By Jess Gill
In a recent video (see below), MrBeast, the most popular creator on YouTube, invited individuals ranging from 1 to 100 years old to participate in a series of games and activities. Each age had one representative who had to stay in a glass box to remain in the game. The goal was, through various tasks, to progressively eliminate participants until only one person remained, who would win a glorious prize of $500,000.
In one of these tasks, all the participants had to vote to eliminate ten of the players. This part of the game offered a thought-provoking analogy for how voters act in a democracy; reflecting how people vote for their own interests and form strategic alliances in order to do so.
At first, the vote to eliminate was almost split between two of the players, 54 and 74, both of whom had previously lied or shown cruelty towards other players in the first round. Seventy-four was the one who got the boot that time.
In the second round, the ten-year-old was voted out. However, the general rationale for his elimination was a lot less noble and a lot more cynical. One player said, “If I don’t vote for ten, they’ll vote me out”; and another commented that “if he stayed the whole time, he could win.” In only two rounds, the general motivation shifted from justice to short-term gain.
For the remainder of the game, the fifty-somethings formed an interest group that voted in lockstep in order to eliminate perceived threats and keep each other safe. “The fifty-year-olds were determined to eliminate people and they had the most voting power by far.” Through banding together, the fifty-somethings managed to ruthlessly eliminate all the seventy-year-olds from the game.
This reflects real-life democracy, where group interests are prioritized at the expense of the individual and of universal justice. As Thomas Jefferson said, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
In the MrBeast video, while players were given the chance to vote out those who have been dishonest or cruel, justice wasn’t served. Despite his antisocial behavior in the previous games, 54 managed to survive the round by making an alliance with the other 50s. In order to further their own interests, the 50s group were willing to look past this in order to save their own skin. Meanwhile, those who did nothing wrong were sacrificed, such as 10 whose friend betrayed him.
Such intergenerational warfare can also occur in democracy, especially when the government can be weaponized to advance one age group’s interest at the expense of others. For example, in the United Kingdom young people suffer from policies that further the short-term interests of the boomer generation, such as being forced to pay high taxes to pay for the state healthcare, pensions, and other benefits the elderly receive in the UK. While young people have to face the highest tax burden Britain has seen in 70 years, state pensions have increased by 7 percent.
Similarly, there has been a push in the United States to forgive student loans and make university tuition- free. This would be a massive new entitlement benefit for young people that would have to come out of the pockets of the older generations who pay more taxes.
These are cases of what the 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat called legal plunder. The state has seized wealth from the productive youth and redistributed it to the elderly (and vice versa). Both demographics are using the state to loot and both are being looted in turn. Young and old are extracting benefits for themselves which the other will have to pay for.
As Bastiat wrote, “The present day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.”
With the zero-sum game of a democratic welfare state, just as in MrBeast’s zero-sum game, people are incentivized to prioritize group interest over justice. In Mr. Beast’s game, it’s all in good fun, and everyone ultimately “wins” from playing the game—especially because MrBeast gave consolation cash prizes to many if not all of the “losers.” But in a democratic welfare state, it’s more akin to an economic war than a game.
The MrBeast video serves as a powerful reminder of the potential pitfalls of democracy when individual biases, pursuit of personal gain, and group interests, and inter-group hostilities supersede the rights of the individual.
In real life, we should avoid zero-sum games like the democratic welfare state, in favor of positive-sum games that foster, not conflict, but cooperation: like free markets and free societies. The fairest way for individuals to advance their own interests should be through their own hard work, not through voting in policies that prioritize their needs above others.
About the author:
Jess Gill is a fellow with FEE’s Henry Hazlitt Project for Educational Journalism. A resident of Manchester in the United Kingdom, she is the host and director of Reasoned UK where she makes daily videos on British politics from a libertarian perspective. She is also the social media strategist of Ladies of Liberty Alliance (LOLA).
Source: This article was published by FEE