Free-market capitalism in 2020, even while standing triumphant over other economic systems designed to displace it, has bent a knee to the promoters of failed systems that promote its demise. Those of us who would defend it are taking fire from all sides, not just from delusional socialists on the Left but also from critics on the Right who say that capital has no moral or ethical anchor and gladly will yield to evil in exchange for short-term profit.
Unfortunately, the daily news and entertainment headlines offer ample evidence that corporations are indeed spineless carriers of their enemies’ water. The time has come to acknowledge that in way too many board rooms short term fiscal expediency and opportunity often cloud their better judgment.
Burning Down Our House
Hollywood and coastal media are replete with images of the greedy, self-centered jerk of a businessman who is willing to chase every last cent of profit just for the sake of satisfying the impulse for more. The concept of greed is used to taint business as a shameful and destructive path in life, even though almost 20 percent of undergraduate college students at “less selective” (i.e. middle and working-class) schools decide to major in business or finance.
Does this mean that one in five people seeking degrees are looking to screw the other four? The notion that big business is a roaring monster devoid of conscience is a dramatically oversimplified and misleading representation. If the system was such a cumbersome and brutal beast, how is it that it gives so much uncritical attention to the navel-gazing haters that would have it dismantled?
The largest daily newspapers in the United States seem to fall over themselves to pay tribute to candidates and activists whose beliefs are dedicated to eliminating them. One of the most comical examples of this was the Washington Post, owned by mega-billionaire Amazon founder and recent divorcée Jeff Bezos. The Post in 2018 decided to publish “It’s time to give socialism a try” by Elizabeth Bruenig. Did she use any statistics, trends, or even real-world disasters to explain her thinking? That would be too much work, apparently, for someone whose background is mainly in theological studies at Cambridge, Brandeis, and Brown, where she dropped out of the Ph.D. program.
Instead, her hypothesis was this: “Contemporary supporters of liberalism are often subject, I think, to what I call ‘everyday Fukuyama-ism.’” This is a reference to The End of History and the Last Man, the well-known essay and later book by Francis Fukuyama hypothesizing that the Cold War had decided that liberal free-market capitalism would dominate forevermore.
What Bruenig and others fail to acknowledge is that Fukuyama himself adjusted his prediction only five years after his 1989 landmark piece by addressing how the cultural rot caused by postmodernism—the same type of relativist drivel written by Elizabeth Bruenig—would erase many of the real-world triumphs of free-market western democracies over socialism.
Bruenig never explained how the new socialism should work, only that it ought “not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.”
This is the quaint, hot cocoa and pajamas in bed, comfortable socialism that has taken hold among college-age youth and that Fukuyama addressed in his 1995 update as a major problem with his earlier prediction.
The Anticlimactic Revolution
Articles like Bruenig’s are published in mainstream and even business journals due to corporate pandering to posh progressives. Thanks to the abandonment of educational institutions by conservatives and libertarians, socialism has become vogue again within three decades of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Unlike Fukuyama, who was indeed wrong about much, obstinate socialists have absolutely no capacity for self-reflection or for admitting their mistakes. Among the reasons for this, one looms large: The lack of consequences for those who advocated it in the past.
The Cold War ended without a bloodbath, only the collapse of a bloc extending from Germany in the west to Vladivostok in the east. In many former Soviet republics, the new leadership was composed of former Communist Party members who had rebranded themselves as social democrats, such as Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, the first president of independent Georgia. The surviving “socialist” governments are incapable of surviving without corporations and private industries providing a reservoir of cash to pay their massive entitlements. But there was never any Nuremberg trial for the secret police and other elements of the system of repression that made the Iron Curtain possible.
The lack of this official reckoning with the crimes of communism was mirrored in the West as subscribers and sympathizers of socialism were never held accountable. Those who had been proponents of communist revolution such as Warren Beatty and Angela Davis should have faced public ridicule and scorn. But because education, academia, entertainment and consequently the media have been slanted for decades to sympathize with milder socialist stances, nothing even approaching that kind of unofficial ostracism ever happened. Surreally, an exhibit to the crimes of the East German government that shot civilians attempting to escape across the Berlin Wall is housed in the same building at California State University-Fullerton as one honoring Davis, who was an esteemed guest and friend of that regime.
Big in the Bernie Demo
A further bitter truth is that moral courage is not a hallmark of the capitalist—rather self-interest and its inertial drives are often his main motivators. So corporate America, rather than swim against the tide of the polluted mindset of leftist education, has instead accommodated it. In the name of intellectual diversity, network news chooses without any prompting not just to feature open socialists but to employ them as anchors and analysts. As an exercise in freedom of speech, this is entirely valid, but that is hardly the motivation.
On nightly broadcasts, the smirking or sneering faces of would-be radicals like Chris Hayes and Anand Giridharadas on MSNBC or Van Jones of CNN peer out at an audience of bourgeois plebs and talk about how economic inequality is dooming the country.
While railing against the sins of the wealthy, whiteness, and Reagan’s “Fourth Reich,” Giridharadas—like many a champagne socialist before him—attempts to disown his privileged background. He hails from Shaker Heights, Ohio and attended the prestigious prep schools Hawken and University School, the latter of which costs today over $30,000 annually in tuition. His family then moved to Maryland where he attended Sidwell Friends School, the Quaker private school where Chelsea Clinton was enrolled rather than be subjected to the D.C. public school system. The only public educational institution he ever attended was the University of Michigan where he did his undergraduate degree, before proceeding to Oxford and Harvard and eventually joining McKinsey & Co., the consulting company where his father had been a director.
The educational and career path of Giridharadas is all too typical: a posh elite imbued with all of the abilities to succeed in the world, but perfectly content to spit in the well that sustained him.
Yet in the Trump era, even political operatives whose own heritage is tied to a supposed “principled conservatism” are perfectly willing to throw it in the wood chipper in order to go after the Annoying Orange.
An embarrassing example is CNN’s Ana Navarro, whose father fought Communism as a Contra in Nicaragua while she was safely attending Catholic school hundreds of miles away in suburban Miami and then the University of Miami and St. Thomas University Law School. In spite of this family history, Navarro, owing to her visceral hatred of the president and dedication to an open-borders immigration agenda, decided to openly support the corrupt Andrew Gillum in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election. This is a person of privilege willing to support a far-left candidate who is willing to limit school choice and deny educational options to children far less privileged than her. Navarro also freaked out at Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for calling Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro a socialist, even though his party’s name is PSUV (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela)—in English, United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
A One-Way Street
Navarro is not an anomaly, but a perfect embodiment of how spineless supposedly “business-friendly” journalism has become. The Wall Street Journal on January 30 published “The Republican Case for Elizabeth Warren,” which claimed the U.S. senator from Massachusetts has “independence and integrity.” This is a woman who has lied about being an American Indian, leaked accounts of a conversation with friend-turned-rival Bernie Sanders where he allegedly said a woman could not beat Donald Trump, and then called him a liar on a hot mic. Warren’s career achievement, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is an unaccountable monolith that shakes down businesses for its own gain.
The Journal op-ed was written by former FDIC commissioner Sheila Bair. But what the WSJ failed to mention in its brief identification of Bair, is that since 2017, she has been a director at the Independent Commercial Bank of China, which, despite the “Independent” in its name, is state-owned. In her article, however, she fell on her background as a good old Kansas Jayhawk.
The Wall Street Journal is published by Dow Jones and Company, a division of NewsCorp which also owns Fox News Channel. So is Marketwatch which published an op-ed by Mark Weisbrot in February claiming that Bernie Sanders is “a pragmatist who fights to un-rig the system.” Weisbrot is best known for a 2013 piece in The Guardian claiming that Venezuela’s economy is “not the Greece of Latin America.” Weisbrot’s Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) is almost entirely focused on denying that the failed model of Chavista Venezuela is responsible for its downfall, blaming that country’s ills on U.S. sanctions. While millions starve there, Weisbrot earned (as of 2017) over $120,000 in total compensation from the CEPR, which includes actor and fellow Chávez stooge Danny Glover on its board of directors.
Who decided that there need to be op-eds in support of two of the most anti-Wall Street politicians in the country? Does anyone believe that The Nation, the old-Left magazine where Chris Hayes is editor-at-large and which features Weisbrot’s Latin America analysis, would give a guest op-ed to capitalists like Bob Murphy or Stephen Moore? This is like opening the menu at an Outback Steakhouse and finding tofu burgers and kale chips, or holding Derek Jeter Night at Fenway Park.
The socialist perspective is owed no equal time or due regard in a reality that exists in spite of their best efforts to ruin everything. Any social grace extended to them in the form of op-eds featuring criticisms of free-market capitalism are appropriate only when people are harmed or wronged by those who abuse its freedoms, or when that system works to promote agendas that, while consistent with the profit motive, lead to societal rot. In recent years conservative populist thinkers like Tucker Carlson and Stephen Bannon have assumed this mantle—but, of course, they are still seen as grotesque monsters by those on the Left and snubbed by business interests on the Right that are in league with leftists. What gives?