This past week's issue of the Economist has a heart-rending vignette from one of the most ruthlessly capitalist industries on the planet:
"In 2006 EMI, the world's fourth-biggest recorded-music company, invited some teenagers into its headquarters in London to talk to its top managers about their listening habits. At the end of the session the EMI bosses thanked them for their comments and told them to help themselves to a big pile of CDs sitting on a table. But none of the teens took any of the CDs, even though they were free."
"That was the moment we realized the game was completely up," an EMI exec told the magazine....
[I]t's capitalism that's the real "agent of change." Politicians, on the whole, prefer stasis, at least on everything for which they already have responsibility....
Perhaps even now John Edwards is rallying the crowd at the last CD mill in America's declining rap belt, comforting the 9-year-old coatless daughter of a laid-off mill worker who started there in 1904 making wax cylinders of the Columbia Male Quartet singing "Sweet Adeline," and later pressed million of 78's of Ukulele Ike singing "Who Takes Care of the Caretaker's Daughter While the Caretaker's Busy Taking Care?," and millions of 45's of the Swinging Blue Jeans singing "The Hippy Hippy Shake," and millions of CDs of Three 6 Mafia ]singing "Hit A Motherf-----," only to be cut down in his prime and thrown on the scrapheap because Americans have outsourced their record collection to the computer.
"I will never stop fighting for you," Edwards will be telling them. "No matter how they try to stop me. I feel the spirit of Al Jolson speaking through me. He's saying, climb upon my knee, Sonny Boy, though you're 53, Sonny Boy, I'll never stop condescending to you."
Read it all, of course. No one has to convince me that capitalism is a pretty wonderful thing. Poverty has a cure, and it is capitalism. Unlike socialism and communism, which breeds envy, resentment and class warfare; capitalism is good for the soul; and if world peace is your goal, you should be making trade, not war; and not mindlessly opposing globalization.
Steyn is absolutely correct when he asserts that politicians--on both sides of the aisle-- basically support stasis.
This is why I am not a Republican, who as a group are only mildly less anti-capitalistic than the blatantly socialist Democrats.
People on the left acuse me of being in thrall to President Bush, but that is far from the truth. I happen to like the man--still do--but I don't think he's much of a communicator; and I certainly don't think his administration has always made optimal decisions regarding the free market.
Operative word is, of course, free. As in the example above:
Oh, all right. One small comment. First, observe the contempt for liberty. When E. coli conservatives say self-regulation is preferable to government, they're even lying about that. Second, observe the contempt for small business. When a small company wants to - voluntarily! - hold its product to a higher standard, the government blocks it, in part because bigger companies have to be protected from the competition, in part because a theoretical threat to the bottom line (false positives) trumps protection against a deadly disease.
There's your conservatism, America: not extremism in defense of liberty. State socialism in defense of Mad Cow.
Protecting big companies from competition is not capitalism; nor does it help people get the best products and services. Yet, it is capitalism that will get the blame for the fact that the big guys are too lazy to compete or provide the best to their customers. The only reason they can get away with it in the market is because of government interference in the marketplace, specifically economic leveling.
As noted, if it were left to the free market, then the big guys would have to keep up with the innovative small guys and would lose out to them. But, when they can count on the government to protect their incompetence, laziness and bad business practices--everybody loses except them.
I stated in this post that there is a:
...pervasive intellectual trend in the West to continually bash capitalism, private property, business, and free trade; while simultaneously enjoying the benefits of all of them.
Our academics--even the kindergarden ones-- rail against business and private property. Our government constantly seeks to control them. Our youth are propagandized to death about its evils from pre-school through college....
One very harmful result of this sorry educational situation is that there are few people--even among those who stalwartly defend the free market, who understand and appreciate the essential morality of capitalism. Certainly our children, taught by ideological purists like the ones above who are leftover from the 20th century debacle of socialist/communist tyranny--never even have a chance to rationally consider any ideas not approved by their aggressively collectivist teachers, so intent at quashing those aspects of human nature they don't like....
the very foundation of capitalism is human freedom in its most classical, liberal tradition. And that frightens them to death.
Capitalism's incredible production of wealth is the economic side-effect that occurs when political freedom is present. It has been argued, and I agree, that both economic and political freedom are absolute prerequisites for moral behavior.
Perhaps that is why we see so much behavior that lacks any kind of integrity on both sides of the political spectrum. Neither side is as concerned with individual freedom, as much as they are with oppressive egalitarianism, entitlement and playing the appropriate victimhood card (in this case, it is "unfair" for one business to actually be better than another--or, just socialist egalitarianism disguised as some sort of policy to "level the playing field" for the less advantaged/highly privileged).
Conservatism has some essential principles that are summarized here; but the relevant one is this:
Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked. Separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Upon the foundation of private property, great civilizations are built. The more widespread is the possession of private property, the more stable and productive is a commonwealth. Economic levelling, conservatives maintain, is not economic progress. Getting and spending are not the chief aims of human existence; but a sound economic basis for the person, the family, and the commonwealth is much to be desired.
Sir Henry Maine, in his Village Communities, puts strongly the case for private property, as distinguished from communal property: “Nobody is at liberty to attack several property and to say at the same time that he values civilization. The history of the two cannot be disentangled.” For the institution of several property—that is, private property—has been a powerful instrument for teaching men and women responsibility, for providing motives to integrity, for supporting general culture, for raising mankind above the level of mere drudgery, for affording leisure to think and freedom to act. To be able to retain the fruits of one’s labor; to be able to see one’s work made permanent; to be able to bequeath one’s property to one’s posterity; to be able to rise from the natural condition of grinding poverty to the security of enduring accomplishment; to have something that is really one’s own—these are advantages difficult to deny. The conservative acknowledges that the possession of property fixes certain duties upon the possessor; he accepts those moral and legal obligations cheerfully (emphasis mine).
The anti-capitalist mentality exhibited by both the Democrats and the Republicans these days is like Mad Cow disease itself-- a spongiform infection of the brain that inevitably leads to cognitive and functional deterioration and eventually to the stagnation and death of society itself.
If you see these agents of stasis walking down the street and asking for your vote, just walk on by.