan, or a Tiger Woods, or a Wayne Gretzky at what they do.

First, not everyone has the work ethic. The people who made it to the top have made tremendous sacrifices and worked incredibly hard at what they do. Not everyone has what it takes. For example, as a child, Oscar Peterson (the world’s greatest jazz pianist of his time) would practice the piano for eight hours a day. Everybody desires to be great at what they do, but almost nobody wants to work their butts off. As Post Malone (a rising star, whose net worth is already at one million dollars) says in his song, “Congratulations”:

“Now they always say congratulations

Worked so hard, forgot how to vacation

They ain’t never had the dedication . . .

Meaning, that other people were never willing to work hard enough to achieve success.

Second, not everyone is naturally gifted. Some people seem to be born with talent and physical advantages. For example, Michael Jordan is six feet tall, and has a forty eight inch vertical jump. Now, that vertical jump is something that he worked hard on, but even if he had not worked hard on it, he still probably would’ve had a forty inch vertical jump. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles. So, should Michael Jordan be forced to wear weights since he can jump higher than a lot of the other people in the NBA? Should the rich be taxed extra because they are making more money than a lot of other people? The answer is no, and I think that Kurt Vonnegut would agree.

Third, not everyone has the desire. A desire is wanting or wishing for something, as defined by the Oxford dictionary and not everybody has that. For example, I do not have the desire to finish this essay. Just kidding. Bill Cosby (who in spite of villainous allegations had a very successful career as a comedian), has a famous quote on how important desire is: “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”

So what is socialism then? Socialism, as my brother once said, “is the envious whims of the lazy imposed upon the successful.” Socialism is the equivalent of the strong being forced to wear weights, the smart being forced to wear headpieces that make noise whenever they start to think, the very gifted dancers being forced to wear weights as well, to make them less graceful. Harrison Bergeron is unique; he’s gifted, he’s special. The government took that away from him and made him mediocre. I don’t think that’s right and I don’t think Vonnegut thought it was either.

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