My response: Ben Shapiro OBLITERATES Student’s Socialism Arguments

Last week, someone commented on one of my Facebook posts with a link to a video titled, “Ben Shapiro OBLITERATES Student’s Socialism Arguments”. This is my response to that video.

Last week, someone commented on one of my Facebook posts with a link to a Facebook video from April with the title, “Ben Shapiro OBLITERATES Student’s Socialism Arguments”. The caption goes on to say, “Ben Shapiro stops a socialist right in his tracks.” Well, okay, maybe “goes on to say” isn’t the right choice of words since the caption is just repeating the title.

The person who linked to this video described it as the “best argument I’ve heard against communism and socialism”.

So, I watched it. And I was kind of surprised that he gave it that much credit. If this was the best argument against communism and socialism he’s ever heard, then he must have seen some pretty bad ones.

I responded by saying it was a horrible argument against socialism (it doesn’t even address communism), and when he asked how, I figured that since there was too much for a Facebook comment, I’d do a response video.

So, here we are. 

I’m going to go through what Ben Shapiro is saying in his arguments, exposing their illogical nature. Hopefully, by the end of my video, you’ll see why this video isn’t the best argument against socialism, why Ben didn’t obliterate this student’s arguments, and why Ben also didn’t stop the student in his tracks.

Before I get into it, why don’t you watch it for yourself.

There. Now that you’ve had a chance to watch it, we’re both on the same page. Let’s get into my response.

Let’s say you own a pencil factory. I’m a worker in that pencil factory. You can have all the machinery. You can buy all the raw materials you want, but without me—and presumably many others like me—to assemble the pencils, all you would have is a pile of wood, yellow paint, graphite, rubber, and aluminum. Okay. And that is worth less than the pencil when you try and sell it, and yet all of that value added by labour—apart from the wages that you give me, which if we’re being honest, there is a major power imbalance in our ability to negotiate that—

If all that putting the pencil together requires is basic use of your prefrontal cortex, then yes your labour is alienable at lower rates than if you are a doctor. That’s not the fault of the person who owns the machinery.

Right from the start, Ben comes out with a strawman. This student didn’t say anything about how much one’s labour is worth compared to a doctor’s. Ben either misinterpreted the student’s points or purposefully reframed them to fit into a point he knew he could argue. Then he attacked that reframed/misinterpreted point.

Even so, the skill level of the labour performed is irrelevant. The point the student is leading up to (which we’ll see later in the video after he patiently endures Ben’s interruptions) is that the business owner sells the pencil for more than it costs to produce it then pockets any difference (profit). It doesn’t matter if the worker is a mechanical engineer with a PhD who designs the pencil or the line worker without a highschool diploma who assembles the pencil; the business owner extracts a certain value from their labour and reimburses them for only a portion of that labour.

But if you didn’t have workers like me in your pencil factory and you were just one man—

But I do. I have millions of people who are willing to do that voluntarily for me.

Ben entirely misses the point. The student was talking about not having any workers, then Ben talks about having millions of potential workers. The student wasn’t arguing that non one’s willing to work for you, so it’s a meaningless counterargument.

That being said, it’s not really volunteering to work for pay if society dictates that you must feed, clothe, and house yourself using money.

If you’re just one person trying to assemble pencils, you’re not going to get very far. You need workers; capital needs labour infinitely more than labour needs capital. That’s why you have worker cooperatives, where the workers are the ones—

I fundamentally disagree on the distinction between capital and labour. Capital is just a term for money. If you’re talking about money, money does not grow from the ground. Money only has value because it was traded for labour at one point or the products of labour,

True. But it’s not a 1-for-1 trade. Taking the pencil example, let’s say a carton of pencils from your factory sells for $20. Now you, as the business owner, have $20. And while it’s true that the product was produced by labour—so technically, the $20 represents labour—the worker who performed that labour won’t see that $20. Maybe the worker gets $10, you use $5 to cover other overhead costs, and you keep the remaining $5. That $5 that you now have in your pocket does, indeed, represent labour; however, it doesn’t represent your labour. You didn’t perform a quarter of the labour that went into producing that carton of pencils. 

So if i take my money, and I buy machinery, I have invested my labour in doing that because I didn’t get the money from nowhere. 

Well, that’s just it. Did you, as a business owner, use only money generated by your own labour to buy that machinery? You didn’t use any of the profit generated by the labor of your workers? Even if you’re just starting out and have no workers yet, you paid for that machinery with money you saved up on your own from your own labour? No financing? No money borrowed from your parents?

Even if I got it from my parents, my parents didn’t get the money from nowhere. 

Same thing. While your parents, of course, didn’t get money from nowhere, it doesn’t mean the money they gave you was generated by only their labour.

The people who built the machines required me to trade something of value to them in order for me to obtain the machines. 

Well, that’s the thing. Are the people you’re buying the machines from also the same people who built the machines, or are they, like you, company owners, who are selling you machines at a higher price than what they’re paying their workers to build that machine? Because if they’re the latter and you used money generated by your workers’ labour to buy a machine generated by their worker’s labour, the machine company owners now have money that represents an exchange of labour between people, neither of whom actually paid for the labour represented by the money.

The people who invented the machines required people to pay them in order to get the patent to that machine, so they could build the machine. 

Sure. Although there’s far more than the cost of a patent that goes into building a machine.

The problem that I’m seeing in what you’re saying is you have still failed. 

No, the failure is that you don’t seem to understand what he’s arguing. You just keep building up strawmen to knock down.

If what you’re talking about is a system of volunteerism, you still have not named any area in which we disagree. 

Just a reminder that a few second ago, Ben literally said that he “fundamentally disagrees” on the distinction between capital and labour, so it’s kind of weird to say that the student hasn’t names any area where they disagree.

And you’re telling me that you’re a socialist and i’m a free marketer, so one of us got this wildly wrong and i’m pretty sure it’s not me.

Except it is you. Because he never calls you a free marketer or himself a socialist. Even if he was, I don’t understand how this is at all relevant to his point that capital needs labour infinitely more than labour needs capital. 

It’s just a red herring to get applause from the audience so that they convince themselves that you know what you’re talking about and think that you’re winning.

The differentiation I draw and I’m not alone in this. I’m not one person trying to redefine anything. The differentiation I— and many others like me—draw between socialism and capitalism is that under capitalism, when you, as the owner of the factory, you give me a wage—the wage could be $7.25, it could be $15, it could be whatever an hour. Right. Right? But you you give me a wage, all the additional profit above—made from selling the pencils or whatever good you produce—above what is reinvested into the company ultimately goes to you or the investors, those who own shares in the means of production. Right. Under socialism, those people are the workers, and the example I give, again, is cooperative enterprise—

No, those are the people who are investing the risk

I don’t understand this response. The student says, “you or the investors, those who own shares and the means of production”, but you respond with “No, those are the people who are investing the risk”. So the people investing in the company—and you as the business owner—aren’t the ones who own shares and the means of production?

I honestly wonder sometimes—okay, maybe most of the time—whether Ben actually hears what people are saying when he’s “debating” them.

So if they carry the risk, then they get the benefit. The owner of the factory carries the risk; therefore, he gets the benefit.

But does he carry the risk? Is he a sole proprietor running a pencil factory, or did he incorporate his business? If the latter, then liability is limited to assets held within the company. The bank can’t come after your home, for example, if your incorporated company can’t pay its financing back. If you’re running a business where millions of potential workers want to work for you as a sole proprietorship, you’re being stupid and shouldn’t be running a business.

 The workers in the company you mentioned, if that company were to go bankrupt, they would carry the risk as well as the benefit. If the company goes bankrupt and this guy has to pay off all of his debts, the worker may lose his job, but he’s not the one who’s going to incur the debt of having gone bankrupt. 

Except the company owner likely doesn’t personally incur the debt either: the corporation does. If the company goes bankrupt, “this guy” doesn’t have to pay off all his debts; they’re not his to begin with: they’re the corporation’s debts. The only thing the owner risks is his initial investment.

On the other hand, the workers, as you point out, lose their job if the company goes bankrupt. Heck, it doesn’t even have to involve bankruptcy. As someone who has been laid off 3 times, I assure you that employees carry more risk than what goes with bankruptcy.

If you incur risk, then you’re the one who pays the downside; the worker does not pay the downside, okay?

Except you just agreed that workers do incur risk, so they must pay the downside. And since the business owner is protected by the limited liability of incorporation, then there shouldn’t be a downside for them to pay.

It is the investor who pays the downside, who invested in all the machinery, who sunk millions of dollars into making your labour productive because guess what? 

Again, the investor doesn’t pay a downside beyond recouping their investment. And that millions of dollars? Unless that’s financing from a lending institution—which would need to be paid back as an expense, before calculating profit—then these millions of dollars wouldn’t even be his to begin with. Remember how we established earlier that profit represents the unpaid labour of the workers who generated the revenue? If you have millions of expendable income to invest into machinery, it wasn’t generated from your own labour. Not only are you placing virtually all the risk of your company’s viability onto your workers, but you’re using the unpaid labour of past workers to finance that risk. If the company goes bankrupt, your current workers lose their jobs, and all you lose is the unpaid labour of your past workers, which doesn’t even belong to you anyhow.

Your labour is—without that machinery—gunk, nothing. 

That’s just not true. You don’t need a machine to make pencils. A machine doesn’t enable you to make pencils; it enables you to produce more pencils in the same amount of time. But the fact that you, as a worker, can still produce pencils without machinery means that your labour does, indeed, have value.

You don’t have a pencil to put together. You don’t got the wood, you don’t got the paint, you don’t got the rubber, you don’t got the metal. You got nothing, right? 

This makes no sense. Why do you need machinery in order to have the raw materials for making pencils? There’s nothing stopping the business owner from buying the raw materials if he doesn’t have machinery.

You’re sitting there, standing outside ,twiddling your thumbs. It requires somebody to invest.

But see, this is the point you missed out on when you interrupted the student. The point he was in the middle of making was that under socialism—specifically in the case of worker cooperatives—the investors are the workers. They collectively own the means of production. They collectively purchase the equipment. They collectively invest into the company. They collectively carry all the risk. So, just because there isn’t a single business owner doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone to invest. It doesn’t mean that the only option is for workers to be outside twiddling their thumbs.

Who do you think put more in? The guy who spent millions of dollars buying all the machinery, leasing the place, making sure there was a management structure, doing the LLC formation, making sure all the tax code was in compliance, or you, standing outside because you can stick a piece of graphite into a piece of wood?

Most definitely the workers. Because without their labour, there is no way you could, as a business owner, generate enough revenue to recoup the millions of dollars you invested into your machines. Without the workers being willing to risk being laid off, or fired, or losing their job because of bankruptcy, you wouldn’t be able to mitigate the risk of losing your investment. Which is the point this student was making. 

This is the problem with every argument I have ever seen Ben Shapiro make. He misinterprets what the speaker is saying, builds up straw men around keywords he hears, destroys the straw men, all the while doing it as quickly as possible so none of his audience realize that he’s just speaking nonsense, and then sits back with a grin on his face to the thunderous applause of ignorance.

Ben Shapiro sounds smart to people who don’t understand what he’s doing. But if you take the time to really look at what he’s saying, you quickly realize that he has no idea what he’s saying.

And that he’s never actually obliterated anyone’s arguments.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

7 replies on “My response: Ben Shapiro OBLITERATES Student’s Socialism Arguments”

You made some good points about the flaws in Mr. Shapiro’s argument. I do think that you might be undervaluing the skill and the labor that goes into running a company. One of the
problems I see with your argument is that it misses the concept of supply and demand. There is a large supply of workers who are capable to run the machinery used to create products, their labor is valuable. There is a smaller number of people who are capable of administrating a company like that, and of gathering the capital necessary. You made the point that they don’t incur a large amount of risk if the company goes under, as the corporation will be the one who foots the bill. It would however be a blow to the company owner’s credibility, which would been a factor in raising capital, whether that is credibility with investors or with a financial institution.

I may disagree with your views, but I appreciate your willingness to call out Mr. Shapiro. The way he conducted the argument wasn’t intellectually fair. It might however be noted that he his an entertainer, and is not in a position where he wishes to honestly discuss philosophies.

Thanks for the feedback, Ethan.

I don’t think I argued that there isn’t a large supply of workers or that there isn’t a small supply of business owners, so I’m not sure how I was missing the concept of supply and demand.

Yes, it’s possible that a company owner’s reputation can be damaged if a company goes under. That assumes that the company owners isn’t able to convince investors of future projects that it was external factors that led to the company closures, and that it wasn’t his own doing.

I agree with your assessment of Shapiro in your final sentence.

You wilfully distort and deride the risk, requirements, money, and drive to set up and operate a business. The worker never puts in more effort nor is at greater risk if the venture fails and you purposefully minimise these points to suit your agenda. If it was true then everybody will be running their own business, but the reality is most don’t. Because they don’t have the funds. Because they don’t have the drive. Because they don’t have the skills. Because they don’t have the determination. Because they’re not willing to take the risk.

And your point about the business being nothing without the workers also misses key points/distorts the truth – which is ironic as you criticise Ben for doing the same – because whilst both the business and the workers need each other, the business has to exist in order for a worker to have employment. And every able-bodied individual can do basic motor-skill tasks (making pencils) but not everyone can start and run a business. This is why menial labour tasks are paid minimum wage and directors get paid more.

Rather than complain about that monetary and hierarchy of value imbalance, socialists should develop the skills, the funding, the drive, the invention, and the ability to start a business, rather than expect, the world to all them are living whilst denigrating those that do put in the risk and apply their skills in order to reap the rewards.

Workers don’t take on greater risk? You should tell that to the families of the 3 workers who died in the St-Roch-de-l’Achigan explosion last month.

While it’s true that the business must exist for the workers to have a job, it doesn’t change the fact that the business wouldn’t exist unless the owner was confident that they could make money off the labour of the workers. No matter how much the owner invests, none of it will produce the products without worker labour.

Look how quick you were to default to a strawman argument. Some employees who died whilst working in a place with explosive materials is somehow irrefutable fact as to the greater risk hit workers. Never mind the fact that such jobs – and instances – are the exception to the rule. Or that the owner could have been onsite and killed. Or the vast majority of employees work safely and sedentary – many at home in their PJs. Or that most refuse to work past their shift whilst owners – including the world’s richest man, Elon Musk – work far longer, and that their business requires them to work multiple roles. All whilst carrying the burden of stress regarding their business, particularly in challenging economic times, including worrying for their staff’s economic welfare (and this concern is not reciprocated).

Whilst it’s true that businesses wouldn’t exist if the owners didn’t feel confident they could thrive, that outcome is not guaranteed – which is why most people are too scared to take the risk themselves. The past decade has brought multiple economic challenges – the recessions snd austerity measures from the 2008 credit crunch, recessions, the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and surging inflation. Even in fair weather economic times, 2 in 3 businesses fail and no sector is more likely to fail than restaurants and eateries.

And whilst incorporating a business can protect the owner from personal liability, they still lose the money, they invested, that they earned and put down on the table, willing to take a chance, and willing to offer employment (thereby helping the state re: tax revenue) when others were unwilling to do the same. You know full well that many a proprietor has lost their life savings, house, and even their marriage in failed business ventures do please don’t whitewash truths just because they’re inconvenient to your argument.

Just as it’s much easier to embellish an existing magical piece of music than it is to create a magical piece of music, it’s much easier to be employed than it is to start a business and become an employer. Likewise, it’s easier for an employee to leave a struggling business and gain employment elsewhere than it is for a struggling business owner to exit their dire situation and start again or revert to being an employee. In fact is well known that the lawyers do not like to hire people who were formally self-employed.

Whilst you can strawman with the odd business where the employee undertakes physical risk (eg: oil rigging) whilst the owner is safe at home, you are only citing outliers. Plus physical risk is only a different type of risk – the oil rigger does not experience, the same mental or financial pressures that it takes to setup and operate an oil rigging company. likewise it’s not the employee who faces criminal charges when a colleague or contractor fumbles a task which leads to deaths but the owners do even if they had nothing to do with said incident.

Finally, whilst it’s true, that no amount of ownership creates a successful business without workers to do the work – the same applies in reverse: the workers don’t have work to do unless they have a job to go to. And they only have a job to go to when someone has stepped up, come up with an idea, invested money and started the venture. They are the ones who leave the safety of paid employment to go it alone, often risking financial ruin and inviting immense stress, and that is why they always risk more. Anyone can get a job as a waiter in a restaurant, but not anyone can open up the restaurant. It may be uncomfortable, but it is the truth nonetheless. As I said before, if it was that easy to start a business and be an employer then everyone would do it. There’s nothing wrong with NOT having the required ability, personality, mindset, creativity, bravery, or money but don’t kid yourself that the worker is equal to or greater than the employer.

did you find and watch entire speech or just the clip because yellow shirt socialist started his dialectic by calling out ben as a free-marketer and complaining that they keep using failed socialist experiments like cuba and venusula to discredit and he is talking about socialism which is “wildly success” like worker co-operatives.

the worker co-op that he refered to paid about 3000 less per year in base pay but with profit sharing got 3000 more at the end of they year (+6000 in profit sharing)

so when ben said “And you’re telling me that you’re a socialist and i’m a free marketer, so one of us got this wildly wrong and i’m pretty sure it’s not me.”

You literally don’t have to advocate for socialism to have what yellow shirt socialist was advocating for because you can under a free market simply choose to work for one of those co-ops. Or if that co-op does not exist set one up and simply find like minded people to “invest” by accepting the lower starting wage.

If he is truly taking about worker co-ops then he is still a free-marketer and not a socialist
If he wants his socialism to be enforced by the government then he is misrepresenting a valid free-marketer option as socialism to justify implementing the failed cuba experiment on the US.

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