Right now I’m relishing the last glass of a bottle of Petit Verdot from Steve Kent Winery in Livermore. I’m not likely to enjoy another anytime soon. Or ever. The varietal is almost exclusively used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other Bordeaux grapes, not on its own.

And yet, it’s a beautiful wine. Why is it that a little-known winemaker from a region few have heard of can produce such a rare and wonderful bottle of vino?

This is the point in the story where I’m supposed to answer that question. Truth is, there is no answer. I could make some educated guesses, none of which will make much sense to you. Terroir? Talent? Process? Grapes? Guts? Some combination? Who the hell knows?  

All I know is, at any given time there are unique individuals doing unique and wonderful things all over the world.

Meanwhile, the threat of socialism looms in America. Everyone would be treated the same. No special promotions and rewards for talented people who work hard and smart.  

That’s lunacy. Barbarism. Socialism would set civilization back decades.

Wait. You think that Bernie losing the democratic primary means socialism is dead in America? Not a chance. Socialism is preferred over capitalism among those who will soon be running this country. Sobering thought, I know.

The truth is this. One single force moves civilization forward. The force of special people. Individuals with unique gifts who think differently and do what others say can’t be done.

Advances in societal health and prosperity happen as a result of the great work of a few individuals in a free society that rewards talent and achievement.

Of course, many others are involved in bringing great work to fruition, but without those unique individuals, those miracles simply can’t happen.

I have a question for every socialist or anyone even considering socialism in America. Why is it that virtually all the great advances in science, technology and medicine occur in democratic societies that practice free market capitalism? Rarely do they occur under socialist or communist regimes.

Why is that, do you think?

Of course, they always run out of other people’s money, as Margaret Thatcher famously said. But there’s a more fundamental reason.

Living and working in a representative democracy that practices free-market capitalism brings out the best in us.

People will always do what they’re incentivized to do. That’s human nature.

If people are incentivized to drown in a sea of drones, that’s what they’ll do. And whatever latent talents they have will go down with them.

If, on the other hand, they’re incentivized to excel – to do their best work – they will excel to the greatest extent their gifts and abilities allow.

I’ve had a very long and diverse career. I’ve seen firsthand how bureaucratic systems can stifle innovation and drive, leaving nothing but mediocrity in their wake.

I’ve also seen how meritocracy can free the gifted to be their best selves and accomplish great feats that nobody thought possible.

Combustion engines. Electricity. Microchips. Nuclear power. Computers. Smartphones. DNA sequencing. Virtually every breakthrough drug and medical practice in the history of mankind. Even a killer Petit Verdot.

There’s a reason why advances don’t come out of socialist, communist or bureaucratic organizations. In their utopian quest for equality, they inevitably destroy individual potential and motivation. And that’s what drives civilization forward.

Image credit Matt Johnson / Flickr